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The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective Hardcover – February 16, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1442215375 ISBN-10: 1442215372

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The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective + Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice (Columbia Series on Religion and Politics)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442215372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442215375
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Gary Dorrien’s noted gifts for critical analysis, rigorous argument, and beautiful writing are on full display in this important book. He examines the complete Obama from Hawaii to the White House, exploring Obama's mind, policies, and politics—and contending persuasively that progressives must not give up on Obama or the nation’s common good. (Ronald Stone, author of Prophetic Realism and Moral Reflections on Foreign Policy in a Religious War)

An incisive and original account of the well known challenges and largely unrecognized achievements of the Obama presidency. Dorrien has produced a masterwork of political and ethical analysis that compels us as citizens to take up the essential work of sustained, constructive political engagement. A must-read for this election year and beyond!
(Sharon Welch, provost at Meadville Lombard Theological School)

This book is not a fawning, worshipful recounting of Obama's first three years as President. Not by a long shot. Because Dorrien does not hold back on criticizing areas where he sees Obama having fallen short, his conclusion emanates all the more forcefully. . . . [t]his book makes a powerful overall argument.
(Ian Reifowitz, Daily Kos)

In the Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective, Gary Dorrien offers insight into how the candidate of hope and change was transformed into the president of cope and adapt, while simulataneously making the case for Obama's second term. (Columbia Magazine)

Dorrien (religion, Columbia Univ.) critically assesses the complex and contradictory nature of President Barack Obama's leadership. At the beginning of his book, Dorrien lays out his personal preferences for the reader by indicating that he is a supporter of the Obama administration. The core focus of this study is to explore Obama's political relationships with those progressives that have become disappointed with his policies as president. Dorrien is much more sympathetic to the administration and takes the position that progressives must not become purely blinded by Obama's failures when assessing his performance in office. Instead, he reminds them that there are major accomplishments that Obama has achieved in such a short amount of time. This book will appeal to a general audience and to political pundits engaged in day-to-day water-cooler discussions about US politics and the Obama administration....Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

With the same thoroughness that Dorrien earlier brought to the study of American Christianity...he brings an Episcopal priest's perspective and appreciation for social justice to his analysis of the president's first term....The Obama Question puts into words the frustration many liberals feel with the obstructionism of the Republicans since Obama took office. Dorrien offers come hope that the president's most creative and courageous efforts facing down, to use John F. Kennedy's words, 'tyranny, poverty, disease - and war itself' may yet meet or exceed the early expectations of so many who believed him. (America: The National Catholic Review)

About the Author

Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and professor of religion at Columbia University, is the author of 14 books. He frequently lectures to universities, conferences, civic groups, and religious communities.

More About the Author

Gary Dorrien is Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. He is the author of 16 books ranging across the fields of social theory, ethics, theology, philosophy, politics, and intellectual history.

These books include an acclaimed trilogy, The Making of American Liberal Theology, and a lecture collection titled Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice. His book, Social Ethics in the Making, won the Choice Award in 2009, and his book, Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology won the PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers for the best book in Theology and Religious Studies of 2012.

Dorrien speaks extensively to social justice organizations, religious communities, and academics, and he is currently writing a two-volume work on Du Bois, King, and the black Social Gospel tradition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As someone who loves a great political read, I was excited about the opportunity to read Gary Dorrien's THE OBAMA QUESTION. It by no means disappointed.

The book takes you throughout not just the makings of the man who would become President but the very questions he had to answer along the way, not just from those in the opposing party but by the world as a whole. Could someone named Barack Obama not only become President of the United States but lead the country during a time of economic uncertainty. This question among others are what Dorrien gets to the heart of.

What made this read so enjoyable for me was not just the care the author took in getting the truth but by allowing himself to recognize where the President had not only failed to satisfy his base but was taking real chances. The book takes us through much of what I believe will be the bases of his campaign as he gears up for re-election but also the answer to the question of is the country better off now than when he took office. That is something not only the reader will have to answer but those who will be voting in Nov. 2012 as well.

Dorrien shows himself to be a skilled journalist who is able to let the truth emerge on its own and leaves it up to us whether Obama has fulfilled his promise of bringing about real change and inspiring the same.

Thoughtfully presented, Gary Dorrien's THE OBAMA QUESTION gives many answers and leaves the decision-making up to you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard Hodgman on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Obama Question by Gary Dorrien
Book Review

Gary Dorrien is an ordained Episcopal Priest who lived in my home town of Kalamazoo, Michigan for many years while serving as professor of religion at Kalamazoo College and dean of the college chapel. He has subsequently moved to New York to become The Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor or Religion at Columbia University. He has authored 15 books, many dealing with social ethics. I have heard him speak on several occasions and his reputation in our community is in the stratosphere!

When I learned of a planned return visit by Dr. Dorrien last March to speak at a peace conference held at our local church I simply had to attend. I was not disappointed. He spoke with deep passion and emotion about the challenges facing our world and our nation which was enthusiastically received. Afterwards there was a sale of his most recent book, "The Obama Question". Of course I had to have a copy.

When I started in on this book it quickly dawned on me that this is an important document. It is an honest, balanced, and really profound assessment of Barack Obama and a superb insight into the first three years of his presidency. Dr. Dorrien is not here to fawn over our president but to realistically assess where he has succeeded and where he is left wanting, but the author never falters from hinging his comments on his own deep commitment to social justice.

I found the book easy to read despite a few areas where Dr. Dorrien displays an amazing facility with the arcane technical and theoretical aspects of the current financial crisis. Still, as Dr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gary Dorrien is a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and also the author of books such as The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805 - 1900, Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice (Columbia Series on Religion and Politics), etc.

He states early in this 2012 book, "Obama had barely been elected president when he had to start governing, and he was in full governing mode before he was inaugurated, pushing a huge stimulus bill that he wanted to sign on his first day in office. A month after he was inaugurated he signed seven landmark bills at once---the largest tax cuts for the middle class since the Reagan administration, the biggest infrastructure bill since the Eisenhower administration... the biggest antipoverty and job training bill since the Johnson administration, the biggest clean energy bill ever, and huge investments in housing and scientific research. But he wrapped these items together as one bill to ensure that everything passed, and he settled for a smaller stimulus than was needed without fighting about it publicly---a sign of things to come." (Pg. 3)

He adds, "progressives were angry that he eased off on employment spending, abandoned the public option, and escalated the war in Afghanistan... progressives were furious that Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, albeit in a hostage situation. The following year Obama disastrously capitulated to Republican extortion on the debt ceiling, agreeing to spending cuts that slash sociao programs ...
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By JW on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I liked the book but there's not a lot that's new. There are chapters on Obama's life and rise in politics, how he handled the financial crisis, the health care bill, and foreign policy including the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Based on the title, I was expecting more from non-traditional sources - quotations from Ms.magazine or Mother Jones instead of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times perhaps - but the references were the usual suspects: mainstream books and articles already published about Obama. The author's last chapter critiqued a few of the anti-Obama books which was interesting.
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