Imperialism and the fantasies of democracy

Ella Shohat, Robert Stam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay is taken from a book that criticizes the abuse of the concept of patriotism by the American right wing. At the same time it engages polemically with anti-Americans, whether rightists or leftists. Present-day tensions, the essay argues, must be seen against the backdrop of the much longer history of not only colonialism and imperialism but various national mythologies. At times, we argue, “anti-Americanism” is a completely rational response to specific offenses by the U.S. government or by U.S.-led transnational corporations; yet at other times legitimate critique becomes mingled with blind obsessions, paranoid projections, and even defensive guilt. Examining abuses of the concept of patriotism, the work focuses on various national mythologies and exceptionalisms, and on myriad forms of patriotism, in terms of the following questions: What are the long-term historical sources and current manifestations of love and hate, pride and anger, in patriotic nationalism? How did patriotism in the United States become so thoroughly militarized? How do rival conceptions of patriotism interact and interpenetrate across national boundaries? How did we arrive at this point of crisis? How have countries such as Brazil, France, and the United States tended to imagine one another, and for what historical reasons, and what has changed in the present? What is the role of narcissism both in American superpatriotism and in anti-Americanism?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-305
Number of pages8
JournalRethinking Marxism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • Exceptionalism
  • Imperialism
  • Narcissism
  • United states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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