Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-century America (William E.Massey Senior Lectures in the History of American Civilization) (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies)

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9780674003125: Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-century America (William E.Massey Senior Lectures in the History of American Civilization) (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies)
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Must the sins of America's past poison its hope for the future? Lately the American Left, withdrawing into the ivied halls of academe to rue the nation's shame, has answered yes in both word and deed. In Achieving Our Country, one of America's foremost philosophers challenges this lost generation of the Left to understand the role it might play in the great tradition of democratic intellectual labor that started with writers like Walt Whitman and John Dewey. How have national pride and American patriotism come to seem an endorsement of atrocities--from slavery to the slaughter of Native Americans, from the rape of ancient forests to the Vietnam War? Achieving Our Country traces the sources of this debilitating mentality of shame in the Left, as well as the harm it does to its proponents and to the country. At the center of this history is the conflict between the Old Left and the New that arose during the Vietnam War era. Richard Rorty 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. In this turn to theory, Rorty sees a retreat from the secularism and pragmatism championed by Dewey and Whitman, and he 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. In the absence of a vibrant, active Left, the views of intellectuals on the American Right have come to dominate the public sphere. This galvanizing book, adapted from Rorty's Massey Lectures of 1997, takes the first step toward redressing 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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Review:

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 "

A succinct, stimulating, crisply written book... Rorty proposes a return to the liberal values that animated American reform movements for the first two-thirds of this century: from the long struggle of labor unions to obtain better conditions for workers, to the efforts of leaders like Woodrow Wilson, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson to redistribute the nation's wealth more equitably... Although Rorty is an academic philosopher, in this book, addressed to the general reader, he employs clear, vigorous language that makes reading a pleasure rather than a chore.--Merle Rubin "Christian Science Monitor "

Achieving Our Country criticizes academic theorists and reminds us that left-wing reformers in previous periods of American history either made their careers outside the university or, at least, developed strong links with the decidedly non-academic labor movement... Rorty's distinction between a 'cultural Left' and a 'reformist Left' is useful. As Freud replaced Marx in the imagination of academic theorists, Rorty explains, a cultural left--one that 'thinks more about stigma than about money, more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivations than about shallow and evident greed'--came into being.--Alan Wolfe "The Chronicle of Higher Education "

It is refreshing to find so hard-hitting a portrait of the contemporary academic Left in the work of one of its own.--Peter Berkowitz "Commentary "

On behalf of countless readers whose reaction to most left academic writing over the past two decades has increasingly been not so much either agreement or disagreement as an overpowering sense of So what?, the eminent philosopher Richard Rorty has composed a marvelous philippic against the entrenched irrelevance of much of the American left... Rorty's most important insight is into the political worldview of the academic left: that it is essentially nonpolitical... He offers a withering comparison of the core beliefs of the current cultural left with those of one of its forebears, Walt Whitman.--Harold Meyerson "Dissent "

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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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. Must the sins of America's past poison its hope for the future? Lately the American Left, withdrawing into the ivied halls of academe to rue the nation's shame, has answered yes in both word and deed. In Achieving Our Country, one of America's foremost philosophers challenges this lost generation of the Left to understand the role it might play in the great tradition of democratic intellectual labor that started with writers like Walt Whitman and John Dewey.How have national pride and American patriotism come to seem an endorsement of atrocities--from slavery to the slaughter of Native Americans, from the rape of ancient forests to the Vietnam War? Achieving Our Country traces the sources of this debilitating mentality of shame in the Left, as well as the harm it does to its proponents and to the country. At the center of this history is the conflict between the Old Left and the New that arose during the Vietnam War era. Richard Rorty 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. In this turn to theory, Rorty sees a retreat from the secularism and pragmatism championed by Dewey and Whitman, and he 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.In the absence of a vibrant, active Left, the views of intellectuals on the American Right have come to dominate the public sphere. This galvanizing book, adapted from Rorty's Massey Lectures of 1997, takes the first step toward redressing the imbalance in American cultural life by rallying those on the Left to the civic engagement and inspiration needed for "achieving our country.". Seller Inventory # BZV9780674003125

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