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Post-War Americanism

Post-War Americanism

Only after the convulsions of World War II did American self-criticism very reluctantly abandon the influence of monumental history. The search of representative minds in the humanities, the churches, and the media for a nondogmatic interpretation of Americanism in postwar America will be demonstrated by an analysis of the works of Ralph Bar­ton Perry, Daniel J. Boorstin, Seymour Martin Lipset, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Courtney Murray, Walter Lippmann, and Louis Hartz.

This literature of self-criticism and self-analysis is given its coherence by the articulation, or at least the discussion, of an American awareness of consciousness of crisis as well as a constant effort to confer meaning on the power complex that the North American empire has become in the twentieth century. A certain lack of coherence resulted from the fact that the actual impulses, the special intentions, the material examined, and the symbol constructs, as well as the horizons and intellectual states of mind of the authors differ (the social attitudes are remarkably uni­form).

The writers were variously affected by such general Western crisis elements and factors as the Western civilizations’ merging into one global community, the pragmatic pressure, the emergence of the modern po­litical mass movements, or the industrial organization of production re­lations. These mingled with such experiences of crisis of a specifically American nature as the end of isolationism or the role of America as an interventionist world power from World War I to the Vietnam War, which finally defined the limits of America’s power potential, and the internal antagonisms of “society in excess”–for example, the economic crisis or the insufficient social integration of the African-American mi­nority.

All these factors solidified into the suspicion that Americanism was proving to be an unsuitable instrument for understanding the do­mestic and international situations; and in the background loomed a questioning of the society’s sense of order, as Perry expressed it in 1944:

“There is no cardinal principle of American life, no article of our central faith, that had not during the early decades of the present century been challenged and, by some critic or dissenting group rejected . . . . In 1914 there was only one question: shall America, or shall America not resort to arms in defense of Americanism? Twenty-five years later, in 1939, there were two questions: First, shall America intervene, and if so, in what way and in what time? Where does its frontier lie?”76

The American Place in the World

The questions lost none of their weight and urgency under the conditions of the 1960s. But to these questions of defensive strategy . . . there was now added a second question: for what should America intervene? What was that American­ism, other than bodily lives and possessions, which was worth defending? Even if America was to withdraw within its narrowest territorial fron­tiers, to what end should it devote itself in its own house?76

The existing answers to the questions give essentially three alternatives: the affirma­tion of the status quo, the postulate of recourse to tradition, and finally, the proclamation of a breakthrough to a reality beyond status quo and tradition. These categories are of a formal nature to begin with; their content determination will emerge only from the material. All the writers carry out their exploration of the American conscious­ness in the form of an interpretation of history that is informed by a central thesis, which differs from author to author.

Disappearing American Uniqueness

Daniel J. Boorstin speaks of the “declining sense of American uniqueness” as the “great trauma of the American mind in the last half century,”77 and he expresses the experience of crisis in the form of a biblical metaphor: it is the fall of the “American Adam.”

“The American gradually discovered that he was no longer living in the Garden of Eden. How had it all happened? What was he to do about it? Should he try to recapture his innocence, or should he try to atone for his Fall? These are the deep questions which have come to disturb the American mind and conscience.”78

The American dis­covered that he was “doctrinally naked” and sought desperately to cover his nakedness: “It was thus loss of our feeling of the ‘givenness’ of our values that led us to a serious and general search for an ‘American Phi­losophy.'”78

Each national crisis of the twentieth century, Boorstin notes, had intensified the call for an explicit “democratic faith” or a “philoso­phy for democracy.” But, according to this thinker, Americans are not in a position to undertake such a theoretical venture, since every abstract formulation of the principles of political life, especially in the form of a “blueprint for society” in the manner of the ideologues of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, would destroy the tacit solidarity of the actual political life of American society.

Staying Away from Political Theory

Boorstin clearly supports the Burkean misunderstanding of political theory and describes American democracy and its institutions as the result of the “unprecedented opportunities of this continent” and as an “unrepeatable combination of historical cir­cumstances.” He foregoes a thorough study of the problems of the American order, assigns to democracy a genius in the sense of ancient Rome, and understands it to be a characteristic disposition of American culture.79

The American ethos excluded the “theoretical crotchets” of the European type, since from the beginning it took its vitality from a “mystical faith in a preformed national theory.” “Our American past and the theories of politics which it is thought to imply, have become the yardstick against which the national life is measured. This is the deeper meaning of the criterion of ‘Americanism.'”80

Boorstin and American “Giveness”

In the “unity of American life” the boundaries between “community values” and “personal belief,” between “political philosophy” and “religious faith” become blurred. The “givenness of community values” also orders individual existence:81 “Givenness is the belief that values in America are in some way or other automatically defined: given by certain facts of geography or history pe­culiar to us.”

Boorstin distinguishes three levels of this “givenness”:

(a) “Values” as a gift from the past: “the earliest settlers or Founding Fathers equipped our nation at its birth with a perfect and complete political theory, ade­quate to all our future needs.”

(b) “Values” as a gift of the present: “our theory is always implicit in our institutions. This is the idea that the ‘American way of life’ harbors an ‘American way of thought,'” as well as the idea that American political theory always appears in the guise of a specific American experience, which is in first line the experience of the American landscape.

(c) Past and present, history and geography are axiomatically linked by belief in the continuity and homogeneity of Ameri­can history:

“It is the quality of our experience which makes us see our national past as an uninterrupted continuum of similar events, so that our past merges indistinguishably into our present . . . . Our feelings of continuity in our history makes it easy for us to see the Founding Fathers as our contemporaries.” In the feeling for continuity were fused the belief in the preformed, original theory of the fathers and the idea of a theory underlying all current experience into ‘givenness.'”82

Boorstin uses three major crises of American history–Puritanism, the War of Independence, and the Civil War–to illustrate the essential role of the “sense of ‘given­ness'” for American history. Boorstin traces this sense of givenness back to the American historical apocalypse, to the belief “that God himself drew the plans for our ca­reer and marked its outlines in our history and our very ground.”83

The fall of the American Adam thus consists of the realization that it was not providential predetermination that determined the American role in the drama of world history but that world history must stage its own production.84 Thus Americans face the truly confusing situation that their economic and military preeminence in the world might enable them to realize the concept of “manifest destiny” from the power-political aspect under the horizon of a global community, while at the same time this very “destiny” threatens to be deprived of its “manifestness.”

A Refusal to Philosophize

Boorstin’s reply to the “declining sense of ‘givenness'” is influenced by Edmund Burke’s prohibition against theory. He draws a false conclusion from the correct insight that the crisis cannot be overcome through still another variation of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century speculations on systems. Therefore he does not see the phenomenon of Americanism as requiring any continuing theoretical analysis but continues to regard it as natural that the symbols and behaviors cannot be investigated for their rational content.

