Imagined Americas

Imagined Americas
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre described a world in which moral language had lost all meaning. People continue to use a shared moral vocabulary, but they will not find consensus because the terms they use are underpinned by incompatible and often incoherent assumptions. 

In After Nationalism, Samuel Goldman argues that our understanding of what it means to be an American is in a similar state, only worse — for there was never any consensus to begin with. “We do not merely disagree with each other about [the nation’s] origin and purpose. We disagree with ourselves, relying on rickety amalgams of words, authorities, and examples that crumple under scrutiny.” Yet we continue the battle, for despite the lack of an obvious, cohesive culture, “we are educated to believe that all the fragments of national history and experience would somehow fit, if only they were provided with the appropriate frame.”

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