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The Genius of America

The Genius of America

By János Zoltán Csák

Translated by Thomas Sneddon, Foreword by Patrick J. Deneen, Afterword by George Friedman

158 pp

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About the Book

In this book, János Csák explores the enduring intellectual and spiritual legacy behind America’s achievement, the very essence and history of the American genius. Americans see freedom as the ultimate human good, but it is precisely around the principle of freedom and its misuse that much drama has unfolded in recent years. This drama manifests in a creeping cognitive dissonance rationalizing (seemingly at every turn) practices and injustices that contradict America’s original ideals. Yet The Genius of America stands firm as a confessional testimony to the belief that these ideals instill in most citizens the hope and belief that as members of their community they can still develop their talents, enjoy the fruits of their labor, and find meaning in their lives and efforts.


“János Csák has a powerful sense of both present and past. Born in Hungary, he loves both his native land and the land of his admiration, America. In this book he analyzes the problems of America and finds their solution in her principles and her families. Possessing the practical judgment of the statesman and the historical knowledge of the academic, he presents here the fruits of both to insightful effect.”—LARRY ARNN, President of Hillsdale College

“After years of assault by the Left, many Americans have either been convinced that America is evil and its decline to be welcomed, or are disgusted by this transformation and question her ability to recover its greatness. While many American thinkers have weighed in on this difficult moment, history has shown that it is often foreign observers, like Alexis de Tocqueville, who share the founding values of our country, and who not only accurately describe the crisis, but remind us of our path toward restoration with even greater fidelity to our Judeo-Christian values. My friend János Csák has written a book, The Genius of America, which both describes and addresses the challenges of our generation. It must be added to the list of insightful books written by distant lovers of the American experiment.”—SENATOR RICK SANTORUM

“Too few Americans and Europeans understand what makes America exceptional, which has enormous negative implications for geopolitics. János Csák’s book is not merely a corrective to that problem, but a tour-de-force that ought to be widely read.”—KEVIN ROBERTS, President, The Heritage Foundation

“The title of János Csák’s book, ‘The Genius of America,’ is not only a description of America in its history; it also hints at doubt about its future. For decades America represented hope to millions in the world that the principles of its founding could liberate and enrich the lives of those who arrived on its shores. The Statue of Liberty was not a monument of the past but a beacon shining light towards the future. For many countries, America also provided a model of how society could be better organized to unite, educate, and advance its members. Coming from a different geographical and cultural direction, I resonate especially with the views and emotions expressed in the pages of Csák’s short and highly readable book. Like him, I worry about the future of the American experiment, for that is what America is: an experiment testing how human beings unfettered by overemphasis on the past can be freed to develop their fullest potential, work together, and contribute to

the common welfare. America grew out of European ideals and became a meta-European super-nation that accommodated but never fully integrated African and Indigenous American minorities. Now, with the influx of large numbers of non-Europeans and the emergence of a multipolar world, the American system is coming under severe stress. Values once thought foundational are hotly debated. Csák discusses thoughtfully the current divisions in American society. The success of America in the past uplifted the Europe from which it sprang. The continuing success of the America experiment this century is a litmus test of our ability, despite our differences, to live in peace and harmony with one another. ‘The Genius of America’ is not only a description; it expresses a common faith and hope in the ability of America to renew itself, somethingcritical not only for America but for the world.”—GEORGE YEO, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore

“János Csák offers a stimulating Hungarian perspective on America’s ideology and evolving values. He discusses the concept of a self-disciplined, forward-looking, and altruistic liberty that evolved as the country grew and its citizens came together in a common cause of making the world a better place, then and for coming generations. He also signals an alarm about a new concept of liberty emerging in the country: an unrestrained individually-oriented material liberty that leads to division, disunity, and a present-oriented narcissist concept of liberty without responsibility—a concept alien to American society until recently. It is a sobering reminder about a way of life that made America unique and successful, and the consequences of the widespread abandonment of it.”—JAMES HECKMAN, Nobel laureate; Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago

“János Csák is a man of culture, history, and statesmanship. In this book, he shares his love for America as a Hungarian patriot. He sees elements of the United States that are often easy to miss, even for natives. As America and Hungary face similar challenges moving into the 21st century, this book is urgent and important.”—CHRISTOPHER RUFO, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; author of America’s Cultural Revolution

“In these often dark days of the American Republic, even patriots are tempted by despair. Like a good friend who loves you enough to tell you the truth, János Csák pens a love letter to America that glows with admiration and even passion, but that is neither naive nor sentimental about the nation’s flaws. As an expatriate living in Hungary, I have had the pleasure of János’s intellectual companionship and great good cheer. What a gift he has given to me, and to my fellow American readers, with The Genius Of America. May János Csák’s wise words summon from the hearts of all American readers what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature.’” —ROD DREHER, author of Live Not By Lies and The Benedict Option

