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The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith With Our Values in a Dangerous World Paperback – May 27, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465078095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465078097
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Anne-Marie Slaughter's voice is at the center of twenty-first century foreign policy leaders: strategic yet practical, willing to understand others but not afraid of power, a builder of international institutions and law as a way to get things done in an intractable world. What she says from now on matters enormously across the political spectrum." -- Leslie H. Gelb

From the Publisher

"If an American renaissance is to happen, Anne-Marie Slaughter shows, it will be because US leaders and citizens return to the bedrock ideals that fueled the American dream. In this forceful and necessary book, Slaughter elegantly mines pivotal moments in US history for contemporary insight, and she shows that leaders who take heed of law and justice, and who proceed with humility, can leave behind a more peaceful and just America, and a more stable world."--Samantha Power, Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide

"Passionately argued, yet plainly written, The Idea that is America is part credo, part manifesto -- a wholehearted return to first principles by one of America's most talented and distinguished legal minds. Anne-Marie Slaughter's analysis of the U.S. constitution and its legacy encapsulates the liberal interpretation of American history, while her recommendations point the way to a paradigm shift in American foreign policy."--Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University and author of The War of the World and Colossus

"Slaughter's book focuses on an important theme and one close to my heart: the relationship between power and principle. Her arguments, stated with passionate conviction and intellectual clarity, appeal both to my heart and to my reason."--Zbigniew Brzezinski

"Anne-Marie Slaughter has written a book that will educate and inspire all Americans. At a time when many claim that we cannot afford the luxury of our liberties, she explains why America's values remain vital, how they can be preserved and strengthened, and what it means to live by these ideals. This book should be required reading for every citizen."--Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom and editor, Newsweek International

"The Idea That is America is a brilliant book, deeply moving, exquisitely timed, authored by one of our country's leading scholars."--Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State

"Read this book and be challenged to think about, to aspire to, and to work for American values."--George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Former Secretary of State --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on June 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfully patriotic book, patriotic precisely because it recognizes the country's failings and seeks to raise and rally citizens towards achieving the nation's purpose. As an immigrant, the book's core message-- that America is an idea, not just a place-- resonated strongly we me. It is the idea of America that attracted, and continues to attract, so many people to the United States in the first place, not jobs or potential material benefits but the founding values of the nation, the sense that this is somewhere different and special, with a mission, a worthwhile mission. Sometimes this idea has the unfortunate consequence of causing those who agree with it to be blind to America's shortcomings and those who see the shortcomings to question the belief itself. But not here, not in this book; Slaughter reconciles faith with the need for improvement. Very few liberals have been able to articulate a worldview quite this way and it is so important at a time like this when there is a grave danger that the disappointments of the past few years may cause Americans to be disillusioned with the American idea itself-- or at least with how it plays out internationally-- rather than just with the individuals responsible for failed policies.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Banksie on June 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This engaging book offers tough love for America. That means loving America enough to demand that it live up to its ideals. The book quotes Carl Schurz: "Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right." Seven values are discussed: liberty, democracy, equality, justice, tolerance, humility, faith. The touchy thing about writing about values is that people usually don't like to be told what their values should be. But this book never sounds preachy. Who knew a civics lesson would be so much fun to read?
I learned many things about American history--some delightful tidbits on American thinkers and heroes, and some villainous deeds that made me wince. I gained a richer appreciation for what the Founding Fathers accomplished. The book is well-researched, well-written, and packed with information in a form that is entertaining and easy to digest. It should appeal to all political persuasions except anarchists.
Other books have promoted a similar theme, but this one puts it in the context of globalization. Few of the problems facing us today are confined to national borders. America has no choice but to be a part of a global world; the book asks how we can maintain our values while doing so. In the vastness of space, Earth is a small village. The villagers need to get along with each other.
The seven values are timeless. The book shows where in our history we have exemplified these values and where we have not lived up to them. It points out the misguided back-sliding of the present administration of George W. Bush. It offers guidance for the future. This book will help America take its place in a globalized world. I hope it gets read by Senators, Representatives, government officials, newly-minted Americans, and citizens everywhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cyril Fegue on March 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
America's foreign policy during the last 7 years has been a bit of a self-denial and self-obliteration. It is needless to enumerate the numerous damages caused by imprudent White House's decisions under the Bush administration. Anne-Marie Slaughter, in a methodology blended with the legal reasoning and the political scientist's analysis, shows how liberty, democracy, equality, justice, tolerance, humility, and faith--declared core values of US liberal democratic tradition--have been cheated upon.

The ongoing US presidential race is about who is likely to restore America's credibility and trust. In the debates about what ought to be reformed or in 'force majeur' disbanded in US foreign policy, I think that Slaughter's book provides a worthwhile conceptual premise, a sort of 'benchmark for re-alignment'.

Cyril Fegue
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Andrews on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What is the point of required courses in American history? It would be easy to dismiss the history lessons that we were taught in high school as revisionist propaganda to indoctrinate us with idealized pilgrims, patriots, pioneers, and transcendental pragmatists. Yet, more honest histories intended to correct the myths, such as James W. Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong and Carolyn Baker's U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You, cynically reveal a dark and sinister past that fails to teach us what distinguishes America from Afghanistan or central Africa (other than geography and the efficient exploitation of rich natural resources). It doesn't help that we live in a time obsessed with rewriting the present through an entire industry devoted to political `spin' and what Stephen Colbert has aptly named "truthiness." Witness the hypocrisies and inconsistencies of our efforts to bring democracy to middle eastern oil-states, even while our special interest groups routinely buy political favors, to celebrate our system of justice, yet enable the war crimes of Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo, to rally to the cause of environmentalism while using natural resources at a per capita rate that exceeds almost all major first-world nations by a wide margin.
What makes Dr. Slaughter's new book, The Idea that is America so important is that, by refocusing the history of our past deeds as a struggle to live up to our shared principles, it presents a third alternative to hopeless cynicism and blind nationalism.
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