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Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-century America (William E.Massey Senior Lectures in the History of American Civilization) (The ... in the History of American Civilization) Paperback – 27 Aug 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674003128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674003125
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Richard Rorty s Achieving Our Country is short, comprehensible and urges a civic and political agenda the re-engagement of the Left Rorty seeks to revive the vision of Walt Whitman and John Dewey, and what he sees as the real American Dream a compassionate society held together by nothing more absolute than consensus and the belief that humane legal and economic agreements stand at the centre of democratic civilisation.--Brian Eno "The Guardian ""

Richard Rorty is considered by many to be America s greatest living philosopher. That assessment is firmly supported in this short, profound, and lucid volume. In Achieving Our Country, Rorty does what many of us think philosophers ought to do, namely, lay a foundation and establish a framework within which we as individuals and as a society can conceptualize and fashion operational theories by which to live and prosper together I can think of no more important book that I have read in recent years or one that I could more fervently recommend to the readers of this journal that Rorty s Achieving Our Country.--Thomas R. DeGregori "Journal of Economic Issues ""

Achieving our country (the phrase is culled from James Baldwin s The Fire Next Time) isn t just a redeemable aim, it s what good radical politics has always been about.--Gideon Calder "Radical Philosophy ""

Rorty s new book urges a return to American liberalism s days of hope, pride, and struggle within the system Subtle without being dense, good-natured in its defiance of a whole spectrum of conventional wisdoms, Achieving Our Country is a rare book. It should be compulsory reading if that weren t contrary to all it stands for.--Richard Lamb "The Reader's Catalog ""

Achieving Our Country is an appeal to American intellectuals to abandon the intransigent cynicism of the academic, cultural left and to return to the political ambitions of Emerson, Dewey, Herbert Croly and their allies. What Rorty has written--as deftly, amusingly and cleverly as he always writes--is a lay sermon for the untheological... [Americans] do not need to know what God wants but what we are capable of wanting and doing... [Rorty argues] that we would do better to try to improve the world than lament its fallen condition. On that he will carry with him a good many readers.--Alan Ryan "New York Times Book Review "

Richard Rorty is remarkable not just for being a gadfly to analytical philosophers, but for his immense reading, his lively prose and his obvious moral engagement with the issues... The conversation of philosophy would be much poorer without him... Achieving Our Country is a valuable addition to Rorty's writings... He has things to say that are important and timely... They are said powerfully.--Hilary Putnam "Times Literary Supplement "

In his philosophically rigorous new book, Achieving Our Country, Richard Rorty raises a provocative if familiar question: Whatever happened to national pride in this country? ...[and] he offers a persuasive analysis of why such pride has been lost.--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt "New York Times "

The heart of Achieving Our Country is Professor Rorty's critique of the 'cultural left.' Barricaded in the university, this left has isolated itself, he asserts, from the bread-and-butter issues of economic equality and security and the practical political struggles that once occupied the reform tradition... Controversies are seeded like land mines in every paragraph of this short book.--Peter Steinfels "New York Times "

Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country is short, comprehensible and urges a civic and political agenda--the re-engagement of the Left... Rorty seeks to revive the vision of Walt Whitman and John Dewey, and what he sees as the real American Dream--a compassionate society held together by nothing more absolute than consensus and the belief that humane legal and economic agreements stand at the centre of democratic civilisation.--Brian Eno "The Guardian "

[In this] slim, elegantly written book...Rorty scolds other radical academics for abandoning pride in the nation's democratic promise; in their obsession with 'victim studies, ' he argues, they have neglected to inspire the 'shared social hope' that motivated every mass movement against injustice from the abolitionists to the voting rights campaign.--Michael Kazin "Washington Post Book World "

Synopsis

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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30 June 1998
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