The United States of America (1776-)

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The United States of America (1776-) is a democratic capitalistic nation-state in North America.



    • QUOTE: The United States is different from other nations — every nation is different from every other — and its nationalism is different, too. To review: a nation is a people with common origins, and a state is a political community governed by laws. A nation-state is a political community governed by laws that unites a people with a supposedly common ancestry. When nation-states arose out of city-states and kingdoms and empires, they explained themselves by telling stories about their origins—stories meant to suggest that everyone in, say, “the French nation” had common ancestors, when they of course did not. As I wrote in my book These Truths, “Very often, histories of nation-states are little more than myths that hide the seams that stitch the nation to the state.”

      But in the American case, the origins of the nation can be found in those seams. When the United States declared its independence, in 1776, it became a state, but what made it a nation? The fiction that its people shared a common ancestry was absurd on its face; they came from all over, and, after having waged a war against Great Britain, just about the last thing they wanted to celebrate was their Britishness. Long after independence, most Americans saw the United States not as a nation but, true to the name, as a confederation of states. That’s what made arguing for ratification of the Constitution an uphill battle; it’s also why the Constitution’s advocates called themselves “Federalists,” when they were in fact nationalists, in the sense that they were proposing to replace a federal system, under the Articles of Confederation, with a national system. When John Jay insisted, in The Federalist Papers, no. 2, “that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,” he was whistling in the dark.


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  6. Cohen, 2004: History and the Hyperpower
    BBC, April 2008: Country Profile: United States of America