American way
The American way of life is an expression that refers to the lifestyle of people living in the United States of America. It is an example of a behavioral modality, developed from the 17th century until today. It refers to a nationalist ethos that purports to adhere to principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence and considered by some as part of one of the most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language...

." It has some connection to the concept of American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism
American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming "the first new nation," and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty,...

 and the American Dream
American Dream
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each...



During the time of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the expression was commonly used by the media
News media
The news media are those elements of the mass media that focus on delivering news to the general public or a target public.These include print media , broadcast news , and more recently the Internet .-Etymology:A medium is a carrier of something...

 to highlight the differences in living standards of the populations of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. At that time, American popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 broadly embraced the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth, could significantly increase his or her standard of living through determination, hard work, and natural ability. In the employment sector, this concept was expressed in the belief that a competitive market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 would foster individual talent and a renewed interest in entrepreneurship. Politically, it took the form of a belief in the superiority of a free democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, founded on a productive and economic expansion
Economic expansion
An economic expansion is an increase in the level of economic activity, and of the goods and services available in the market place. It is a period of economic growth as measured by a rise in real GDP.The explanation of such fluctuations in aggregate economic activity is one of the primary...

 without limits.

An influential 1955 book, Protestant, Catholic, Jew by Will Herberg
Will Herberg
Will Herberg was an American Jewish writer, intellectual and scholar. He was known as a social philosopher and sociologist of religion, as well as a Jewish theologian.-Early life:...

, identified the American Way of Life, politically "compounded almost equally of democracy and free enterprise
Free enterprise
-Transport:* Free Enterprise I, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1962 and 1980.* Free Enterprise II, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1965 and 1982....

", as the "common religion" of American society:

The American Way of life is individualistic, dynamic, pragmatic. It affirms the supreme value and dignity of the individual; it stresses incessant activity on his part, for he is never to rest but is always to be striving to "get ahead"; it defines an ethic of self-reliance, merit, and character, and judges by achievement: "deeds, not creeds" are what count. The "American Way of Life" is humanitarian, "forward-looking", optimistic. Americans are easily the most generous and philanthropic people in the world, in terms of their ready and unstinting response to suffering anywhere on the globe. The American believes in progress, in self-improvement, and quite fanatically in education. But above all, the American is idealistic. Americans cannot go on making money or achieving worldly success simply on its own merits; such "materialistic" things must, in the American mind, be justified in "higher" terms, in terms of "service" or "stewardship" or "general welfare"... And because they are so idealistic, Americans tend to be moralistic; they are inclined to see all issues as plain and simple, black and white, issues of morality.

As one commentator notes, "the first half of Herberg's statement still holds true nearly half a century after he first formulated it", even though "Herberg's latter claims have been severely if not completely undermined... materialism no longer needs to be justified in high-sounding terms".

In the National Archives and Records Administration's 1999 Annual Report, National Archivist John W. Carlin writes, "We are different because our government and our way of life are not based on the divine right of kings, the hereditary privileges of elites, or the enforcement of deference to dictators. They are based on pieces of paper, the Charters of Freedom - the Declaration
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 that asserted our independence, the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 that created our government, and the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

 that established our liberties."


The comic book superhero Superman
Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

 fights for "truth, justice and the American way." In some modern comic books it has been changed to "truth, justice and hope" (after the events of the Infinite Crisis
Infinite Crisis
Infinite Crisis is a 2005 - 2006 comic book storyline published by DC Comics, consisting of an eponymous, seven-issue comic book limited series written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, and Jerry Ordway, and a number of tie-in books...

miniseries), and in the 2006 film Superman Returns
Superman Returns
Superman Returns is a 2006 superhero film directed by Bryan Singer. It is the fifth and final installment in the original Superman film series and serves as a alternate sequel to Superman and Superman II by ignoring the events of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace .The film stars...

the phrase was recited by the character Perry White
Perry White
Perry White is a fictional character who appears in the Superman comics. White is the Editor-in-Chief of the Metropolis newspaper the Daily Planet.White maintains very high ethical and journalistic standards...

 as "truth, justice, all that stuff." The "Up, Up and Away
Superman: Up, Up and Away!
"Up, Up and Away!" is an eight-issue Superman story arc written by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek with art by Pete Woods.It was originally published in Action Comics #837-840 and Superman #650-653 by DC Comics from May through August 2006...

