- Series: The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization (Book 1997)
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (September 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674003128
- ISBN-13: 978-0674003125
- Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Achieving Our Country : Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America New Ed Edition
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Frequently Bought Together
There are many shameful incidents in America's past: the institution of slavery, genocidal assaults on the indigenous peoples of this continent, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and so on. What should our response to such acts be? Should we regard the nation as irredeemably tainted by sin and spend our time cataloging its evils, or should we acknowledge its shortcomings and make a conscious effort to turn it into a better nation?
Philosopher Richard Rorty believes that there is hope for America, but that today's Left is not meeting the challenge. He contrasts the cultural, academic Left's focus on our heritage of shame (which, he admits, has to the extent that it makes hatred intolerable had the positive effect of making America a more civil society) with the politically engaged reformist Left of the early part of this century. "The distinction between the old strategy and the new is important," he writes. "The choice between them makes the difference between what Todd Gitlin calls common dreams and what Arthur Schlesinger calls disuniting Americans. To take pride in being black or gay is an entirely reasonable response to the sadistic humiliation to which one has been subjected. But insofar as this pride prevents someone from also taking pride in being an American citizen, from thinking of his or her country as capable of reform, or from being able to join with straights or whites in reformist initiatives, it is a political disaster."
Not everyone, to be sure, is going to agree with Rorty's ideas. But his approach to civic life, which is pragmatic in the tradition of John Dewey and visionary in the tradition of Walt Whitman, is bound to provoke increased discussion of what it is to be a citizen, and his call for a renewed awareness of the history of American reformist activism can only be applauded. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Rorty contrasts two views of America: those of the Old Left and of the New Left. The Old Left he associates with Walt Whitman's "American Dream" and John Dewey's idea of an ever-evolving secular society of varied, autonomous agents whose evils are remediable because they result from failures of imagination. The New Left he associates with spectators who damn America for such past "atrocities" as slavery, the massacre of Indians, and the Vietnam War. Rorty claims that the Old Left was stubbornly reformist, whereas the New Left collaborates with and thereby empowers the Right by supplanting real politics with cultural issues. He urges the New Left to understand that our national character has not been settled but is still being formed. The book contrasts the two Lefts clearly enough, but the rest of it is rather foggy with occasional flashes of light. For larger academic libraries only.ARobert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, events in the 1960's created a schism in the Left from which neither side have succeeded in counteracting a unified Right that sunk its claws into the haunches of America. It is up to the Left to coalesce once again into a unifying force to continue the American story and achieve the country.
The loss of American pride is another key element. Rorty derives this from two modern thinkers, Walt Whitman and John Dewey, whose beliefs sharply contrasted with that of the finite, absolute, divine-centered beliefs of the Victorian pre-modernists. Whitman passionately exalted the more humanistic approach to truth and self-discovery caused by the floodgates opened by Darwin's theory of evolution. As a result, the divine standard to which men held to was replaced by secular humanism and humanistic standards.
Both Dewey and Whitman saw "America" and "democracy" as synonymous with being "human." Dewey too placed "America" and "democracy" on a visionary scale. But where Whitman described the American way as "the last and greatest vision of the American potential," Dewey saw "democracy" and thus America's story as "a great word, whose history... remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted".
As a result, Rorty asserts that Dewey and Whitman would advocate American pride despite blacker moments in America's history such as the Vietnam War.Read more ›
Rorty's lectures in this book are aimed at finding a way out of the dead end of abstract theory and "cultural politics," and into an applied social justice campaign. Let's drop the whole "leftism is dead" and "theory of culture" prattle, and move on to doing things about people starving in our streets, he says.
Now, this is where the negative reviewers really begin to skewer him-- he suggests that the answer lies in pragmatism and a sort of 'secular religion.' I'm not convinced that he's correct, however, and I think that although he's right about the need to preserve our government as a secular one, I think that he really ignores the benefits of religion in civil society. Regardless of whether you agree with his prescription, however, his history of American leftism, and his analysis of its problems today, are insightful.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Apart from the works of Cornel West, Thomas Frank, and prominent journalists like Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman, this book is a powerful statement on the American political climate... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sean
Very interesting read. Amazing how the author's message is even more relevant today, what with the Republican party obstructionism and their choice of Trump as nominee.Published 4 months ago by Marcia Lay
Rorty is my kind of philosopher: well-read and fluent in the English language.Published 13 months ago by John E. Banks
I must have purchased this book over three times; the friends I lend it to never seem to return it. This book by Richard Rorty does not have the impact of his masterworks such as... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Keanu
Readers Beware: Rorty is not an easy read. However, if one is willing to take up the challenge, a reader will be rewarded with thoughtful analysis of where America finds itself in... Read morePublished on December 1, 2011 by J. Smallridge
Richard Rorty's book, Achieving Our Country, is a must read for anybody fed up with today's politics of hate and who want to perform some constructive action to help re-claim a... Read morePublished on August 27, 2011 by drbobert
Achieving Our Country is Richard Rorty's greatest work. Much of his later work provides clear and cogent arguments for embracing continental skepticism while maintaining an... Read morePublished on October 3, 2008 by R. Markham
Richard Rorty is a prominent philosopher and academic with deep family roots in the anti-communist efforts of Norman Thomas' Socialist Party, the societal amelioration of the New... Read morePublished on June 23, 2006 by Mark B. Cohen
Rorty looks into the pragmatic hope which does not grasp formulas as in Marxism and economic orthodox idea but in a union from a diversity
Rorty uses Hegel, Dewey & Whitman to... Read more