Once again Boorstin looks to Burke for a way out of the crisis: he proposes “to try to bring to the surface those attitudes which have been latent in the notion of ‘givenness’ itself, to discover the general truths about institutions by which we have actually lived.”85 But since precisely these institutions are nothing other than meaning­ful behavior patterns that remain constant over long periods of time and are conveyed by social fields of consciousness, the impetus from Burke merely throws Boorstin back on a phenomenological description of Americanism. He refuses to set philosophy in the place of history: “we will be humble before our past and the past of other nations; for we will seek the wisdom in institutions.”86

The Lover of Wisdom is Left Out in the Cold

But the lover of wisdom simply does not find it in any institutions but only in the philosophical reflection upon human existence in society and history. Boorstin distinguishes between singularists and pluralists. The former take literally the American theme of people of God, and in the spirit of patriotic orthodoxy, preach a literal return to the beginnings, insisting on the uniqueness of the “American way of life.”

Singularists have their counterpart in universalists, who are driven by the millennial motive in Americanism to play an exemplary role in world history in one form or another. To these Boorstin opposes the pluralists:

“They are aware that we are and have always been only one among many nations; and they respect differences. They see history as a continuum. They do not expect that men or nations are ever likely to change much . . . . They are not alarmed by recent history, for they are not obsessed by the uniqueness of the American past, and they remind us that we have never been quite as unique as we have supposed . . . .”

“These Pluralists see our hopes, not in denying the past nor in affirming the future, but in under­standing ourselves, accepting both the unique and the universal in our character . . . . Satisfied by moderate objectives, they unashamedly plead for defense of the national interest.”87

Pluralists draw the inference from the critique of monumental history, eliminating the apocalyptic elements from Americanism, and for the rest, they trust in its genius.

Boorstin’s reply to the crisis of American con­sciousness is an affirmative historicism. But this affirmative historicism simply dresses the premises of American self-understanding in new gar­ments, for:

“it is not surprising . . . that much of our self-criticism has taken the form of historical reinterpretation. In periods of disillusionment we have expressed ourselves not so much in new philosophies, in dogmas or dictatorship or existentialism, as in earnest . . . reinterpretation of the American past.”88

This thesis testifies that the enterprise of self-analysis can best be ac­complished in the guise of an interpretation of one’s own history.

Seymour Martin Lipset and the Sociology of Unrest

The work of Seymour Martin Lipset, a sociologist, also prefers this solution. The German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf has made some interesting observations concerning the role of sociology in the context of the devel­opment of the American self-understanding; they form a valuable intro­duction to our examination of Lipset’s The First New Nation. To this day, according to Dahrendorf, American sociology “is fed primarily by the problem of the recognition of their own society in its principle and its elements.”89 It is a vehicle of social self-interpretation, grown out of the “unrest of the New World in modern times” during the final decades of the nineteenth century.

This theme of unrest is revealed negatively in the sociologists’ fear of anomie: “The apparent dissolution of all ties and certainties became an occasion for worry.” Positively, it is expressed in the “search for community . . . for certainty and ties.”90 Since that time, Dahrendorf feels, two tendencies can be distinguished in American sociology. There is a conservative mainstream that “unmis­takably” supports “the sign of the justification of social conditions”; the other is “the very much narrower stream of self-criticism,” from Thorstein Veblen to C. Wright Mills.91

American Sociology’s Success Story

But how to explain the fact that in America, unlike other industrial nations, sociology was so extraordi­narily successful as an “attempt at self-understanding of a society in change”?92

In explanation, Dahrendorf offers a Hegelian variation of the monu­mental-historical factor in Americanism, which also illuminates the specific character of the American crisis. “American history might be understood as the evolution of a single principle, a process of rationali­zation, democratization, mobilization, and collectivism–that is, as the realization of impulses already established in the beginnings of this soci­ety.” “The dynamic of the process of evolution of the American idea is exhausted, America has lost its goals,”93 “the old structures of America [have] completed their evolution . . . ; the question therefore is: what now?”94

Dahrendorf sees the motivating center of this process in the principle of applied enlightenment. In this instance enlightenment justi­fies man’s enfranchisement, since reason is the instrument for shaping his world in the experimental process of “trial and error.” This stance of applied enlightenment and its embodiment in fluid social structures surely furnish an essential reason for the increasing significance of soci­ology as an element of American self-interpretation, even though it must be remarked in qualification that the concept of applied enlightenment by no means represents the exclusive theme in Americanism and that American history cannot be grasped unconditionally as the evolution of the “idea of democracy.”

But it seems to me that there is one thing Dahrendorf and the materials he analyzed have proved anew: American civil theology was still so lively even in the nation’s crisis that it was able both to communicate its prem­ises to the social sciences and to attempt to stop the decline of truth by the authority of a “scientific” truth. This explains why sociology offered interpretations of American society from its own findings and why the speculative assumptions of Comte and Marx failed to gain a foothold.           

The Claimed Continuity of American Values

Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset attempted to restore Americanism with the methods of sociology. He disputed that a fundamental change was occurring in American society, such as the critics claimed. He claimed “that it is the basic value-system, as solidified in the early days of the new nation, which can ac­count for the kinds of changes that have taken place in the American character and in American institutions as these faced the need to adjust to the requirements of an urban, industrial and bureaucratic society.”95 For, he declared, “the same basic values which arose in the American Revolution have shaped the society under changing geographical and economic conditions;” he referred to American historiography.96

Like Boorstin, Lipset stressed the “effective continuity of the fundamental ideals of the society.”97 With regard to content, he spoke of “equality and achievement” as “America’s key values,” arising “from our revolutionary origins.” In his study of specific traits of American social behavior, of American religiosity, and of the American trade-union movement, Lipset demonstrates that this basic value system had not lost its power to shape attitudes. A considerable amount of monumental history, however, has mingled with the historical analysis:

“The United States may properly claim the title of the first new nation. It was the first major colony suc­cessfully to break away from colonial rule through revolution . . . . For this reason, to see how, in the course of American history, its values took shape in institutions may help us to understand some of the problems faced by the new nations emerging today on the world scene.”98

And from this Lipset concludes:

“So perhaps the first new nation can contrib­ute more than money to the latter-day ones; perhaps its development can give us some clue as to how revolutionary egalitarian and populist values may become incorporated into a stable nonauthoritarian polity”99

These sentences call for interpretive comment.

Values Determine the Nature of New States

Lipset does point out that his comparative theory of how a nation comes into being had to take the “uniqueness” of the American situation into account; he also shows that in fact certain structural problems of the emerging nation state are accessible to comparative analysis. But the ex­pectation of determining paradigmatically, as it were, the conditions for establishing a stable democratic polity should dampen the empirical find­ings slightly.

