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Richard Rorty's Plea for a Country Which Assumes
Its Own Existential Responsibility

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: July 7, 1999
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recent Rorty's Achieving Our Country
Link added May 17, 1999
recent Internet Links on Some of Rorty's References
recent Achieving Our Country at External Site

Achieving Our Country

Brief review by Jeanne
April 9, 2000

In May 1999, I managed to pick up a book I'd been wanting for two semesters: Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country. Rorty left the philosophy department where he had spent most of his career to become the University Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia. This book is adapted from Rorty's Massey Lecture of 1997.

Critics (in the New York Review of Books, for example) have accused Rorty of trying to find some kind of liberal enlightenment to which we as a country could aspire. Some also complain that he offers no specific plan of achieving his Leftist goal (See the reviews on I disagree. Rorty is doing very much what we have done when we have spoken in our discussions of major issues that are not nearly resolved enough yet to be translated into our laws. Rorty is speaking of hope, of inspiration, of caring about the project we see as our country. He is speaking of finding the motivation for our identity and our inspiration as a country within our own deeds and actions, those of which we are ashamed, as well as those of which we can and should be proud. He is speaking of our motivation coming from our own communal interdependent discourse on who we are and what we want to become.

In this project, Rorty goes back to Walt Whitman and John Dewey as the poet and philosopers that laid the foundation for this perspective. But he ties their perceptions well and solidly to other philosophers, letting us compare Whitman's and Dewey's dreams and hope to that of Hegel, Heidegger, Foucault, and all the others who have pondered these questions. This makes it a good source for those of us not philosophers, but deeply concerned with these issues.

Mostly, Rorty speaks poignantly of hope. And so we set aside this set of reviews and sources, that he, like Habermas, might lend us that hope.

Internet Links on Some of Rorty's References

recent The Emma Goldman Papers
External Site: Berkeley
Rorty suggests on p. 51 of Achieving Our Country that young people concerned with social justice today need to study the similarities between Susan B. Anthony and Emma Goldman, a young Russian anarchist who migrated to the U.S. and fought for birth control and the right of free speech.
Link added May 17, 1999.

recent Emma Goldman at the Anarchist Archives
Link added on May 17, 1999.

recent The Black Diaspora
Contains information on Bayard Rustin, a Black American civil rights activist.
See also Bayard Rustin at
the Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Rorty discusses need to compare and contrast Bayard Rustin to Malcolm X
on p.51 of Achieving Our Country.
Link added on May 17, 1999.

recent The Pullman Strike
Rorty insists that students looking at
Leftist development must know of the Pullman Strike and the
recentGreat Coalfield War.
George McGovern's book is currently out of stock, but may be republished, and reviews are available on site. Reference: p. 51 of Achieving Our Country.
Link added May 17, 1999.


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