• Achieving Our Country

  • Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America
  • By: Richard Rorty
  • Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
  • Length: 3 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-03-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.0 (2 ratings)

Summary

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".
©1998 The President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
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5 out of 5 stars
By Bill Storage on 26-04-18

Eloquent yet misunderstood pragmatist

Few would have believed in 1979, when Rorty was the most famous philosopher in America, that 40 years later he could be essentially written out of history. The right then despised him for being a leftist, despite his fervent anti-communist, anti-Marxist stance and defense of the cold war. The left now despises him for assessing cultural studies as “victim studies” and his pointing out the implausibility of the left’s opposition to capitalism and free markets. Rorty made no friends on the left when he claimed – as a “good leftist” – that the academic left needed to put a moratorium on the naïve theorizing and futile attempts to philosophize itself into political relevance. Further, Rorty riled philosophers by holding a position that was neither moral absolutism/universalism nor moral relativism.

In this book, written toward the end of his career, he suggests that anti-humanist sentiment has harmed the liberal agenda and argues that the left, like the religious right, now seeks desecularization of knowledge. He predicts a disgusted, mocking left who finds America unforgivable and a university system that exaggerates the importance of philosophy for politics. He finds that as long as left is incapable of national pride we will not really have a political left but only a cultural left that casts votes.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By A structural engineer on 03-05-17

Everyone should take this book

My title quotes (or maybe paraphrases) the guys from A Partially Examined Life podcast. I followed their advice and agree.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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