" comic book story arc firmly re-established the slogan as "truth, justice and the American way." .In the Christopher Reeve
Christopher Reeve
Christopher D'Olier Reeve was an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author and activist...

 movies, the phrase is used semi-ironically. In Superman the Movie, Lois Lane
Lois Lane
Lois Lane is a fictional character, the primary love interest of Superman in the comic books of DC Comics. Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, she first appeared in Action Comics #1 ....

 (Margot Kidder
Margot Kidder
Margaret Ruth "Margot" Kidder is a Canadian-born American actress. She is perhaps best known for playing Lois Lane in the four Superman movies opposite Christopher Reeve, a role that brought her to widespread recognition....

) responds to the phrase by laughing and remarking "You're going to end up fighting every elected official in this country." (The film was conceived shortly after the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 and the Watergate Scandal
Watergate scandal
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal during the 1970s in the United States resulting from the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement...

). In Episode 1 of the 1948 Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

 serial Superman
Superman (serial)
Superman is a 15-part black-and-white Columbia film serial based on the comic book character Superman. It stars an uncredited Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. It is notable as the first live-action appearance of Superman on film and for the longevity of its distribution...

entitled "Superman Comes to Earth", Clark Kent's adoptive father John Kent tells Clark that he must use his powers to fight for "truth, tolerance and justice".

In the cancelled Wonder Woman TV series
Wonder Woman (2011 TV pilot)
The Wonder Woman pilot was produced in 2011. Reports surfaced in October 2010 that Warner Bros. Television was teaming with writer-producer David E. Kelley to pitch a new Wonder Woman television series to networks. The major networks all turned down the series, but NBC, the final network to...

 that was to be aired, but canceled, Diana Prince
Diana Prince
Diana Prince is a fictional character created by Charles Moulton and Harry G. Peter. Appearing regularly in stories published by DC Comics, she debuted in Sensation Comics #1 and serves as the civilian and secret identity of the superhero Wonder Woman.-Overview:Through the popularity of her Wonder...

 (portrayed by Adrianne Palicki
Adrianne Palicki
Adrianne Palicki is an American actress best known for her role as Tyra Collette on the NBC television series Friday Night Lights.-Early life:...

) visits her friend, Willis, in the hospital and he says "...truth, justice, and the American way." This pays homage to what Superman
Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

 stands for, given that Wonder Woman and Superman are also in the same universe
DC Universe
The DC Universe is the shared universe where most of the comic stories published by DC Comics take place. The fictional characters Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are well-known superheroes from this universe. Note that in context, "DC Universe" is usually used to refer to the main DC continuity...


Films and TV series

The American Way
The American Way
The American Way is an eight-issue American comic book limited series produced under DC Comics' Wildstorm Signature imprint. The series debuted in April 2006, and was created by John Ridley and Georges Jeanty.-Publication history:...

is the name of a mini-series being produced by Wildstorm
WildStorm Productions, or simply WildStorm, published American comic books. Originally an independent company established by Jim Lee and further expanded upon in subsequent years by other creators, WildStorm became a publishing imprint of DC Comics in 1999...

 that explores an America where super-beings exist, but are being used as propaganda by the American government.


Many American writers describe or refer to the American way. Examples in the 17th century are Thomas Morton (c. 1576 – c. 1647), Roger Williams
Roger Williams (theologian)
Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America,...

 (1603 – 1683), and Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson was one of the most prominent women in colonial America, noted for her strong religious convictions, and for her stand against the staunch religious orthodoxy of 17th century Massachusetts...

 (1591 – 1643).

In the 19th century, writers include Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 (1803-1882), Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

 (1817-1862), Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

 (1804-1864), Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 (1819-1891), Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 (1819-1892), and Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...


In the 1900s, Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

 (1876-1916), Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser was an American novelist and journalist of the naturalist school. His novels often featured main characters who succeeded at their objectives despite a lack of a firm moral code, and literary situations that more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of...

