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Strategies for GoverningReinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century$
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Alasdair Roberts

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501714405

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501714405.001.0001

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Unexceptionalism

Unexceptionalism

Chapter:
(p.87) Chapter 13 Unexceptionalism
Source:
Strategies for Governing
Author(s):

Alasdair Roberts

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501714405.003.0014

This chapter highlights another habit of thought that compromises one's ability to think clearly about strategies for governing in the United States: the doctrine of exceptionalism—the idea that there is something unique about governance in the American context. This mistaken belief makes it harder to learn from the experience of other states. There is a temptation to suggest that the United States is exceptional only because of the emphasis that Americans put on their own exceptionality. But even this is not true. People in most countries see something special about their own circumstances. Indeed, the feeling of exceptionality is shared almost universally, and rightly so. Conditions facing leaders in any one state are different from those facing any other state. Governance strategies must fit those conditions, and consequently one should expect policies and institutions to vary as well. This is why one should be wary about “one size fits all” prescriptions for governmental reform. Still, one should not get too carried away with this emphasis on variation. Even if circumstances change, there is one important commonality: leaders in all states, at all points in time, deal with the realities of building and maintaining a state.

Keywords:   governance strategies, United States, exceptionalism, exceptionality, state institutions, state policies, governmental reform, state building

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