What distinguishes America from other societies? Mugambi Jouet’s academic research explores this fascinating question. A USC law professor, he is the author of Exceptional America: What Divides Americans From the World and From Each Other (University of California Press), a book on the intriguing roots of America’s intense polarization over a host of fundamental issues, from mass incarceration to the death penalty, wealth inequality, race, religion, and beyond. He was interviewed on C-SPAN’s Book TV, NPR/WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, NPR/KQED’s Forum, and other radio programs about his book’s release, as well as quoted in Newsweek. He later won the 2021 Brophy Prize for the article in the American Journal of Legal History that “most significantly breaks new ground and adds new insights to the study and understanding of United States legal history.”

For its 125th anniversary, the University of California Press interviewed Mugambi Jouet about his book “Exceptional America”

Comparing the reactions to 9/11 in America with the Parisian terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and French Jews

“A fresh contribution to the literature on US exceptionalism exploring the divisions within US society over a range of key issues, including welfare, economic inequality, the justice system and foreign policy. Drawing on key facts and figures, Jouet presents an engaging analysis of the fundamental contradictions shaping the USA today. . . . Jouet’s book covers a wide range of subjects, including legal studies, political sociology/science, criminology, comparative studies, history and economics. This book will spark a renewed discussion about what makes America exceptional.”

London School of Economics Review of Books

“[An] engaging and learned book . . . Seeking to understand rather than condemn, Jouet offers a rich and revealing portrait of the America that produced President Donald J. Trump.”

Jacob S. Hacker, Yale University

“This insightful and powerful book, coming from a remarkable comparative perspective, shows well how American attitudes toward criminal justice, health care, economics, race, religion, gender, human rights, and other key issues are more interrelated than we realize.”

Bernard Harcourt, Columbia Law School

“Jouet brilliantly dissects the historical, political, and ideological reasons why Americans are so polarized from other nations and from each other.”

Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania

“This thought-provoking work explores a political shift that has transformed the concept of American exceptionalism into one of American superiority.”

Susan Jacoby, bestselling author of The Age of American Unreason


His award-winning article on criminal punishment in early U.S. history was published in the American Journal of Legal History, and his comprehensive history of the death penalty in America and Europe can be found in the American Journal of Comparative Law.

Nature – Palgrave Communications published Mugambi Jouet’s academic article “Guns, Identity, and Nationhood” on the right to bear arms. Meanwhile the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology released his comprehensive study on the peculiar historical evolution of mass incarceration and prospects for reform.

Mugambi Jouet presented the keynote lecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s Levin Family Dean’s Forum, and the keynote lecture at the University of Toronto Center for Criminology’s Graduate Conference.

His book tour included the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Cambridge Forum at Harvard Square,  Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., and the L.A. Times book festival.

His latest op-ed articles have appeared in Slate, The New Republic, Boston ReviewMother JonesSan Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, The HillLibération, Le Nouvel Observateur, and Le Monde.