The thesis of this paper is that the key element in the shaping of the habitus of Americans has been their very long-term, virtually unbroken, experience of their country becoming more and more powerful vis-à-vis its neighbours. An increasing sense of their own powerfulness is related to the “individualism” that has so often been discussed as a key characteristic of the American “national character.” The long-term process of habitus formation has had important consequences for the role of the USA in world affairs since the Second World War, and may continue to do so in a future marked for the first time by a long-term decline in American power.
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