“János Csák casts an admiring Hungarian eye on the genius of America, its roots, and its quirks. The Yanks owned one century, the twentieth, scientifically, culturally, militarily. Will the American genius enable them to own another one?”  —TIBOR FISCHER, author of Under the Frog and The Thought Gang

“Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, ‘The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’ Sigmund Freud had a less optimistic view of this country when he said, ‘America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but I am afraid it is not going to be a success.’ Fortunately there was also Winston Churchill, who noted, ‘Americans will always do the right thing, but only after they have tried everything else.’ Clearly, my former student János Csák seems to have taken these comments to heart, making an impressive effort in his The Genius of America to understand the intellectual and spiritual underpinnings of the country that is America. Anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of what makes this country ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ would do well to read this very thoughtful book.”—MANFRED F. R. KETS DE VRIES, Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change, INSEAD; author of Leading Wisely: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times 

“Like Tocqueville’s Democracy in America almost 200 years ago, János Csák’s The Genius of America is an invaluable explanation of America to Europeans and to Americans themselves today. This book needs to be read by every citizen and politician in America as a necessary first step to understanding why we are in the fix we are in and how we get out of it. Hemingway taught us never to write about a place until we are away from it, because that’s how we gain perspective. János Csák has lived in America, admires America, and cares for the future of America; this book is an invitation for Americans to re-learn what has been forgotten about their nation’s founding principles and the political creative destruction that charted American progress for centuries, an invitation more effectively delivered to Americans by a ‘visitor’—like Tocqueville in his day—than anyone in the American establishment today.”—ZOLTAN POZSAR, Founder and CEO, Ex Uno Plures; former senior adviser to the U.S. Treasury

“American conservatives have been deeply divided in recent years, quarreling incessantly about our past and our future, our principles and our prospects, our virtues and our vices, our liberties and what binds us together. In this slim volume, the strong Hungarian voice of János Csák breaks through the noise of our family feud and shows us a better way to love America, and also, perhaps, a better way of saving it.”—C. C. PECKNOLD, Professor of Historical & Systematic Theology, The Catholic University of America; author of Christianity and Politics

“In The Genius of America, János Csák holds up a parabolic mirror to American history, offering a succinct yet expansive view that only an external observer could provide. The book distills vast historical narratives into essential insights, revealing the American spirit from a unique perspective. Csák’s insights serve as a compelling invitation to view American identity through a broader, yet distinctly focused lens, offering revelations as enlightening as they are thought-provoking.” —ALBERT-LÁSZLÓ BARABÁSI, Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science at Northeastern University

The Genius of America comes at a pivotal moment in U.S. history to remind us of the principles on which our Founding Fathers based their wildly successful ‘American experiment’: sovereignty of ‘we the people,’ freedom, justice, and equality before the law. At times in U.S. history, the self-interest and hypocrisy of men have contradicted these principles, such as during slavery and injustices toward American Indians. In pointing this out, Csák hits upon a crucial lack in current U.S. efforts to ensure its national survival: an understanding that the virtues of our founding are instilled in American citizens by our dearest and most basic institutions—family, church, and education—and that our very survival depends upon their careful nurture.”—SHEA BRADLEY-FARRELL, President, Counterpoint Institute; author of Last Warning to the West

“For almost two hundred years, the startling fact of America’s existence has generated a cottage industry of writers trying to make sense of it and distill its essence, either to understand its exceptionalism or to find what deeper rules may undergird it, regarding the human condition or society itself, from which we can all learn. Csák’s contribution to this literature is both fresh and succinct. The essence of this book’s originality is in the author’s view that the country is best understood as a drama, and that the contradictions and internal conflicts of America are not unfortunate by-products, but essential characteristics of the country’s ‘genius.’ America’s dissents with itself are the very engine of its awesome ability to adapt, renew, and overcome. In allowing for competition between its more shallow hubrises, America can perhaps teach us all a deeper form of

humility. As such, Csák’s book is not only a window on the new world from the perspective of the old, but a mirror the latter can hold up to itself.”—CALUM T. M. NICHOLSON, Head of Research at the Climate Policy Institute; lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge

About the Author

JÁNOS ZOLTÁN CSÁK, economist-sociologist, honorary professor, Ambassador of Hungary to the United Kingdom from 2011 to 2014, Minister of Culture and Innovation since 2022. He focuses on strategy and finance, organizational capabilities, and management development. During his career he has worked as Chairman, CEO, and board member in a number of companies in the energy, telecommunications, banking, and academic sectors in Europe, North America, and Australia. In 2009–2010, he was a visiting scholar at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC and at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI. He is the author of several essays and studies and a recipient of the Commander’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit.

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