For the proper insight into the constitutive function of the value system calls for a more extensive study of the differentia specificae in content of the value systems that respectively became part of the na­tions founded on revolution. For even Lipset’s material urges the realiza­tion that success and failure of the Western model of democracy can be explained in part by the nature of the value systems incorporated in the founding.100

American Revolution Not Against a Foreign People

And this brings me to a further crucial point: although during revolutionary wars colonies have risen against their masters, it was the immigrated colonists who fought their mother countries, rather than autochthonous populations revolting against foreign rule.

From this point of view the American Revolution is no doubt closer to the independence movements of the Central and South American Creoles, as well as those of the colonists in South Africa, Algeria, and Rhodesia, than to the anti-colonial revolutions of the native populations in Africa and Asia, whose activities correspond more closely to the Mexican Revolution staged by the Indian population.

Lipset and many other American scholars forget this state of affairs, since in the course of Anglo-Saxon colonization the original Indian population was decimated and ceased being a social fac­tor and was displaced from the American consciousness until well into the twentieth century.

Generations Between Spiritual and Institutional Disintegration

This is not to say that the model of Western democracy, taking into regard the rational assumptions, could not be a paradigm for the new nations of the twentieth century; nevertheless it is not enough to claim that the United States is the “first new nation.”

Further, this criticism does not imply that the anticolonial process of nation building in Africa and Asia is identical with the “metaphysical revolution” of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist sort. Such an argument would, in turn, simply be ac­cepting the dogma of the “bulwark of progress,” but this time as the dogma of the Communist revolution as a competing apocalypse to the American apocalypse.

The materials Lipset examines show that traditional behavioral pat­terns are still largely intact. But that is no proof against the crisis of those concepts of order in Americanism that have to date sustained those be­havioral and institutional structures. For it takes several generations from the disintegration of the mental order to the dissolution of behavior pat­terns, most especially their stabilizing core, the institutions.

Lipset’s Lack of Critical Tools

This set of problems remains inaccessible to Lipset, since he works uncritically with the complex symbols of value and value systems; they prevent him from distinguishing between the experiential substratum of consciousness, the interpretation of experience in conceptions of order, and their formation into patterns of behavior. From the standpoint of our formulation of the problem, the concept of the first new nation and the evidence “that the American Creed . . . is still a dynamic part of our culture” l01 identify Lipset as representative of affirmative sociology.

Political Science: Erstwhile Advocate for Americanism

If American sociology is deeply embedded in American self-understanding, this is all the more true for political science. In the con­temporary context of crisis literature, we can touch briefly on some re­sults of our earlier reflections. For “in America, political science was felt to exist already in the conduct of her own statesmen.”102

John Adams had understood the founding as an act within the nomothetic science of politics. This identification was common to all the Founding Fathers. James Wilson’s example showed us that the preservation of the founding was to occur through a process of education, which constantly concret­ized the principles of the nomothetic science of politics in the citizen’s existential virtue.

This link among the traditional symbol aggregate of the founders, social self-interpretation, and civic education mark Ameri­can political science to the present day. It is an element of Americanism, even while its history is the history of Americanism:

“the science of poli­tics assumes a peculiar fourfold relationship between a common notion of science as it is found in ordinary American social thought; the idea of a common citizenship training; the generalization of the habits of Ameri­can democracy, and, tending to embrace all these, the common belief in an inevitable progress of a manifest destiny for American society.”103

It is therefore understandable that political science up to the time of the Civil War was merely a didacticism of Americanism: “It was con­ceived as a mere method–a technique for sustaining a preexistent American liberalism, not as a critical or speculative method.”104

Pragmatic Political Science Promotes Americanism

With the social change at the end of the nineteenth century, political science, now saddled with self-consciousness through the assumption of the European scientific ethos, becomes organized into college departments and, like sociology, begins to be effective by systematically stabilizing. It served the precise experience of the social process and of national self-understanding under the altered conditions without reflecting the prem­ises of Americanism: “this political science did not take the form of po­litical theory or philosophy.” It developed as a “technological science.”105

In this role American political science to this day has contributed substantially to the preparation and execution of the pragmatic reform of society and thus, unconsciously, furnished significant proof for the qual­ity of the Americanism implicit in it. As long as reason was alive in Americanism, the pragmatic rationality of a “problem-solving” political science was enough.

Adopting the Postulates of European Scientism

But the evaporation of the rational substance from the traditional pattern of thinking and behaving, which continued to be socially dominant, caused American political science, like sociology, to seek a basis for the truth of Americanism in the speculative postulates of European scientism from positivism to Freudianism:

“A science of Politics would give a total explanation that would restore the sense of shat­tered ‘givenness,’ a movement in the plane of abstract thought parallel to the totalitarian movements of European politics in the plane of action . . . . They thought to transcend politics, not in a philosophic sense, by seeking to understand the limits of politics that follow from a belief in the moral structure of human reality, but in a scientific sense, although, palpably and happily, they remained as liberal at heart as before.”106

Bernard Crick correctly saw as a symptom of the erosion of “American Liberalism” the civil theology of society, whose habituating force had until then removed the totalitarian implications of such a scientism and at the same time utilized its technology to shape social reality and make it transparent. But this placed political science in an unavoidable di­lemma: “For while it throve upon a belief in a natural unity and una­nimity in American thought, yet it has cut itself away from the actual reasonings and experience that underlay the great political literature of the early Republic.”l07

Aristotelian Constitutionalism Without Good Men?

The givenness of American life is no longer a mat­ter of course, and, Crick concludes, “neither can it be rescued by an in­tellectually empty citizenship training, nor by the attempted reduction of liberalism to scientism.”108 The liberation of American political thought from the narrowness and sterility of the “idea of a science of politics” requires, not a direct change of the political and social structures, but merely an indirect change in the understanding of these structures.

Crick is an acute critic of the American political scientists, but he is linked to them in the overall Anglo-Saxon self-understanding and therefore sees the renewal of the civil theology of constitutional democracy as the first task and, cum grano salis, as the subject of a political theory pure and simple: “A restoration of political thought is more likely to come through what is needed to tackle the problem and subject matter of a clearer national self-understanding.”109 Modern political theory then becomes “in its highest form . . . concerned with the historical grounding and the internal logic of what is most clearly called ‘Constitutional Democracy.'”

Crick sees the alternative to scientistic political science as recurrence to the core of “constitutional politics,” which he makes coincident with Aristotelian politics. Politics in this sense–for Crick the only possible concept of politics–does not make man good because only good men can guarantee a secure and worthy politics. But “when a habit of disin­terested moral speculation is no longer of a piece with an understanding of a national history, a political culture loses any ability both to be itself and to be a wider example.”110 From his understanding of the rational premise of Anglo-Saxon democracy, Crick is eager to revive its commonsense Aristotelianism, which, however, presupposes the presence of a sizable measure of this very common sense; this is a hope the reader cannot share with Crick without further reservations.

