1- General features
freedom - democracy - optimism, buoyancy and hopefulness - liberalism (i.e. tolerance, open-mindedness) - conformity
Death is a taboo. Youth is worshipped. - Energy; dynamism, good health
Patriotism - the community feeling - America is also the land of affluence. - Capitalism and money
2- The Puritan heritage :
A deep interest in religious matters and the Bible - Individualism - Hard work, (the work ethic) - Guilt feeling - A sense of duty - America as a utopia
3- Features or attitudes inherited from the frontier
Hard work, dynamism, energy - Mobility, restlessness - Optimism, the belief in an infinite series of second chances, equality of opportunities: in frontier times, natural resources seemed to be inexhaustible. America the land of plenty, abundance, affluence. Ingenuity, know-how, can-do spirit, initiative. - Belief in progress. - Democracy - Individualism - Enterprise - Violence
4- The American Dream
To raise oneself to the top by hard work and ingenuity, from rags to riches. Individual success - competition with others.
5- Belief in Social Darwinism
The struggle for life, the survival of the fittest, competition with others
6- Other trends
The pursuit of happiness - Free enterprise - Pragmatism - American genius for devising and employing machines - A car dependent suburban lifestyle
Comfort and cleanliness: concern with and emphasis on material things; material welfare; physical comfort and material well being…
Assimilation - integration - acculturation - mainstream America - Afrocentrism - Eurocentrism - ethnicity - separatism - multiculturalism - …
This selection of American features, characteristics and themes is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you the basics.
Emphasis added in quotations.
To be compared with
CHERYL RUSSELL's list / American consumers
1- General featuresAmericans have always shown a passion for freedom and democracy. Optimism, buoyancy and hopefulness are still basic features of American society, even though they have been questioned in recent times, especially during the sixties (Viet Nam War, social unrest).
Fisher says the "new" American studies locates "a set of underlying but permanently open national facts around which all identities are shaped. … [a] troubled utopian core of enterprise, freedom, and democratic culture"If American liberalism (i.e. tolerance, open-mindedness) cannot be denied, it is somewhat paradoxically counterbalanced by the demands of conformity in American society.
Death is ignored; it is a taboo. Youth is worshipped.“We are a youth-worshipping society.”Energy; dynamism, good health are highly valued.“A salient characteristic of American society is its astonishing dynamism.”Patriotism is another American feature. One of its contemporary forms is the community feeling that often flourishes in suburban neighborhoods.
America is also the land of affluence.
Capitalism and money: (emphasis added)“Money has been and still is king in the free democracy that America seeks to be. […] But American capitalism, with its free and sometimes too free interplay of supply and demand, has brought material prosperity unequalled anywhere else in the world. […] and American idealism, whose vigour and often total unselfishness no one can deny, is in part a response to the pervasive materialism of big business, an escape from it and also a reproof. Capitalism, in the United States, has often had a guilty conscience. “Private property is perceived as a basic right by Americans. There exists an American belief in the inviolacy of private property.
Even if materialism is a characteristic of American society, American idealism should not be ignored, especially as America started as a utopia to be made true:"America is a construction of mind, not a race or inherited class or ancestral territory."
2- The Puritan heritage :Some features inherited from Puritan times (1620-1690) still endure in contemporary American society:
a deep interest in religious matters and the Bible; individualism; hard work (the Protestant work Ethic); a pervasive guilt feeling; a sense of duty; America as a utopia.
3- Features or attitudes inherited from the frontierSome features inherited from the frontier, which lasted until 1890, also endure in contemporary American society: they are hard work, dynamism, energy, mobility—restlessness actually—, optimism, the belief in an infinite series of second chances, equality of opportunities: in frontier times, natural resources seemed to be inexhaustible. America has long been considered the land of plenty, abundance, affluence.
“That there is enough for everyone is a valid belief for people living in a large country with an expanding economy and abundant resources.”Ingenuity, know-how, can-do spirit, initiative are also features associated with the pioneers' lifestyle in the West.
Frontier times weree also the times of belief in progress, that somehow still persits today.“With the scientific support of the theory of evolution, Americans see progress as ascending from the primitive past along a path in time toward a future in which the impediments of nature are dominated by individual human will and technology.”Other features or notions associated with the frontier that still shape today's America are democracy, individualism, enterprise, violence.
“Although oversimplified, lineal time combined with Euclidian space strengthens the American belief in the individual's ability to master the environment—to cause 'progress.'“
4- The American DreamOne definition of the American Dream is to raise oneself to the top by hard work and ingenuity, from rags to riches. Individual success through hard work and ingenuity implies competition with others.“By extolling hard work, the Alger myth made all labor honorable and undermined any lingering aristocratic snobbery about the degrading character of honest labor.”
5- Belief in Social DarwinismThe struggle for life, the survival of the fittest, competition with others and the ensuing rat race are some of the clichés normally associated with Social Darwinism which dominated American social life by the end of the nineteenth century.
6- Other trendsThe Declaration of Independence (1776) established the pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right.
Free enterprise—the economic system based on the concept of private property—is seen as as an inalienable right too.
Pragmatism: It is the belief that the truth of an idea can be judged only by its practical results.
Thus the American genius for devising and employing machines and technology.
“These […] reactions to progress are aimed at the American view of rational man, separate from nature, relatively independent of the social order, and living in an objective world where the final arbiter of the good and desirable is economics. Based on those values, most Americans tend to believe that the basic problems of the world are economic and that technology offers solutions.”A car dependent suburban lifestyle
Comfort and cleanliness: concern with and emphasis on material things; material welfare; physical comfort and material well being….
7- The South: some keywordsPassage to India, alias Northwest Passage, alias China trade - Eurocentrism - El Dorado - Cavalier Tradition
Slavery => sectionalism, or political antagonism between regions, especially North vs. South - Reconstruction - the Civil War -nostalgia - the New South - plantation system - aristocracy - genealogy - Southern Lady - paternalism - …
8- New England:The Pilgrim Fathers, Puritanism, predestination, election - American exceptionalism - …
9- Independence and the Constitution:Mercantilism - Natural rights - Jefferson’s agrarianism, alias the garden myth, alias agrarian democracy of small, educated, virtuous, independent farmers …
10- The West:Westward expansion, civilization, progress - the frontier - Manifest Destiny - …
11- Ethnicity:Assimilation - integration - acculturation - mainstream America - Afrocentrism - Eurocentrism - ethnicity - separatism - multiculturalism - …