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The Evolution Of American Self Essay

1101 words - 4 pages

The American Self is the common character and values of American people which evolved depending on governmental philosophy, religious belief, and economical aspiration from beginning of its formation to the present. Any of the change in the above factors would contribute to the evolution of the American Self. Over time, the American Self changed from communalism, whole hearted religious faith, and interest in material goods to individualism, self interests, and greed.

The American Self depended on the governmental philosophy held by its early colonial leaders, the Founding Fathers, and the later elites who governed the nation. The Puritans were theocratic; the early Puritans based their governmental philosophy on their religious view to Augustine. Augustine advocated the original sin and the sin is inside of the self. "Because of the innate depravity of humankind, nobody, not even authorities of the community was trusted to act selflessly for the public good."[42] Therefore, the Puritans allowed church members to vote for officials, and "members of society were responsible for keeping each other in line."[42] Much alike to the Puritans, the Founding Fathers based their idea on Greeks and Roman city-sites, and they "knew that the self could not be trusted..." [42]. According to this philosophy, the founders built America "by allowing communities to be self-governing, and with the federal government monitoring from a distance."[43] Thus, politically, the American Self in the beginning was communalism. As time went on, by the Revolutionary era, communalism revealed its sinister side. "Communities were too parochial, elites grumbled, and, as Alexander Hamilton often pointed out, dangerous to the preservation of the Union."[43] The small self-governing communities disrupted the unity of the nation and later contributed to anarchy like Emerson noted in 1822, "the enormous influx of immigrants turned the city into `Boston Babylon'."[45] Thus, governmental philosophy of the leaders was changed. The leaders separated themselves into two parties, the Federalism and the Republicanism. The Federalism provides for a powerful federal government. Their philosophy was "giving up on the public's ability to live selflessly, political actors [federalists] promulgated in its place the need for selfless leaders to carry out the common good."[44] The Federalists believed "democracy would lead to self-interest, license, and the eventual dissolution of the Union"[45] In contrast, Republicans following the philosophy of the founding fathers continued to advocate the extending of autonomy to the communities. During this transitional era, "Republicans accuse Federalist of tyranny and Federalists accusing Republicans of unwittingly perpetrating anarchy."[44] Finally, "by mid-century, communalism was hardly proffered as viable social option by the American intelligentsia."[46]

Religion also impacted the American Self to a great degree. As mentioned above,...

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