Rejuvenating “The Good Life” with Christianity and Democracy

American political science is of necessity overwhelmingly an instru­ment to affirm the social status quo; therefore, it also reflects its crisis symptoms. To the extent that impulses for a renewal of American self-understanding are expected, this desire is directed to a revival of the ra­tional substance inherent in the beginning by recourse to the traditions of the founding. This is the direction chosen by most of our writers as a way out of the current crisis.

Very early on, Ralph B. Perry expressed his great distress at the crisis that had been advancing since 1900; furthermore, as a clear oppositional stance to the totalitarian regimes, he attempted to furnish a rejuvenated theory of the “good life” on the basis of “Christianity” and “democracy,” the two idea systems that respectively marked an epoch of American his­tory and together make up the substance of order:

“it is proposed that we, as Americans, take Puritanism and Democracy as symbols of piety, reaffirming that which we find true; looking for their constituents of truth in order that we may affirm them; reaffirming them in order thereby to maintain our moral identity and the stream of the national life.”111

Puri­tan Christianity and democracy:

“have been particularly pervasive, reach­ing not only through the whole length of American history, but breadth­wise from center to extremities, touching American experience and behavior at every point; religious, moral, social, cultural, and political. Puritan ideals were acquired before and during the revolutionary period, so that both may be said to have moulded the American mind from the beginning. They originated in the prenatal phase of American life and have predetermined the whole of its later development.”112

According to Perry, the crisis of Americanism calls for a conscious response: “Many Americans have become doubtful of the traditional creed which is the basis of their culture, the presupposition of their institutions and the es­sence of their nationalism.”113

Ralph Barton Perry Looks to the Founders

Once the American national credo has strayed ito the shadow realm of doubt, wrote Ralph Barton Perry in his Puritanism and Democracy, its content cannot be revived in the form of monumental history;114 it can be assured only through conscious decision. But what can save American­ism is not conquering doubt through the abolition of reason and dog­matic insistence on “irrational beliefs;” rather, “the critical faculties themselves should appraise a creed, or reappraise an old creed, by seeing the reason for its adoption.

This alternative implies that there are reasons or grounds for the preference of one creed to another, and that when a creed is defined by these reasons, it possesses a claim upon the acceptance of all rational men.” What is called for is not the renaissance of dogmas but the rational rebirth of the original reasonableness: “The past is viewed from the present, and judged in terms of the present.”115

Perry’s study, therefore, attempts “to determine how far the ideals of puritanism and democracy are acceptable. To this end it will be necessary that these ideals should be so conceived as to mean something now, mean some­thing definite, refer directly or indirectly to the present field of experience, and satisfy present logical standards.”116 Perry is not satisfied with Daniel Boorstin’s institutionalist effort or Seymour Martin Lipset’s behaviorist approach. He is guided by the interaction between ideas and institutions.

For Perry, ideas are intellectual sketches that produce a “community of emotion and will” in the form of ideals among individuals. This in turn gives rise to behavior patterns encompassing and dominating all areas of human existence in society. “When thus socialized and charged with emotion durable ideas constitute the essence of culture and civilization.”117 Materially, the study consists of a representation of the ideas of the Puritan fathers and founders of the Republic and the origins of Ameri­canism. But this is not done by understanding intellectual history, but under the horizon of the truth of human existence.

The measure “which may appropriately be called the ‘moral standard,’ the standard of stan­dards, the standard by which all others shall be judged”118 originates in a vague “European tradition from Plato to Kant”which Perry, echoing William James, calls the “‘philosophical’ standard.” “It follows that the phi­losopher, pledged to take the rounded and detached view of life, must take as his ‘guiding principle’ the satisfaction of as many demands as possible.”119 Even when we know that Perry takes his standard from man’s nature, his theoretical foundation remains mired in the surface; it lacks the force of meditative effort.

Does Truth Lie in the Founders’ Thought?

For only the experience of truth in the Fathers’ concrete thought and action, communicated to Perry by the study of the materials, charges the American order existentially and confers to the pale formal standard existential binding character so much that the complexes of order under examination will be seen according to the cri­terion of their reality content:

“There must be a congruence between Christian-Puritan democracy and the condition of existence . . . . The true ground of hope for Christian democracy lies, then, in its correspondence with the nature of things through enlightenment, and in its correspondence with human nature through its provision for human faculties and human solidarity.”

The truth of human existence here means, not a piece of reified dogma in behavior and institutions, but truth in concrete action, which correctly orders individual existence and society under present-day conditions. But Perry remains tied to the premises of Ameri­canism: he can imagine the meditative reenactment and renewal of the truth of the fathers: “But by imputing essential truths to our fathers we can acknowledge them with filial piety, nourish ourselves upon them, and at the same time resolve to transmit to our children a wider and fuller inheritance.”120

Consequently, he also proclaims recurrence to the found­ing:

“the chief source of spiritual nourishment for any nation must be its own past, perpetually rediscovered and renewed. A nation which ne­gates its tradition loses its historic identity and want only destroys its chief source of spiritual vitality; a nation which merely reaffirms its tra­dition grows stagnant and corrupt. But it is not necessary to choose be­tween revolution and reaction. There is a third way—the way, namely, of discriminating and forward-looking fidelity.”121

Finally, tradition over­whelmed even Perry; it caused him to run aground in his search for the “chief source of spiritual vitality” beyond society and history, with which any healing of the crisis would have to begin.

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Bourgeoisie vs. Communism

But this problem should be dealt with most effectively by a theologian. Reinhold Niebuhr treats the American crisis in the context of the crisis of Western “bourgeois civilization;” but he, too, cannot change his Ameri­can spots. His analyses of bourgeois and Communist cultures, the two predominant forces of modern civilization, as aberrations of Western Christianity are superficial and colorless and do justice to the complexity of the historical process only with qualifications:

“Modern man’s confi­dence in his virtue caused an equally unequivocal rejection of the Chris­tian idea of the ambiguity of human virtue. In the liberal world the evils in human nature and history were ascribed to social institutions or to ignorance or to some other manageable defect in human nature or envi­ronment. Again the communist doctrine is more explicit and therefore more dangerous. It ascribes the origins of evil to the institution of prop­erty.”122

Bourgeois culture transforms“everything in the Christian faith which points to ultimate and transcendent possibilities” into simple his­torical achievements–though only in confrontation with feudalism and without allowing the masses to participate in its success.

