American idea losing its edge

The American idea is an evasive notion with no agreed definition, and no agreed interpretation, about which there is continuous strife and debate. In American society itself, such an idea is both a unifying and a divisive element: unifying in its unchallenged position as the foundation of the American republic, divisive in its capacity to foster diverging social and political visions. When the Atlantic Monthly, in its issue of November, 2007, invited a number of writers to ponder “The Future of the American Idea”, it did so by recognising its inherent elusiveness: “What American faction, what American, doesn’t embrace both the revolutionary message of the Declaration of Independence and the restraining message of the Constitution? Our endless quarrels are over what these messages mean, over how the ideal should be made real. It is the endlessness of the quarrels—the elusiveness of the American idea, the tantalising possibility of its full realisation&md...

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