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  You are in: Home > History > American Exceptionalism  

American Exceptionalism
The Effects of Plenty on the American Experience

Arnon Gutfeld

Arnon Gutfeld is Associate Professor of American History at Tel Aviv University. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Florida, Manitoba, and Venice International University, and has published extensively in American History and American Constitutional History.


In general, all societies have evolved from a background in which people were many and resources were few. Thus the creation of their ideas, values, and institutions needed to adjust to that reality. The unique history of the United States, however, makes it an exception. There people were few but resources were endless. Thus, American traditions, values, ideas, and institutions which were of European origin had to undergo major transformations. The reality of plenty is thus the key to understanding the uniqueness of American civilization.

Foreword by Professor Aviam Soifer

I Europe Dreamt and America Realized the Enlightenment, or Did It?
II American Exceptionalism and the Forces that Maintain It
III The Unique Nature of American Political Violence
IV The Deprivation of Indian Sovereignty
V Genocide, North American Style

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“A fresh intellectual history of the role of the frontier in the American national experience … An excellent analyis of the positive and dark sides of the American national experience.” American Studies (University of Kansas and the Mid-American Studies Association)

“Historians in the past often identified and celebrated American uniqueness in terms of the existence of an open frontier and a land full of plentiful resources. Those core ideas may be more powerful as ideas than they are as reality. There is something bracingly paradoxical in Arnon Gutfeld’s ability to synthesize, to criticize, and to move beyond previous understandings of what may be unique about America. American Exceptionalism makes a compelling argument that displays a deep, highly original understanding of the historical myth and reality of the American frontier…

Throughout his book, Gutfeld argues convincingly that ‘plenty’ and the ‘frontier’ have been weighty and malleable concepts in American history. Yet the ideas of available plenitude and an open frontier also entailed devastating practical consequences. Despite so much tragic history and such harsh contemporary reality, these ideas still flourish today. Insistent ahistoricism also is a key element of American theory and practice. Americans even seem inclined to repeat past mistakes as exactly as possible, rather than to learn much from them. Though one should not bet on the power of any book to change deep-rooted American behavioral patterns, American Exceptionalism clearly offers an insightful, important corrective.” From the Foreword by Avi Soifer, Boston College Law School, Massachusetts


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
June 2002
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£49.95 / $69.50

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