Communism protests against the illusion and sentimentalities of the bourgeois world view and tries in desperation to take these seriously and either carry them out or oppose them with similarly absurd and contradictory concepts.123 In every instance communism changes only partly dangerous sentimen­talities and inconsistencies in the bourgeois ethos into consistent and to­tally harmful ones.124

Overcoming the Irony of American History

Niebuhr attempts to summarize the consequences of the modern distortion of the structure of reality of man and history under the concept of irony:

“If virtue becomes vice through some hidden defect in the virtue; if strength becomes weakness because of the vanity to which strength may prompt the mighty man or nation; if security is transmuted into insecurity because too much reliance is placed upon it; if wisdom becomes folly because it does not know its limits—in all such cases the situation is ironic.”

It is ironic because the situation is abolished “if men or nations are made aware of their complicity in it.” This rise to consciousness means the discovery of a hidden vanity or arrogance by which a comedy is transformed into irony. These realizations lead either to abandoning the arrogance, that is, remorse, or to a despairing empha­sis on the vanities to the point, at which irony turns to pure rottenness.

Modern liberal culture “is involved in many ironic refutations of its origi­nal pretensions of virtue, wisdom, and power,” which have attained their full development only in Communism, and the efforts to remove the ironic contrast between the original dreams of virtue and justice and re­ality have dissolved irony into pure evil.125 To Niebuhr, America is “a vivid symbol of the most characteristic attitudes of a bourgeois culture” and therefore the actual object of his observations.126 It is therefore a matter of overcoming the “irony of American history” by reflection and returning to a genuine knowledge of order, which for Niebuhr means a “Christian realism.”

“The ironic elements in American History can be overcome . . . only if American Idealism comes to terms with the limits of all human striving, the fragmentariness of all human wisdom, the precariousness of all historic configurations of power and the mixture of good and evil in all human virtue.”127

Christianity Becomes Common Sense Wisdom

The modus procedendi is already familiar to us. A critique of the monumental history of the “American Israel” lays bare the illusions of a “new beginning,” which Puritan Calvinism and Jeffersonian deism built into the founding, as the cause of an aberration resulting in the current frustration.128 This political theory of America suppresses Christian real­ism in early American culture represented by Madison, Adams, and the American Constitution.129

This Christian realism was derailed into the political practice of institutions: “We may claim that the unarticulated wisdom embodied in the actual experience of American life has created forms of justice considerably higher than our more articulate unwisdom suggests.”130 Niebuhr calls this the “triumph of the wisdom of common sense” over the bourgeois and Marxist types of wisdom, and he identifies the “wisdom of common sense” with the “wisdom of democracy.”131 “The national consciousness must have been informed by some hidden resources of common sense which have been withheld from both the wise and the simple.”132

Recurrence to Christian Realism

The irony of American history, therefore, is carried out in the recurrence to a Christian realism inherent in the social prac­tices—the concretized common sense of the nation. This rise to con­sciousness of the ironic situation is inspired by the Christian belief “that life has a center and source of meaning beyond the rational and social sequences which may be rationally discerned.”

Because the divine origin and center of this given meaning is experienced in faith, the basis of all meaning remains a mystery. “So discerned, it yields a frame of meaning in which human freedom is real and valid”;133 “the spirit of humanity is . . . preserved . . . by an existential awareness of the limits, as well as the possibilities of human power and goodness.”134  But beyond recourse to the intellectual and linguistic tradition of America, Niebuhr does not proceed to a theory of politics that might be able to promote the existential renewal of society through the Christian spirit. Rather, he contents himself with an imitation of Abraham Lincoln:

“This combination of moral resoluteness about the immediate issues with a religious awareness of another dimension of meaning and judgment must be regarded as almost a perfect model of the difficult but not im­possible task of remaining loyal and responsible toward the moral trea­sures of a free civilization on the one hand while yet having some reli­gious vantage point over the struggle.”135

John Courtney Murray

The Protestant theologian refers to biblical-Christian fides as the source of order.136 The Catholic theologian John Courtney Murray at­tempted to reconstruct Americanism from the ratio of Christian philosophy. Murray’s definition of Americanism–he called it “the American Proposition”—as the “public philosophy” or the “public consensus” is already familiar to us. Murray exemplifies the complete Americanization, social integration, and increasing self-confidence of American Catho­lics–an evolution that in 1960 placed a Catholic in the White House for the first time.

It is “classical American doctrine,” Murray declares, that the new nation the fathers founded was dedicated to a “proposition”:

“The American Proposition . . . presents itself as a coherent structure of thought that lays claim to intellectual assent; it also presents itself as an organized political project that aims at historical success. Our fathers asserted it and most ably argued it; they also undertook to ‘work it out,’ and they signally succeeded. But their historical success cannot be ac­cepted as a matter of course and is not absolute. The American proposi­tion must be constantly newly acquired as doctrine and practice.”137

Such a moment is the current crisis in which, for many reasons, the public philosophy is in a state of total disintegration, in which consensus extends only to the formal democratic procedures, and in which a moral vacuum has arisen that increasingly makes impossible a rational pursu­ance of public affairs in domestic and international politics.138

The Fathers of the Church and the Founding Fathers

A not in­considerable segment of the American population, however, keeps the “original American consensus” alive–in the “Catholic community.” The cause is “the evident coincidence of the principles which inspired the American Republic with the principles that are structural to the Western Christian political tradition.” The Catholic community speaks in the po­litical and ethical idiom of its fathers–“both the Fathers of the Church and the Fathers of the American Republic.”139 The American proposi­tion, therefore, is supported by the twofold authority of the Church Fa­thers and the Founding Fathers.

This claim allows Murray to turn the absolute beginning into a relative event, for in the American founding what he sees as being developed is merely the principles of the Western political tradition; Murray subsumes this under the concept of natural law:

“only the theory of law is able to give an account of the public moral experience that is the public consensus. The consensus itself is simply the tradition of reason as emergent in developing form in the special circum­stances of American political-economic life.”140

The public philosophy thus derives its claim to truth from the knowl­edge of order given by philosophy: “Like the whole of the philosophia perennis, the doctrine of natural law is oriented, toward constant contact with reality and the data of experience.”141 The “public philosophy” in­corporates “the dictates of God, who is Eternal Reason, the Logos.” From this fact results its binding character: “Their ultimate origin is divine though the mode of their knowing is human and rational.”142

Murray correctly sees that Americanism has absorbed essential elements of Christian-philosophic tradition, but his identification of Americanism with the scholastic natural law is surely not admissible without reserva­tions. Murray understands the “natural consensus,” which takes its bear­ings from the Thomistic model, as other than “static quantity.” “It is indeed a legacy from the past, but not in the form of a deposit that is closed to all change and addition . . . it is an open-ended action.”143

An American Future for Thomism?

But surmounting the crisis nevertheless requires a renaissance of some sort of the scholastic natural law, a recourse to the modes of traditional philoso­phizing, which might not be so natural to the non-Catholic American. Murray discovered in the natural law those resources “that would make it the dynamic of a new ‘age of order.’ . . . It can claim to be only a ‘skeleton law,’ to which flesh and blood must be added by that heart of the political process, the rational activity of man, aided by experience and by high professional competence.”

