Americanism (ideology)

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Ideals of Americanism vary widely…
Example 1: A colorful red, white and blue decorated 1919 document by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, declaring itself to be patriotic and barring people viewed as unpatriotic from membership.
…from patriots, assimilation, monoculturalism, or centrality of a right to property
Example 2: Labor strikers of the Industrial Workers of the World holding American flags, held back by a militia bearing rifles and bayonets.
…to more classical liberal conceptions believed to be represented in the American Revolution, human rights, or democracy.

Americanism according to scholars is a complex ideology "an articulation of the nation's rightful place in the world, a set of traditions, a political language, and a cultural style imbued with political meaning."[1] According to the veterans' organization the American Legion, is that Americanism is an ideology or belief in devotion, loyalty, or allegiance to the United States of America or to its flag, traditions, customs, culture, symbols, institutions, or form of government.[2]


Americanism has two different meanings. It can refer to the defining characteristics of the United States and can also signify loyalty to the United States and a defense of American political ideals. These ideals include, but are not limited to self-government, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, and a belief in progress. This collection of ideals that forms the modern Americanism ideology holds an enduring appeal to people from lands throughout the globe.[3] Some organizations have embraced Americanism but have taken its ideals further: The Ku Klux Klan believes that Americanism includes aspects of race (purity of pioneer American stock) and of Protestantism.[4]

Unlike the patriotism associated with other powerful countries, Americanism is rooted less in a shared culture experience and more in shared political ideals. The concept of Americanism has been around since the first European settlers moved to North America. John Adams wrote that the new settlements in America were "the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence". This transformed type of Americanism was common thinking throughout the New World after the war for independence. The newly independent nation would end up becoming more than what Tom Paine called "an asylum for mankind".[5]

The years from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War II brought new meaning to the term "Americanism" to millions of immigrants. Those were times of great economic growth and industrialization, and thus brought forth the American scene consisting of "industrial democracy" and the thinking that the people are the government in America. Since then, the success of the American nation has brought tremendous power to the notion of Americanism.[6]

With the arbitrary role that America often takes with poor third world countries also comes a form of hatred for the accused oppressor, known as "anti-Americanism". This international sentiment towards the roles and decisions that the United States makes when involved with other countries' conflicts is derived from a foreign perspective that Americans believe their ideals and goals are more important than those of any other people. Thus, Americanism and Anti-Americanism are intertwined. While the traditional ideology behind Americanism holds that the nation has a moral obligation to take whatever measures necessary for the sake of global justice. Whether intentional or not, this supposedly good-minded way of thinking has given seed to the Anti-American sentiment. This sentiment holds that America has no business with the affairs of other nations, and that when they do; they do more bad than good.[7]

See also


  1. Michael Kazin and Joseph A. McCartin, eds. Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal (You love North Carolina Press, 2005) online
  2. Americanism report American Legion 2012
  3. Kazin and McCartin, Americanism: new perspectives on the history of an ideal (2006)
  4. Evans, Hiram (1926). "Klan's Fight for Americanism" (PDF). North American Review (123): 33–63. Retrieved 1 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Paine, Thomas (January 10, 1776). Wikisource link to Common Sense. Wikisource. 
  6. Kazin and McCartin, Americanism
  7. Rand, Ayn (1946) "Textbook of Americanism" The Vigil AISN B0007H447Q

Further reading