Obama’s Dual Discourse on American Exceptionalism


This paper analyses the highly contested concept of American exceptionalism, as described in the speeches of Barak Obama. The authors of the paper use discourse analysis to show that Obama is using the idea of American exceptionalism on two levels: US foreign policy and the US stance towards international law. Our conclusion is that Obama uses an implicit dual discourse in both these fields. Obama favours active US foreign policy, based on soft power instruments and multilateralism. He insists that American exceptionalism does not mean that the US can exempt itself from the norms of international law, however, he does not think the US should always have a very active foreign policy. He makes room for unilateral acting and the use of hard power instruments in foreign policy. He allows for the use of force even if is not in accordance with the norms of international law, when US national interests are threatened.