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Chapter

Daniel Deudney and Jeffrey W. Meiser

This chapter argues why we must think of the United States as an exceptional kind of nation with a very distinct past and an equally distinct set of capabilities. It first considers American difference and exceptionality before discussing the meaning of exceptionalism, the critics of American exceptionalism, and the roots of American success. It then examines the liberalism that makes the United States exceptional, along with peculiar American identity formations of ethnicity, religion, and ‘race’ and how they interact with — and often subvert — American liberalism. It also analyses the role of American exceptionality across the five major epochs of US foreign policy, from the nation’s founding to the present day. Along the way, the chapter explores notions of American liberal republicanism, anti-statism, state-building, militarism, capitalism and prosperity, immigration, federal internationalism, unipolarity, war on terrorism, and unilateralism.