America’s Contradictions: Looking at the Effects American Exceptionalism on American Institutions and Politics

Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts


Political Science and International Studies

Department or Program Chair

Alison Howard, MA

First Reader

Gigi Gokcek, PhD


How does American exceptionalism influence federal institutions to alter their function? Most literature concentrating on intuitions focuses on them as rational actors, free from nuance and outside influence. When talking about American exceptionalism much of the literature that is on the subject focuses on the negative repercussions of the phenomenon, not the object influence that it has had on building American society. I have found that looking at the legacy of institutions through the lens of American exceptionalism, there is new understanding to be gained, especially considering some of the United States more controversial or contradictory decisions. Looking at cases from the birth of the nation, during the Cold War, and in modern times, I have found that there is a pattern to some of the actions that America has taken. I would argue this research is particularly important in today’s political climate because of the impact the government has had in upholding systems of oppression both foreign and domestic, and why it may choose to do so.

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