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3. American Society

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Chapter Summary

For generations, the United States has served scholars as either the exemplar of "modern" society, the prototype toward which other societies were evolving, or the "exceptional" nation, the society that seems exempt from the normal laws of Western cultures. Most striking, however, are the many ways that American society stands apart from other Western societies as distinctive. This chapter focuses on that distinctiveness. American culture is fundamentally western European in origin and character, sharply contrasting with non-European cultures. The USA has one of the oldest continuous forms of government in the world with relatively modest alteration since 1789. Much of America's cultural distinctiveness revolves around a closely related set of assumptions about the essential separateness of the individual, the feasibility and desirability of individual striving for success, individual action through communities of choice, and social egalitarianism.

Keywords: American society; civil lawsuits; national government; social egalitarianism; Western cultures



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