Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition

by James T. Kloppenberg
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691147469

ISBN-13: 9780691147468

Pub. Date: 10/31/2010

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Barack Obama puzzles observers. Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Obama does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Instead, his writings and speeches reflect a principled aversion to absolutes that derives from sustained engagement with American democratic thought. Reading Obama traces the origins of his ideas and establishes him

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Overview

Barack Obama puzzles observers. Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Obama does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Instead, his writings and speeches reflect a principled aversion to absolutes that derives from sustained engagement with American democratic thought. Reading Obama traces the origins of his ideas and establishes him as the most penetrating political thinker elected to the presidency in the past century. James T. Kloppenberg demonstrates the influences that have shaped Obama's distinctive worldview, including Nietzsche and Niebuhr, Ellison and Rawls, and recent theorists engaged in debates about feminism, critical race theory, and cultural norms. Examining Obama's views on the Constitution, slavery and the Civil War, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement, Kloppenberg shows Obama's sophisticated understanding of American history. Obama's interest in compromise, reasoned public debate, and the patient nurturing of civility is a sign of strength, not weakness, Kloppenberg argues. He locates its roots in Madison, Lincoln, and especially in the philosophical pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, which nourished generations of American progressives, black and white, female and male, through much of the twentieth century, albeit with mixed results. Reading Obama reveals the sources of Obama's commitment to democratic deliberation: the books he has read, the visionaries who have inspired him, the social movements and personal struggles that have shaped his thinking. Kloppenberg shows that Obama's positions on social justice, religion, race, family, and America's role in the world do not stem from a desire to please everyone but from deeply rooted—although currently unfashionable—convictions about how a democracy must deal with difference and conflict.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691147468
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/31/2010
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction....................ix
Chapter 1 The Education of Barack Obama....................1
Chapter 2 From Universalism to Particularism....................85
Chapter 3 Obama's American History....................151
Conclusion Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition....................249
Essay on Sources....................267
Acknowledgments....................287
Index....................293

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