Michael H. Hunt has produced an ambitious and engaging book which sets out to provide fresh insights on the role of ideology within American foreign policy. Written in 1987, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy, is clearly influenced by the rise in cultural history as a discipline in the 1970s. Tired of the realist and economic centred arguments put forward by figures such as George Kennan and William Appleman Williams, Hunt argues that historians should ‘attempt to understand ideology in relation to a cultural system’. Discussing the work of cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz, Hunt advocates the importance of symbols, values and beliefs in discussions of ideology, and in doing so, he successfully achieves his aim of providing a new approach to analysing ideology in foreign relations. His hopes of encouraging further cultural analyses on the subject can be considered successful when looking at the advances cultural historians have made within the field of American foreign policy. Paul T. McCartney, Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease have championed the cultural approach in their discussion of American imperialism, and an increasing number of scholars from a various range of disciplines continue to do so. Although it is not feasible to contend that Hunt’s book has been the sole instigator in the increasing appeal of the cultural approach, his book is certainly an accomplished and interesting approach that has contributed to the adoption of culture, as a tool of analysis, across a range of historical theories and disciplines.
Thus, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Relations details the impact of ideology on American national identity and foreign policy. Hunt’s first chapter is a welcomed introduction to the historiography surrounding the subject and offers a broad foundation for the following chapters. His three central arguments begin in his second chapter, where he contends Jefferson’s ideas about liberty contributed to the beginning of the embedment of exceptionalism within the American presidency and public rhetoric. The chapter is strong in demonstrating the impact that visions of national greatness had on policy makers and leads successfully into chapter three, where Hunt links American visions of greatness to the formation of the racial hierarchy. Through a structure within which Americans placed themselves at the top, they ranked the various peoples of the world based on the physical distinctions they made. In perhaps his most engaging chapter, Hunt discusses how this filtered into American foreign policy and portrays his evidence in the use of visual sources. In the final of his three components, chapter four contends the American relationship with revolutions has changed throughout the course of its history.