But since it was precisely the fun­damental structures of the political, social, and economic order that today are most vigorously questioned, it is “the skeleton that we mostly need.” “In a word, the doctrine of natural law offers a more profound metaphysic, a more integral humanism, a fuller rationality, a more com­plete philosophy in his nature and history.”144 But Murray leaves Americans alone with the doubt whether resort to philosophical dogma would be able to restore the rationality of philosophizing, especially since he believes that it is possible to foist Thomistic dogmatics on Americanism without much difficulty.

Walter Lippman and the Public Philosophy

The other theoretician of “public philosophy,” Walter Lippman, also seeks refuge in natural-law dogmatics, even without religious auspices, from the disorder of the times. Like Niebuhr, he sees these as merely a part of the precipitous and calamitous decline of Western society after 1917.145 The victims of this crisis are the first-line liberal democracies of the Atlantic community: “They have suffered great disasters in this cen­tury and the consequences of these disasters are compounding themselves.”146 “They were sick with some kind of incapacity to cope with reality, to govern their affairs, to defend their vital interests and, it might be, to insure their survival as free and democratic states.”147

The diag­nosis takes its point of departure from the central function of order of the public philosophy of an organized society:

“the democracies are ceasing to receive the traditions of civility in which the good society, the liberal democratic way of life at its best, originated and developed. They are cut off from the public philosophy and the political arts which are needed to govern the liberal democratic society.”148

And he comes to a conclusion: “with the disappearance of the public philosophy–and of a consensus on the first and last things–there was opened up a great vacuum in the public mind, yawning to be filled.”149 The “western traditions of civility” are the content of the public philosophy and prerequisites of the institu­tions of Western society, such as popular elections, majority rule, rep­resentative bodies, freedom of speech, loyalty, property, and voluntary associations.150

Natural Law and the Revolution of the Passions

Lippman, too, sees the basic elements of the “traditions of civility” in natural law: “For over two thousand years,” he quotes Ernest Berker, “European thought has been acted upon by the idea that the rational faculties of men can produce a common conception of law and order which possesses a universal validity.” The concept of classical natural law was shared by the Stoics, the Roman jurists, the Fathers of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, the Renaissance and the Reformation, the English Revolution of 1688, and the American Revolution of 1776, and it pro­vided the Western political societies with a foundation in the mind.151

The American form of public philosophy derives from the founding, but like Murray, Lippman goes beyond the American fathers in that he sees them as men who legitimately continue and revive a two-thousand-year-old tradition that starts from the premise that “man’s second and more rational nature must master his first and more elemental.” The traditions of civility thus also imply the sovereignty of ratio in the private and public sector; its decay means the emergence of the instinctive impulse in man and society.

This counterrevolution of the passions became historic, according to Lippman, in the movement from Rousseau through the Jaco­bins and Marx to the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century:

“The Jacobins and their successors made a political religion founded upon the reversal of civility. Instead of ruling the elemental impulses, they stimulated and armed them. Instead of treating the pretensions to being a god as the mortal sin original, they proclaimed it to be the glory and destiny of man. This state of affairs gave rise to the permanent war, with that conditio humana. explicated in the traditions of civility and articu­lated in the public philosophy.”152

Neither this libidinously motivated counterreformation nor “public agnosticism” controls the “rational or­der of human society,” whose conditions must be fulfilled if man’s apti­tude for the good life in this world is to be reflected.153 The dysfunction of the democratic institutions and the disintegration of society in the pri­vate worlds of antagonistic groups can be prevented only by the “renewal of the public philosophy.”

But the solution is not neoclassical or neomedieval restoration: “The revival of the public philosophy depends on whether its principles and precepts–which were articulated before the industrial revolution, before the era of rapid technological change, and before the rise of the mass democracy–depends on whether this old philosophy can be reworked for the modern age.”154 In model analyses of such central concepts as the sovereignty of the people, property, freedom of speech, and education, Lippman demonstrates impressively the mind of a homo politicus shaped by the ratio.

But only in relation to communicating the insights of the public philosophy and accommodating the heterogeneous designs for ex­istence in society to the truth of the public philosophy does Lippman touch on the basic problem of all acquisition of the knowledge of order by recurrence to the traditions. For “the principles of the good society call for a concern with an order of being–which cannot be proved existentially to the sense organs–where it matters supremely that the human person is inviolable, that reason shall regulate the will, that truth shall prevail over error.”155

The Prohibition of Absolute Reality

Until recently this tension could be resolved by the interpretation of reality in verbal and nonverbal symbols; but today the critical question is not “whether men do or do not believe in an imagery. It turns on whether they believe that a man is able ‘to experience a reality absolutely independent of himself.’” Nietzsche’s proclamation that God is dead is not, that is, directed to a symbol, a concrete image of God; rather, it eliminates “the recognition that beyond our private worlds there is a public world to which we belong.”

Lippman takes his stand at the point at which he realizes that appeals can be meaningful only as medi­tative processes to regain reality. But the analysis breaks off with an appeal to the philosophers “to alter the terms of discourse.”156 For “if the philosophers teach that religious experience is a purely psychological phenomenon, related to nothing, then they will give educated men a bad intellectual conscience if they have religious experiences. The philoso­phers cannot give them religion. But they can keep them away from it”157 –although, one is tempted to add, they could also help them to a correct order of their existence through philosophizing.

Voegelin’s Secondary Ideologies

There also remain, therefore, the various recourses to the spiritual tra­ditions of the West that are meant to undergird the tradition of the American founding by means of “secondary ideologies.” According to Eric Voegelin:

“There have been attempts of return, motivated by the totalitarian climax of the rebellion, but these attempts could not go be­yond the older dogmatism, to the reality of knowledge itself. They there­fore have produced a curious gray zone of thought about order that is as characteristic a phenomenon of the time as the ideologies them­selves, to which it is opposed. One might speak of an area of secondary ideologies.”158

Saint Simon as America’s Spiritual Director

An inherent logic drives the crisis of American consciousness to the point at which the resistance to a rigid Americanism must shift to a demand for critically reflecting on the nexus between founding and order. But this development occurred almost below the threshold of conscious­ness of those in the universities, churches, and mass media, in administra­tions and parliaments, who were celebrating “the death of the earlier metaphysical impulse”159 as a “de-ideologization.”160

It transformed pragmatism, now deprived of its mentality, into a political doctrine of corporation economics subjugated to social-technological rationality. Theoretically this means no more than that Saint Simon was elected to be the spiritus rector of American history. This step, however, only inten­sified the movement to deprive the political and social institutions, and the patterns of thought and behavior that express them, of meaning. Yearning for a rational attitude of man in relation to God and the world, society and history were no longer satisfied with affirmation or recur­rence on the level of intellectual discourse but produced a massive resist­ance to Americanism.

