With the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, the most controversial question in world politics fast became whether the United States stands within the order of international law or outside it. Does America still play by the rules it helped create? "American Exceptionalism and Human Rights" addresses this question as it applies to U.S. behavior in relation to international human rights. With essays by eleven leading experts in such fields as international relations and international law, it seeks to show and explain how America's approach to human rights differs from that of most other Western nations.
In his introduction, Michael Ignatieff identifies three main types of exceptionalism: exemptionalism (supporting treaties as long as Americans are exempt from them); double standards (criticizing "others for not heeding the findings of international human rights bodies, but ignoring what these bodies say of the United States); and legal isolationism (the tendency of American judges to ignore other jurisdictions). The contributors use Ignatieff's essay as a jumping-off point to discuss specific types of exceptionalism--America's approach to capital punishment and to free speech, for example--or to explore the social, cultural, and institutional roots of exceptionalism.
These essays--most of which appear in print here for the first time, and all of which have been revised or updated since being presented in a year-long lecture series on American exceptionalism at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government--are by Stanley Hoffmann, Paul Kahn, Harold Koh, Frank Michelman, Andrew Moravcsik, John Ruggie, Frederick Schauer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Carol Steiker, and Cass Sunstein.
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2006 "An excellent new collection of essays on American exceptionalism... Michael Ignatieff ... seeks to distinguish between US 'exemptionalism,' double standards and legal isolationism."--Quentin Peel, Financial Times "This collection on American exceptionalism seeks to explain the seeming paradox of US governmental support for, and aversion to, global human rights... This study is an important contribution to the scholarship of international humanitarian law and US foreign policy."--Choice "[An] important collection of essays by leading scholars... Together the authors wonderfully capture the complex interplay between values, law, and American power."--G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs Magazine "Beyond providing a highly valuable and innovative study of American exceptionalism, this book makes an original contribution to scholarship and may start a long overdue conversation with conservatives about the origins of their grievances with international human rights standards."--Michael J. Boyle, International Affairs