- Series: The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization (Book 10)
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (September 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674003128
- ISBN-13: 978-0674003125
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.8 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,938 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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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.
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While the first printing was, I believe in 1997, it is timely in its characterization of what is currently happening in American politics and society. His premise is that there are a lot of angry young people standing on the sidelines is an apt one. Unlike Egypt where Twitter and Facebook helped spur a revolutionary social experiment (of which time will tell), American youth sit ensconced and isolated with their laptops and just bitch (my take from my experience).
His essay goes on to show who the idealism of the New Deal liberals that reformed American society (he also delineates between reformers and radicals) succumbed to its own success and attachment to the past. It took the radicals of the 60s to overcome the inertia and begin a new social revolution. In contrast to today's reactionary/radical christian movement, the revolution of the 60s as Rorty explains was a revolution forward, not an ideological movement to the "good old days." Indeed, what Rorty proposes is to re-examine the "spirit" of Walt Whitmann and John Dewey to revitalize thought and experimentalism in American society. (A proposition that I heartily agree with!) Unfortunately it takes courage and being a "little hungry", not complacently anger in the confines of an internet game room.
Rorty's last essay is almost prophetic in describing the rich/poor gap within the world. He quotes some general statistics that are being experienced today as the super rich begin to build their own dynasties, and "neo-liberal" economic ideology preaches "privatize everything" and let's not have anything called an "american spirit" which is a spirit of constructive growth and experimentation. (A principle tenet of philosophical pragmatism as edified by John Dewey and others).
The key action Rorty states is that to be proud of one's country means to have the courage to constructively critize it and take action to make it better, and considering that with the internet and other technological advances, we must all have the courage to look at each other as citizens of a country and of a planet.
I have a hard time holding on to a copy of this book because I keep giving it to people. I think I am on my eighth copy. I now buy at least 2 at a time. I was just visiting friends in Oregon and their 20yr old son has left for Egypt for a year of study. He is a bright boy and had inherited the intelligence, grounding and courage of his parents. Luckily, I had a copy with me. It will be young people like him that might just try another grand experiment!
Trump won many industrial areas in the Midwest where workers, and former workers, turned out and voted for the Democratic Party for generation.Trump is now meeting with union leaders as president.
An academic philosopher writing in the mid 90s told the story of the 2016 presidential campaign better than many current commentators.
This book also contains many insightful passages on philosophy, literature, movements and campaigns, in addition to accurate political predictions. Rorty manages to make very dense material very readable. There is a lot of discussion about philosophy but I flew threw those pages. Highly recommended.
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In 1997, in a series of lectures at that bastion of wealth and liberal thought, Harvard University, Richard Rorty delivered a short...Read more