by Luigi Marco Bassani
Abbeville Institute Press
380 pp., $19.95
European observers of the American scene have often offered valuable insights into American culture and politics. Marco Bassani has long been a student of American history and the European nation-state’s rise since the 17th century. Both of these areas of expertise are brought into play in this analysis of America’s momentous transformation from a republic of sovereign states to a sovereign, consolidated nation in the European mold. Until fairly recently, the consensus among American historians was that this shift was somehow inherent in the trajectory of the Enlightenment project. This assumption, insists Bassani, is itself a part of the “myth” of the modern state.
In fact, to employ the adjective “modern” to the concept of the state is a redundancy. The state is a modern construct. Hobbes and Bodin, and after them Kant and Hegel, were its inventors; though certainly the absolutist monarchs had already laid much of...
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