Thursday, 31 October 2013

Apple and De Crevecoeur

American Studies Blog Week 5

Making direct reference to De Crevecoeur’s idea of the new and the exceptional as typically American, find and critique a contemporary example (for instance, a statement, an image, an advertisement, a video) which you think shows that this vision of America as fresh still survives today

Given its humble beginnings as a company with two employees in a garage in the suburbs of California, Apple Inc. has obviously come a long way. Its unique products, company ethos and ability to bring customers into a new world have seen it evolve into one of the richest and most iconic of global brands. In many ways the company is the epitome of De Crevecoeur’s idea of America as the land of the new and exceptional. It is hard to think of the story of Apple and its Logo taking place anywhere else, especially in Europe.
Its newness, or novelty, is very American (and perhaps very Californian), because it makes possible an increase in freedom, a key theme of the United States and one that recurs when people describe America as the ‘New World’ and Europe as the ‘Old World’. This comparison is one that De Crevecoeur often makes. For example in letter I, the minister encourages Farmer James to write of “our wild American plants” that are “irregularly luxuriant in its various branches,” and to contrast this exciting, strange, unimaginable newness with the atmosphere in Europe where he would be tired of seeing “espaliers, plashed hedges, and trees dwarfed into pigmies.” Everything in Europe is, on this view, controlled and known, boring and unchanging. Only in America do new possibilities appear and become realized. Apple has in many ways adhered to the concept of being “new” by striving to change the ways of the old through products that excite the imagination. And it is not just the products themselves, but the company that produces them. For example, in the 1970s Apple was instrumental in bucking the trend of the corporate culture that existed at the time by opposing the practices of the likes of IBM. Subsequently this has seen the development of a “new” working culture that has now been adopted by various companies throughout the world.
Apple also reflects America as the country of the “exceptional” through its production of innovative products, such as the iphone and ipad, that everybody else wants to copy and which enrich the lives of many throughout the world, much like the manner in which De Creveceour’s describes how the soil of America as producing exotic plants that enrich the lives of the early settlers.(e.g. p27). Furthermore, that statement that , “he no sooner breathes our air than he forms schemes, and embarks in designs, he never would have thought of in his own country. There [in Europe] the plenitude of society confines many useful ideas, and often extinguishes the most laudable schemes which here ripen into maturity” well describes Apple and therefore America. A willingness to allow the imagination full freedom, to give everything a chance in a very practical way, makes the U.S. “exceptional”. It is a place in which schemes and designs never seen before are developed, as with the iphone and ipad.

So De Crevecoeur’s idea of America as the land of the new and exceptional continues to be visible today through the accomplishments of companies like Apple that retain there place at the cutting edge of new technological achievements like laptops and mobile phones.

De Crevecoeur, J. Hector St John. Letters from an American Farmer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.


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