Revealing world “exceptionalism” stories

Dates for Coffee is based on the premise that Arab worldview, specifically in Oman, is fundamentally different from American worldview. Not just customs, religion or language, but actually the fundamental understanding of the role of humans and how they engage with the world. Each country has something that makes them special, whether it’s a history of glory and victory in war, invention, or the discovery of fundamental laws of science, everyone thinks they’re special.


Master narratives are these stories that highlight the special or exceptional qualities that make a nation “the best”. They come from historical perspectives, folklore and religion mostly and  help design a worldview in which that country has a particular role to play in the world and a particular orientation of the order of life on Earth. Folk ideas, as we’ll call them, are the “building blocks of worldview”. They create the narratives that express units of worldview.

To flesh out this idea, let’s use the United States. Some of the major folk ideas and historical perspectives at play will be the pioneering of the New World, being first, innovative and great by divine right and nation of milk and honey. Some folk ideas in proverbial speech would be “There’s (plenty) more where that came from” and “There’s always enough to go around”. So this ideas create a foundational principle of “unlimited good” or unlimited possibility. And we see this principle in the American Dream, the idea that if you work hard you will achieve success in the form of liberty, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. In the 1950’s this idea became very specific to mean two cars, 2.5 children, a wife, a white picket fence. The underlying assumption is that your hard work would bring unlimited good in the form financial success which would grant access to these finer things.

Out of this narrative of American Dream and the principle of unlimited good, a unit of American worldview is that humans should work toward monetary success. You want it, you can have it. It’s “there for the taking.” You just need to work for it or seek it out.  On the international stage we act in order with the American Dream as well. If you want it, just go out and get it. This means developing American interests in other nations, yielding monetary benefits from the world’s resources, etc.

An important part of master narratives is that they both reveal and hide the features of a nation. They reveal the assumptions and active forces driving aspects of society but because they are related to the major achievements, or exceptional qualities of a nation they tend to hide the negative elements or national secrets.

Check out Monitor 360 Consulting’s article on exceptionalism stories or master narratives from around the world

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