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Description - Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty

The author argues that the Left wing in America sees the sins of America's past poisoning hope for the future, and challenges the "lost" generation of the Left to understand the role it might play in the tradition of democratic intellectual labour that started with writers like Walt Whitman and John Dewey. The book traces the source of the debilitating mentality of shame in the Left of how national pride and American patriotism come to seem an endorsement of atrocites - from slavery to the slaughter of Native Americans, from the felling of ancient forests to the Vietnam War. At the centre of this history is the conflict between the Old Left and the New that arose during the Vietnam War era. The author describes how the paradoxical victory of the antiwar movement, ushering in the Nixon years, encouraged a disillusioned generation of intellectuals to pursue "High Theory" at the expense of considering the place of ideas in our common life. He sees a retreat from secularism and pragmatism, and decries the tendency of the heirs of the New Left to theorize about the United States from a distance instead of participating in the civic work of shaping our national future. Richard Rorty looks to redress the imbalance in American cultural life by rallying those on the Left to the civic engagement and inspiration needed for "achieving our country".

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674003125
ISBN-10: 0674003128
Format: Paperback
(210mm x 140mm x 13mm)
Pages: 176
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 27-Aug-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty

Book Reviews - Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty

US Kirkus Review » In this slim volume (from a series of lectures), eminent liberal political theorist Rorty passes judgment on the state of the US left. And he is not amused. Beginning from familiar places for him, John Dewey and Walt Whitman, Rorty (Humanities/Univ. Of Virginia) argues that the faith of these men in what the US might become, their dismissal of all closed systems of thinking, their turn from religious authority to secular joy in the contingent process of democratic creation are all aspects of leftist thought missing from today's left, much to its detriment. In place of the search for amoral identity that will inspire and unite us, the left today - what he calls the "academic" or "cultural" left - has opted instead for a "detached spectatorship," condemnation without action or hope. Rorty traces the origins of this spectatorship to theorists such as Foucault, who insists on the irresistible ubiquitousness of power. The appeal of such spectatorship he traces to the US New Left and its experience with the Vietnam War. In Vietnam the US "sinned," became beyond redemption, and so the New Left turned its back on ever reforming such a place. The Left retreated to academia, theory, culture, and spectatorship. This is all, however, a very familiar scenario by now (if argued in an interestingly odd way), and one wonders why it needs repeating, Rorty seems only to be using the New Left as a straw person here, and his depiction of the "academic" Left is caricature. Assertion substitutes for analysis. Lapses in logic occur: He chastises the Left, for instance, for being both Marxist and "postmodern," yet the two tendencies stand mostly opposed to each other. Like an obscure club recording from a major jazz musician, this is a minor work from a profound thinker that perhaps only true devotees of Rorty will find of value. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty is Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of the landmark works Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature; Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity; and The Consequences of Pragmatism.

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