What kind of country are we, and what kind of country do we wish to be? Robert Bellah has asked that question many times and in many ways over the years. In Habits of the Heart he explored the American culture of individualism, and he sought to revive a tradition of citizenship and concern for the public good. In The Broken Covenant he examined the civil religion that has shaped, positively and negatively, American values and public life.
In this issue, Bellah considers the emergence of an American empire. As some political leaders are consciously seeking to define a new, imperial role for this country, Bellah asks again: What kind of country are we, and what kind of country do we wish to be? Is the U.S. really ready to assume the tasks of empire? What cultural resources will we draw on to sustain an empire? What kind of influence do we want to have on the world?