The Public Interest

The paradox of American politics

Seymour Martin Lipset

Fall 1975

THE American commonwealth, at the end of two centuries of independence, abounds with contradictions. Its politics have always been characterized by an extraordinary emphasis on utopian moralism, which provokes Americans to view social and political dramas as morality plays within which compromise is virtually unthinkable. As a moralist, consequently, the American tries hard to attain and institutionalize virtue and to destroy wicked institutions and practices at home and abroad.

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