How did the concept of existentialism help America?
A provocative question! Of course it will always be difficult to attribute a philosophical point of view to actual world events, but it is nevertheless insightful to note that the most positive aspect of existentialism is the freedom from tyranny and historical hierarchies it gives – according to this philosophy we are not pre-designed by anyone, and can (and should) define ourselves by our choices. When the Founding Fathers freed themselves from British rule by royalty, they were free to invent themselves, to invent a government of, by, and for the people. One of the most existential moments in our early history was when Washington refused a kingship, showing that he and the emerging country were free from preconceived structures a la Europe. Every act of the country’s early structuring was a choice that invented it. Later, for example after World War II, the country again chose to invent rather than submit to history’s “essence”, by forming the Marshall Plan, and by rebuilding Germany and Japan, their former enemies, into their staunch allies, rather than destroy them, as was history’s blueprint.