Obama's political philosophy: Pragmatism, politics, and the university of chicago

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (2):127-173 (2009)
In early work, I argued that Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, often represented, in his political speeches and writings, a form of philosophical pragmatism with special relations to the University of Chicago and its reform tradition. That form of pragmatism, especially evident in the work of such early figures as John Dewey and Jane Addams, and such later figures as Saul Alinsky, Abner Mikva, David Greenstone, Richard Rorty, Danielle Allen, and Cass Sunstein, contributed greatly to the intellectual atmosphere that Obama breathed during his many years in Chicago as a community organizer, senior lecturer in the University of Chicago Law School, and emerging figure in Illinois politics. And that form of pragmatism has, from Dewey to Obama, been keenly concerned to appropriate for its purposes the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. My purpose in this essay is to set out these filiations in ways more accessible to a global audience, and to carry the story forward through the opening moves of the Obama presidency. Key Words: Obama • pragmatism • optimism • pessimism • community • rhetoric • political philosophy.
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DOI 10.1177/0048393109332453
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