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America as Superhero: Identity, Images, Ideals and Power

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Abstract

According to Daniel Boorstin, ‘ [i]t is only as short step from exaggerating what we can find in the world to exaggerating our power to remake the world. Expecting more novelty than there is, more greatness than there is, and more strangeness than there is, we imagine ourselves masters of a plastic universe. But a world we can shape to our will — or to our extravagant expectations — is a shapeless world.’1 The conviction in the essential malleability of the world is central to the image-centred perception of America’s relations with the outside world. If we think about America’s great comic superheroes, Batman and Superman, they conjure up a multiplicity of images that offer important symbolic and metaphoric power for an understanding of America’s identity vis-à-vis that world; a point not lost upon leaders of America’s promotional state at various moments in its peacetime and wartime history. We can construct a series of antonyms that appear to encapsulate a superhero personality: control and anarchy, legitimacy and illegitimacy, fantasy and reality, good and evil, light and dark, inside and outside, idealism and cynicism, private and public, temporally-fixed and temporally-transcendent.

Keywords

Foreign Policy Vital Interest American Foreign Policy Covert Action Security Treaty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Neil Renwick 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Asia-Pacific StudiesThe Nottingham Trent UniversityUK

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