Redefining American Exceptionalism for the Twenty-first Century

Project Expert

Charles A. Kupchan

Senior Fellow

About the Project

Since World War II, the country’s exceptional mission has centered on the idea of a Pax Americana upheld through the vigorous export of U.S. power and values. But before that, American exceptionalism meant insulating the American experiment from foreign threats, shunning international entanglements, spreading democracy through example rather than intrusion, embracing protectionism and fair (not free) trade, and preserving a relatively homogeneous citizenry through racist and anti-immigrant policies.  President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy is reopening debate about competing versions of exceptionalism.  My work aims to interpret the changing nature of U.S. statecraft through the lens of U.S. history and to explore what an updated version of exceptionalism for the twenty-first century might look like.