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

Kloppenberg, James T.

119 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0691147469 / ISBN 13: 9780691147468
Published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2011
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
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Third printing. Inscribed and signed by the author on the title page: "For K-- and W--, / with affection and admiration,/ Jim." Book is square and unmarked; corners sharp, tail of spine lightly bumped. The dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $24.95); Brodart protected. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 007421

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the ...

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey

Publication Date: 2011

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

About this title


Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Barack Obama puzzles observers. In Reading Obama, James T. Kloppenberg reveals the sources of Obama's ideas and explains why his principled aversion to absolutes does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Obama's commitments to deliberation and experimentation derive 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.

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.

From the Back Cover:

"Jim Kloppenberg, one of the country's finest intellectual historians, has come up with a remarkable idea as to how we can understand President Obama: just read what he has written and take it seriously. Think of Kloppenberg as the Bob Woodward of investigative philosophical analysis. He's written a fine and hugely informative book."--E.J. Dionne, syndicated columnist and author of Souled Out

"An intellectual biography of a practicing politician might nowadays seem a contradiction in terms, but James Kloppenberg, one of America's leading intellectual historians, draws penetrating insights from a close examination of the ideas that animate Barack Obama. Reading Obama shows the powerful impact on Obama's politics of his engagement with the late twentieth century revival of philosophical pragmatism and civic republicanism. Obama takes ideas seriously, and Kloppenberg details why that matters for all of us. This is a fine example of contemporary intellectual history."--Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University

"Obama is not just a powerful speaker, but a thinker engaged with the ideas of his country and his age--this argument by historian James Kloppenberg should therefore fascinate anyone interested in American politics or how ideas shape public life. Tracing the influences of Obama's family, educational, and work experiences on his ideas, Reading Obama locates a unique individual in the crosscurrents of American democracy and continuing fights over American ideals."--Martha Minow, Harvard Law School

"Reading Obama strikingly illuminates the man, enriching our sense of his intellectual formation and commitments and significantly deepening our understanding of his place in history. In the face of the hyper-partisan atmosphere of the moment, this book reminds readers of the enduring force of an alternative tradition in the American past, and sketches that tradition with care and persuasion."--Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University

"In this arresting, highly informative book, Kloppenberg shows how Obama was shaped by the intellectual debates of the 1980s and is thus the first president since Woodrow Wilson to deeply absorb and act upon the most sophisticated social theories of his generation."--David Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley

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