Patriotism Properly Understood

in The Lost Promise of Patriotism

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780226315836
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315850 | DOI:
Patriotism Properly Understood

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This chapter investigates the response of the philosopher William James to U.S. imperialism to establish the broad cultural context of liberalism and democratic participation. James was unique in linking the American belligerence, among anti-imperialists, to a psychological malaise cause by a crisis in laissez-faire liberalism. According to him, egoism and corruption had robbed American political economy of its association with transcendent ideals. He hoped to channel the zeal of his compatriots away from war and toward a defense of equal opportunity and equal justice by instilling liberalism with a moral dimension missing from corporate capitalism. He insisted that a commitment to democracy at home in no way mandated a policy of American isolation abroad; on the contrary, democracy compelled America's intervention in world affairs in the interest of national self-determination and individual self-realization.

Keywords: William James; imperialism; American belligerence; anti-imperialists; laissez-faire liberalism; compatriots

Chapter.  17479 words. 

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