 (1871-1945), Sherwood Anderson
Sherwood Anderson
Sherwood Anderson was an American novelist and short story writer. His most enduring work is the short story sequence Winesburg, Ohio. Writers he has influenced include Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger, and Amos Oz.-Early life:Anderson was born in Clyde, Ohio,...

 (1876-1941), Eugene O'Neill
Eugene O'Neill
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish...

 (1888-1953), Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

 (1906-1963), T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 (1888-1965), John Dos Passos
John Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos , a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia. The elder Dos Passos...

 (1896-1970), Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), and Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956).

From 1900 to 1950, Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

 (1885-1951), William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

 (1897-1962), Henry Miller
Henry Miller
Henry Valentine Miller was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of 'novel' that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is...

 (1891-1980), Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 (1899-1961), John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

 (1902-1968), Richard Wright
Richard Wright (author)
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African-Americans during the late 19th to mid 20th centuries...

 (1908-1960), William Saroyan
William Saroyan
William Saroyan was an Armenian American dramatist and author. The setting of many of his stories and plays is the center of Armenian-American life in California in his native Fresno.-Early years:...

 (1908-1981), Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren was an American writer.-Early life:Algren was born Nelson Ahlgren Abraham in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Goldie and Gerson Abraham. At the age of three he moved with his parents to Chicago, Illinois where they lived in a working-class, immigrant neighborhood on the South Side...

 (1909-1981), Paul Bowles
Paul Bowles
Paul Frederic Bowles was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator.Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City, during which he displayed a talent for music and writing, Bowles pursued his education at the University of Virginia before making various trips to Paris...

 (1910-1999), Jerome Salinger (1919-2009), Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

 (1923-2007), and Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

 (born 1925).

From 1950 to the present, Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

 (1922-1969), Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

 (1922-1997), William Burroughs (1914-1997) and others.

The Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n writer H. Zumbado
Héctor Zumbado
Héctor Zumbado Argueta , also known as H. Zumbado is a Cuban writer, journalist, critic, humorist, and essayist. He is known for his keen and sharp critiques, which have a Cuban manner, style and humor. In his words, "humor is a weapon, because it criticizes and exposes at the same time, and does...

 had a book published in 1981 under the title El American Way, satirizing the American way of life. The also Cuban humorist and writer Juan Ángel Cardi wrote a novel entitled El American Way of Death, published in 1981, also satirizing the American Way of Life.


Some songs by Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie is best known as an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children's songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his...

 (1912-1967) are about the American way of life.

Madonna (entertainer)
Madonna is an American singer-songwriter, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing in the music groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her debut album in 1983...

's American Life (2003) deals with this theme.

The Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys are an Irish-American punk rock band formed in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1996. The band was initially signed to independent punk record label Hellcat Records, releasing five albums for the label, and making a name for themselves locally through constant playing and yearly St....

 song The New American Way
Sing Loud, Sing Proud!
Sing Loud, Sing Proud! is the third studio album from Boston punk rock band the Dropkick Murphys. Before the album's release in 2001, guitarist Rick Barton left the band. He announced James Lynch of Boston punk band The Ducky Boys as his successor. As well as Lynch, the band also recruited then...

laments the way that the American way of life is changing, saying "The morals of this nation's youth have long gone astray led by tolerance, indifference, and this kinder gentler way."

In Toby Keith's song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, Keith sings, "We'll put a boot in your ass. It's the American way."

The chorus in the song "Dreganomics" by Mac Dre is "Follow me now, Let me lead the way, If your gonna believe in something, Believe in Dre, It's only civilized, For us to live our lives, Royal, Spoiled, The American Way!"

See also

  • American Dream
    American Dream
    The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each...

  • American Way Magazine
  • Culture of the United States
    Culture of the United States
    The Culture of the United States is a Western culture originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore...

  • People for the American Way
    People For the American Way
    People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy group in the United States. Under U.S. tax code, People For the American Way is organized as a tax-exempt 501 non-profit organization.-Purpose:...

  • Richard Hamilton (artist)
    Richard Hamilton (artist)
    Richard William Hamilton, CH was a British painter and collage artist. His 1956 collage, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, produced for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition of the Independent Group in London, is considered by critics and historians to be one of the...

External links

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