America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire
By: Claes G. Ryn (author)Paperback
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Urged on by politicians and intellectuals, George Bush committed the United States to a quest for empire. In his view, American values and principles were universal, and should guide a remaking of the world. Claes Ryn sees this drive for a virtuous empire as the culmination of an ideological movement that has galvanized the minds and imaginations of many American intellectuals in the last several decades. Ryn describes the drive for empire as part of a larger ideological whole, one both expressing and aggravating a crisis of democracy. This ideology encompasses an elaborate view of human nature and society. The ideology sets forth its own notion of virtue. It sees in America not a historically evolved and culturally distinctive society, but a regime based on universal principles that belong to all mankind. And it sees this America as uniquely equipped to transform the world. Numerous prominent commentators, such as William Bennett, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Novak, and Norman Podhoretz have argued passionately for having the United States bring 'democracy', 'freedom', and 'capitalism' to the rest of the world.
Ryn explains the ideological context and origins of the often bellicose push for empire exhibited by what he calls the "New Jacobins." "America the Virtuous" argues that the danger of war today comes less from differences between the old civilizations, as Samuel Huntington warned in his 'clash of civilizations', than from modern developments within these old civilizations that have made them less tolerant and more belligerent. Certainly America today is shedding an older sense of the need for restraints on power, as checks provided by the U.S. Constitution have been greatly weakened. "America the Virtuous" explains the ideological underpinnings of this quest for empire and subjects it to in-depth analysis and criticism.
Claes G. Ryn is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. He has also taught at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, and Uppsala University in Sweden. He is chairman of the National Humanities Institute and editor of the journal Humanitas. His many books include Unity Through Diversity, Will, Imagination, and Reason (published by Transaction), and Democracy and the Ethical Life.
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