From Academic Kids

Exceptionalism is a claim, a pattern of claiming, or an assertion that the subject under discussion is claiming, special exemption to commonly-held relationships or principles. It is used most frequently in historical surveys and in association with an assertion of destiny, i.e. that the supposedly exceptional character draws from or is intended or useful for a larger, perhaps ideological, purpose.

Description of separateness, where exceptional patterns are long-thought to exist

A frequent use of the term occurs in discussions of "American exceptionalism", which variously implies that the United States of America embodies or claims to be an example of non-standard historical progression in relation to economic or military theory. The unique historical development of the United States of America, and its geographic isolation from culturally similar peoples, have contributed to a palpable sense that in some ways "America" is an "exception". The extent to which this is true, and the nature of its divergence from historical norms, is the subject of inquiry in various fields including economics and history. Exceptionalism may conceptually overlap with a sense of identity, where a people believes itself to be exceptional in some way: early immigrants to America from Europe thought America would be a "redeemer nation". [1] (http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/a/american_exceptionalism.html)

Study of or debate over degree of separateness

The term arises in part as scholars and others attempt to explore the similarities, differences, and noteworthy variations among phenomena, such as whether or not the Internet implies something novel about knowledge sharing or rules about privacy, [2] (http://www.caslon.com.au/mythsprofile1.htm) how medical resource utilization patterns vs. mortality rates in Florida should be evaluated given comparisons with other areas of the country, [3] (http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w3.357v1/DC1) or whether and why Asian experiences with economic progress and growth of democracy are different from what common assumptions would imply. [4] (http://academic2.american.edu/~dfagel/Markets&democracyfukuyama.html) The term is often used to describe surprising developments in economic progression, such as the economic growth of post-World War II Western Europe [5] (http://econ161.berkeley.edu/Econ_Articles/ucla/ucla_marshall2.html) or the ability of Sweden to generate small-business growth while yet maintaining high levels of taxation. [6] (http://www.stefangeens.com/000220.html) Exceptionalism can represent an error analogous to historicism in assuming that only peculiarities are relevant to analysis while overlooking meaningful comparisons. "[W]hat is seemingly exceptional in one country may be found in other countries." [7] (http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/discussionpapers/Matsuda.html) As indigenous peoples explore their respective cultural heritages, their seeking to be separately classified or newly-understood may be a form of exceptionalism. [8] (http://www.english.upenn.edu/CFP/archive/2003-10/0254.html)

In ideologically-driven debates, a group may assert exceptionalism, with or without the term, in order to exaggerate the appearance of difference, perhaps to create an atmosphere permissive of a wider latitude of action, and to avoid recognition of similarities that would reduce perceived justifications. If unwarranted this is an example of special pleading, a form of spurious argumentation that ignores relevant bases for meaningful comparison. Groups, likewise, may be accused of exceptionalism, perhaps for avoiding normal terms of analysis. [9] (http://www.el-comandante.com/except.htm) The term may be a marker for an implication that a point of view is widely misunderstood, such as the notion that Islamic jihad is misunderstood. [10] (http://www.iiie.net/Articles/InterpretException.html) The term "AIDS exceptionalism" is used to imply that AIDS is a contagious disease treated differently from other contagions [11] (http://www.thebody.com/hanssens/exceptionalism.html) or resulting in benefits not available to those suffering from other contagions. [12] (http://www.actupny.org/alert/Media-Irresponsibility.html) The term can imply a criticism of a tendency to remain separate from others. For example, the reluctance of the United States government to join various international treaties is sometimes called 'exceptionalist', [13] (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20001101facomment932/peter-j-spiro/the-new-sovereigntists-american-exceptionalism-and-its-false-prophets.html) as is an assertion that a person or group is refusing to acknowledge, and perhaps communally participate in, a widely-accepted principle or practice. [14] (http://wendy.seltzer.org/blog/archives/000053.html) In editorial language, the term may be a marker for 'the extent to which a region or group is justifiably or factually distinct'. [15] (http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2002/05/16/stories/2002051600391000.htm)


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