It was Marshall McLuhan who famously said: "The
last one to ask about water would be a fish." But Donald E.
Pease, Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities, Director
of the Futures of American Studies Institute, and Director of
the Master in Liberal Studies Program at Dartmouth College is
the singular individual who can stand back and see what is going
on in his cultural environment as it unfolds.
What he sees and describes in "The New American
Exceptionalism,"(University of Minnesota Press, 256 pages,
paper, $22.50) is how a state-directed and deeply-absorbed
"fantasy" of the power and rightfulness of the United States
took root as the nation emerged (in Harry Truman's words) as
"Leader of the Free World" in the wake of the Second World War
and what has happened to this "fantasy" since the Soviet Union
collapsed only to be replaced by a new enemy. The Cold War was
over; the war against "global terrorism" had begun.
Pease traces the shifts in the application and
alteration of this sense of post Cold War exceptionalism from
the "New World Order" envisioned by the administration of George
H. W. Bush to the Homeland Security State created by the
administration of his son . At the same time, he reveals the
glaring inconsistencies that have exposed the myths along the
way from the revelations of illegal detentions and torture of
prisoners to the exposures of government incompetency following
Hurricane Katrina. He comes up to the present and a new state
fantasy presented by Barack Obama, one that invokes American
ideals of justice and inclusion but whose realization remains to
This "exceptional" work of great scope and
brilliant insight marries cultural history with political
theory. It is relevant, thought provoking, even ground-breaking.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING.