Continental Divide, by S. M. Lipset
In Continental Divide Seymour Martin Lipset returns to a topic which has fascinated him since early in his long and distinguished career as a political scientist: the similarities and the differences between the United States and Canada. Here, he fleshes out and updates ideas and materials discussed in previous books and articles, and also deals with issues which he had not considered earlier.
Lipset more or less accepts the view advanced by the political theorist Louis Hartz and many others before him, from Tocqueville through Hegel and Engels, that America was born a liberal, or “Whig,” society. The American Revolution simply initiated a process whereby classical bourgeois liberalism would become institutionalized as the basis of the nation’s identity. The ideology was anti-statist and meritocratic, and stressed both individualism and populism. All of these elements, Lipset writes, still play a key role in American life, despite the emergence of a welfare state and tendencies to begin thinking in terms of groups (affirmative action, multiculturalism), and they form a substantial contrast, still, with the political ethos of Europe.
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