C. Wright Mills, spokesman for “radical” sociology, clearly outlined the situation:

“It is not only the skills of reason that they [men] need– although their struggles to acquire these often exhaust their limited moral energy. What they need, and what they feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves.”161

Unfortunately his moral impe­tus and deficient theoretical discipline did not allow him to go beyond diagnosis to make his admirable sensitivity to the malaise of American society useful for remedial action.

Roland van Zandt’s Failed American Experiment

Two entirely different attempts to eradicate Americanism will now be briefly introduced: Roland van Zandt’s The Metaphysical Foundations of American History. and Louis Hartz’s The Liberal Tradition in America  and The Founding of New Societies. “The historic vision of the American people is in deep trouble today,” van Zandt noted.162  “American history as it has been known is fin­ished.”163 “We now know that the apparatus of ideas with which the American founders started, however deftly used, cannot be made to per­form the task for which it was invented.” But in what does van Zandt see the purpose of the symbol apparatus?

If in science this task was first, to understand the world of nature, and second, to understand it so that it could be controlled and organized for the welfare of human society, in history the task was to understand and establish the world of human society so that mankind would have a “new chance” to redeem one of its most ardent dreams, the establishment on this earth, here and now, of a “heavenly city” of man’s own deliberate inven­tion. Such was the intent of the American founders when they spoke in the name of the “New World.” But in the fifth decade of this century so syste­matic is this failure that there is hardly a detail of the original American “dream” or “metaphysic” that is not directly contradicted by the “facts.”164

The nexus of founding and order is equally obvious to van Zandt: “Whatever American History is, it is only that which is defined by the theories, principles, and ideas of those who first established and identified it.”165 The American founders undertook a “great experiment,” and this experiment failed. Our knowledge, according to van Zandt, is for the most part negative: “It knows that the intellectual inheritance of the sev­enteenth and eighteenth century must go; but it has not been able to establish either for itself or society as a whole any system of ideas that can replace that inheritance.”166

Man but an Appendix of Theoretical Physics

For van Zandt, the American crisis is part of the twentieth-century revolt in the field of the natural sciences against the seventeenth century and its “basic concepts” and “generative ideas.”167 Van Zandt forces the epistemology of Whitehead, Northrop, Cohen, and Mead into an illegiti­mate bond with Comte’s speculation on history. Inside man’s head, im­pelled by an immanent logic, a process of conceptualization of physical reality occurs, and this process is concretized in the expanding control of man over the conceptualized structures of the universe.

“History” and “society” are exclusively epiphenomena of this process–that is, the in­stitutionalization of formalized “laws and relations within the world of nature” in the form of a “closed system of ideas,” which van Zandt calls “metaphysic.” With every “step forward in organized control,” the terms of an “enveloping conceptual world of man’s own creation” prove to be not false but limited, and they cause frustration, inhibition, and confu­sion; this unease can be relieved only through new modes of institu­tionalization, through a more adequate and encompassing “conceptual symbolism.”

“Man in this manner finds himself at the helm of a process which, so long as he understands it and obeys it, contains its own innate principle of self­-perpetuation and proceeds on the basis of constant change and increased power. This process is self-evidently irreversible: so long as man willfully maintains it, it can only go forward in time without permitting man to revert to a previous and more primitive mode of existence, a previous stage of history. Hence man knows what he calls ‘progress,’ a goal that can only be limited by the unspecifiable limits of nature itself, and a goal that is constantly known in its own achievements as the perpetual fulfillment, in a richer and more bountiful form of life, of the very limitations that had been imposed by a previous achievement.”168

The speculative premise that the interpretation of experience of physical reality alone can bring into being the order of man in society and history makes every theory of man’s realm of being into an appendix of theoreti­cal physics.

The America = Jefferson = Newtonian Physics Hypothesis

“The social sciences, and especially the field of political theory, have not kept pace with the striking innovations that have oc­curred in the natural sciences in the present century,” van Zandt com­plains, adding that it was in this circumstance that “the notorious scandal of contemporary thought throughout the world” consisted. With this he also revealed the cause for such a construction: “While man has unprece­dented power over the world of nature, he has an unprecedented lack of power over his own world of history and society.” 169

The prevailing so­cial and historical ideas still adhere to the principles of a “former scien­tific conception that have been repudiated in their own original field of application,” that is, in the classical physics of Newton. Van Zandt sees these principles as the chief obstacle “to the rational control of that [modern] civilization. Thus while science and man’s control of nature continues to advance, human society, or the end of which this advance exists, reverts to barbarisms that can bring both itself and that scientific achievement to an end.”170

Thus, American history has the same basis as Newtonian science; it is nothing more than the application of the methods of the natural sciences. Van Zandt attempts to prove this thesis by identifying American society in history with its historic self-understanding in Americanism, and the latter with Jeffersonian thought:

“The present study which deals with the metaphysical foundations of American history, does so almost entirely through the thought of Jefferson. Just as Burtt assumes that science is . . . synonymous with Newtonianism, so this study assumes that the subject of American history is synonymous with Jeffersonianism.”171

Natural Science as Reformer of Man and Society

We are not concerned here with discussing the inadequacy of extend­ing the banal insight that Jefferson’s cosmology derives from Newton to all the symbolic material and political actions of the Founding Fathers. I limit my remarks to van Zandt’s argument. The decline of Americanism forces van Zandt to a transformation of homo Americanus.

In the place of the antinomies of individual versus society and the one versus the many he sets the “unity of process.” This category, institutionalized in social reality, abolishes the myth “that the individual is . . . ruled by laws that are outside him in nature, that are transcendental to his life.” This dogma is “the greatest single obstacle . . . to the rational control of man’s own life.” For “order is the unity of process as organized by man in terms of definite rules of procedure.”172

Van Zandt’s approach makes it clear that he is intent not only on abolishing Americanism as the dominant conception of order, but also on promoting the intellectual revolution of natural science to the “reformation of political and historical man.”173 In van Zandt, Newton’s Fifth-Monarchy Man has, as it were, been resurrected. Van Zandt accuses classical physics of the sin of the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness,”174 only to commit the same sin himself with the greatest zest under the assumptions of modern physics. Finally, how­ever, the effort at an apocalypse of “groundless” autonomous pragmatic reason remains groundless because the “conceptual world” of modern physics results from the experience of an intelligible whole beyond physi­cal reality.

