I really don't think we can write this one off as a "historical naivety." The fact is that not everyone in the United States is a Native American, therefore they had to come from somewhere. You speak romantically of the religious, social, and political revolutions on the Old Continent, but many Americans came here from Europe, especially those integral in founding the structure of our society, and carried with them the effects of those revolutions. Even emmigrants from other continents carry with them the effects of their own revolutions, even if they may be less grandiose than those in Europe. Just because the realization of the scientific method occured in Europe doesn't mean that this is a European revolution. American science has not been at a standstill. We haven't been waiting to be enlightened. We don't understand it or follow its principles any less just because it didn't happen on our soil.
It need not be the Great Awakening to be a revolution. How about Cardinal Law's deposition about child molestation within the church? the Rodney King riots? Watergate? These and other situations had drastic effects on Americans. Their opinions changed or if they had no previous opinion, they most likely formed one as a result of these situations. Do Americans have a social conscious that will make them demand a better society? You bet they do. The public reaction to these situations has been sharp and enduring. You may say that things haven't changed completely. I'll agree with you there, but every revolution leaves some people behind wondering why things are changing. All one needs to do to realize that Americans demand a better society is to open to the editorial page of any newspaper, large or small, to see how people demand better. If your assumptions were true, the editorial editors and talk radio hosts would be out of work.
Just because grape jelly came first, then someone decided they didn't like grape so they made strawberry jelly instead, doesn't mean that strawberry jelly will never reach the level of refinement and popularity originally enjoyed by grape jelly. So people immigrated to the US, taking their proverbial strawberry jelly with them. You may like grape jelly. I like strawberry jelly. But hey, they're both jelly and after you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you probably don't even remember the next week if it was strawberry or grape, but you do remember that you're not hungry anymore. Let's not get into a food fight over who has better revolutions.
I do not know enough about the USA to comment on whether it has remained untouched by 'the revolutions that shook the old continent,' but it is nevertheless notable that in many aspects of social and community living, such as the age limit for drinking, the legalization of drugs and prostitution, and the general permissiveness of society, America continues to lag behind Europe. While I make no judgement as to whether or not this is a good thing, it is interesting that the more conservative, puritanical Europeans who were the first immigrant Americans, have managed to mainitain some of their cultural values through these two centuries. As a student from a third and much more conservative nation (India), I find these nuances of political vs. social liberty very fascinating.
I agree that just because a society hasn't followed the exact path of another that it is not as capable. I think the fact that the US has followed a different path is due to the fact that something was learned from the past. It wasn't a deviation from the "rest of the world" that resulted in the US losing out on valuable history. THese days the world is very small, and an ocean is not the barrier it used to be. It's true that events far away do not contribute directly to to the US identity, but I don't think that the US is sitting in the corner blind to all that goes on. Maybe the proof that the US has taken what was necessary to learn from european history is that it has not followed the same path, in which case the argument is benign.
I do not judge the fact that the States have been geographically isolated from the historical processes in Europe - after all, this is what made you an economic superpower, it cannot be a bad thing. I (and Jean Baudrillard) only claim that maybe this is why you are so far behind socially.
Corinne, science has nothing to do with this. Your "Cardinal Law's deposition about child molestation within the church" reflects what excited Medieval Europe. The Rodney King riots happened because of "institutionalized" racism - attitudes haven't changed that much since your Civil War. I do not know of any significant political changes that resulted from the Watergate scandal. I haven't said that you haven't changed, but man, you are crawling.
As Punyashloka said, the "land of freedom" that was founded more than 2 centuries ago, compared to contemporary European states is extremely conservative. I started the topic with revolution because evolution doesn't seem to work for you.
The United States has been around for much less time than European countries, so it is unreasonable to expect it to have experienced all the turnmoil that the European nations have experienced. The European nations did not change much on their beginnings either. However, the United States is a product of the turnmoil in Europe. The first people that came to here were leaving Europe, escaping persecution, seeking new opportunities. They brought their culture with them. A little bit of English, a little bit of Spanish, a little bit of French, all cultures coexisted in the beginnings and left marks that still stand today. And still today, more and more inmmigrants are coming over and bringing their culture with them. It is true that Americans know less than any other nations about history (as polls say countless times) but this nation is not made solely on them, many inmmigrants have come here and made USA their home, and they do not leave their culture behind and bring their history with them.
J'aime beaucoup Baudrillard, il me semble avoir une vision assez pertinente sur bien des sujets.
En l'espèce, son affirmation selon laquelle les USA ont conservé le pragmatisme et l'utopie qui animaient encore l'Europe au 18e siècle, correspond à l'impression que donnent les USA vus d'ici : une nation jeune, et sujette aux tourments de la jeunesse, comparée aux sociétés pluriséculaires européennes. En effet, les USA semblent moins sujets à l'idéeologie et aux révolutions que l'ont été les nations européennes. Baudrillard en déduit que les aspects sociaux ou le "politique" y sont peu exprimés, et dans l'esprit d'un français cela paraît criticable. Mais c'est sans doute aussi cela qui a préservé les USA d'une véritable dictature, comme en ont connues les nations européennes.
Au-delà, cette différence explique peut-être surtout le dynamisme de la société américaine par rapport aux sociétés européennes. Celles-ci avaient misé sur la dimension politique, cette dimension a montré toutes ses limites, et n'a plus la confiance du peuple. Les révolutions elles-mêmes ont montré qu'elles n'étaient jamais que l'occasion pour une caste montante de renverser une caste vieillissante : finalement, les sociétés européennes semblent avoir perdu leurs illusions, et avec ces illusions, tout projet civilisationnel. Les USA, malgré ce pragmatisme et cette utopie que Baudrillard souligne (et qui pourraient passer pour contradictoires !!!), conservent un "projet". Bon ou mauvais peu importe. Mais c'est aussi cela qui explique, à mon sens, que les USA considèrent les "droits de l'homme" comme une notion qui leur est propre et qu'il convient d'étendre au monde, alors que les sociétés européennes considèrent les droits de l'homme" comme des principes universels qui prééxistent à l'effort de telle ou telle nation pour les étendre. Les USA restent dans un esprit de conquête, l'europe peine à retrouver une idée motrice aussi forte.