Louis Hartz’s Transcending the America of John Locke

In the search for “rationality with reason” (Mills), Americans must of necessity one day encounter the limitations of their very national exis­tence. Louis Hartz has taken a decisive step in this direction. We owe to him one of the most persuasive reinterpretations of American history, with the claim of introducing a resolution of Americanism. He reminds us of the significant fact “that instead of recapturing our past, we have got to transcend it. As for a child who is leaving adolescence, there is no going home for America.”175

Hartz–we are already familiar with some of his arguments–used his analyses, based on a wealth of material, to show America as a fragment of Europe that grew into the whole of a nation. For Hartz, Americanism is the total mentality of the “liberal sub­stance,” the dominant interpretation of order of “Lockeanism,” and the established behavior patterns of the “American way of life”–in short, the American’s total existence in history and society.

This Americanism as an explication of an autarkic political society isolated within world politics is, according to Hartz, “at once heightened and shattered by the crashing impact of the rest of the world upon it.”176 This double effect is seen both as “national blindness”–that is, as isolationism or Messianism–and as “national enlightenment,” through which the fragmentary nature of national existence becomes conscious and releases that “spark of philosophy,” “that grain of relative insight that its own history has denied it.”

But the result of this process can no longer be furnished by an analysis of American history. “What is at stake is nothing less than a new level of consciousness, a transcending of irrational Lockeanism, in which an understanding of self and an understanding of other go hand in hand.”177 Inevitably the return of the fragment into the world from which it had been separated would lead to a traumatic experience. But this ef­fects a “moral liberation” and a “broadening of consciousness” that are entirely worth the struggle. “It brings, for the first time in the fragment settings, the hope of philosophy.”178



6. Perry, Puritanism and Democracy, 17.

77. D. J. Boorstin, America and the Image of Europe (New York, 1960), 121.

78. Ibid., 113.

79. D. J. Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (Chicago, 1953), 1.

80. Ibid., 22.

81. Ibid., 157-58.

82. Ibid., 9-10.

83. Ibid., 161.

84. Ibid., 163.

85. Ibid., 169.

86. Ibid., 170.

87. Boorstin, America and the Image of Europe, 134—37.

88. Boorstin, Genius of American Politics, 19-20.

89. R. Dahrendorf, Die angewandte Aufklarung (Frankfurt, 1968), 14.

90. Ibid., 116.

91. Ibid., 19.

92. Ibid., 110.

93. Ibid., 100-101.

94. Ibid., 106; compare also 196.

95.Seymour Martin  Lipset, The First New Nation (New York, 1963), 104.

96. Ibid., 105.

97. Ibid., 106.

98. Ibid., 2-3.

99. Ibid., 16.

100. Compare the detailed treatment of this problem in P. Weber-Schafer, ‘”Sozial’ und ‘Rational,'” Staat, VII (1968), 17-40.

101. Lipset, First New Nation, 318.

102. B. Crick, The American Science of Politics (Berkeley, Calif., 1959), 5. The opening chapters of every textbook on American government provide evidence for this claim

103. Ibid., xv.

104. Ibid., 8.

105. Ibid., 36.

106. Ibid., 140.

107. Ibid., 234.

108. Ibid., 247.

109. Ibid., 233.

110. Ibid., 245–46.

111. Perry, Puritanism and Democracy, 631.

112. Ibid., 34-35.

113. Ibid., 36.

114. Ibid., 50-55.

114. Perry, Ralph Barton, Puritanism and Democracy, New York, 1963, 50-5.

115. Ibid., 36-37.

116. Ibid., 43.

117. Ibid., 27.

118. Ibid., 48.

119. Ibid., 50.

120.Ibid., 59.

121.Ibid., 627.

122. R. Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (New York, 1952), 4. See also R. Niebuhr, The Children of the Light and the Children of the Darkness (New York, 1960), 5.

123. R. Niebuhr, Irony of American History, 12.

124. Ibid., 15.

125. Ibid., viii.

126. Ibid., 3.

127. Ibid., 133; see also R. Niebuhr, Children of the Light, 17.

128. R. Niebuhr, The Irony of American History24ff.

129. Ibid., 96-97.

130. Ibid., 106.

131. Ibid., 107.

132. R. Niebuhr, The Godly and the Ungodly (London, 1958), 22.

133. R. Niebuhr, Irony of American History, 167-68.

134. Ibid., 170.

135. Ibid., 172.

136. Ibid., 158.

137. Murray, We Hold These Truths, vii-viii.

138. Ibid., 14, 40-41,16ff., 95, 275-94.

139. Ibid., 43.

140. Ibid., 109.

141. Ibid., 331.

142. Ibid., 116.

143. Ibid., 99.

144. Ibid., 335.

145. Lippmann, The Public Philosophy, 15.

146. Ibid., 61.

147. Ibid., 6.

148. Ibid., 96.

149. Ibid., 100.

150. Ibid., 101.

151. Ibid., 104.

152. Ibid., 86-87.

153. Ibid., 123.

154. Ibid., 161.

155. Ibid., 165.

156. Ibid., 180.

157. Ibid., 178-179.

158. Ibid., Voegelin, Anamnesis, 329 (English from Anamnesis, trans. Niemeyer, 188-189).

159. H. von Borch, Amerika–Die unfertige Gesellschaft (Munich, 1964), 18-19.

160. Compare E. Shils, “The End of Ideology?,” Encounter, V (1955), 52–58; D. Bell, The End of Ideology (New York, 1960,); S. M. Lipset, Political Man (Garden City, N.Y., l959); J. La Palombara, “Decline of Ideology: A Dissent and an Interpretation,” American Political Science Review, LX (1966), 5-16.

161. C. W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York, 1959), 5.

162. R. Van Zandt, The Metaphysical Foundations of American History (The Hague, 1959), 12.

163. Ibid., 78.

164. Ibid., 84.

165. Ibid., 36.

166. Ibid., 60.

167. Ibid., 10, 81.

168. Ibid., 67-68.

169. Ibid., 79.

170. Ibid., 80.

171. Ibid., 104.

172. Ibid., 264.

173. Ibid., 237.

174. A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York, 1967), 52. In my opinion, this work, as well as Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas, refutes van Zandt’s speculative program under the horizon of modem science alone.

175. Hartz, Liberal Tradition, 32.

176. Ibid., 287.

177. Ibid., 308.

178. Hartz et al., Founding of New Societies, 23,122.


This excerpt is from Americanism: Revolutionary Order and Societal Self-Interpretation in the American Republic. (Louisiana State University Press, 1999). The earlier excerpts an be found in “The Genesis of Civil Theology: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three and “Americanism and Progressivsim” and the subsequent excerpt is “Americanism: Counterculture and Common Sense.”


Jürgen GebhardtJürgen Gebhardt

Jürgen Gebhardt

Jürgen Gebhardt is a Board Member of VoegelinView and Emeritus Professor at the Insitute for Political Science at the University of Erlangen-Nürenberg. He is the author and editor of several books, including Political Cultures and the Culture of Politics: A Transatlantic Perspective (Universitaetsverlag Winter, 2010).

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