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

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  78 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 Americ ...more
ebook, 344 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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James Klagge
Apparently this book started life as an article, and was expanded to a book. It could have remained an article as there was considerable repetition. It gives a thorough account of Obama's influences from his education and reading, and places him in the landscape of political philosophy. It is impressive and enlightening. The weakest part seemed to me to be his discussion of Obama's philosophical influences--but since I am a philosopher, it was perhaps easiest to see the flaws there. There were a ...more
Jack Townsend
Outstanding insight into Obama.
Ray Johns
James T Kloppenberg has done an excellent job at explaining the philosophical outlook of our 44th President Barack Obama. Obama's great faith in the American political system lies in his understanding of liberalism(both classical and positive) and the development of our unique democratic republic. Liberalism takes and absorbs two different sets of belief , one that man is perpetually in an uneasy, mostly peaceful state of nature and two there always exists a plurality of legitimate forms of the ...more
Stuart
I loved this book. I've read a lot of Presidential biographies but have avoided biographies of Presidents after Ford. A lot of contemporary political biographies seem either to be books that fawn on their subject or are hit-jobs.

Instead Kloppenberg's "Reading Obama" is an intellectual history not a biography. This book is for you if you really want to understand how our current President thinks. It draws on his influences from the civil rights era, the Founding Fathers, Progressive era, Reconstr
...more
Lanier
June 22, 2011 page 200

Primarily, Kloppenberg’s book (and I dare anyone to say that phrase seven times fast with a mouth full of grapes) reiterates the personal, scientific, philosophical, economic, spiritual and legal reasons behind Obama’s unyielding desire to open lines of discourse, especially with those we disagree with, in order to form the truest sense of democracy through compromise many of the Founding Fathers intended. Kloppenberg’s evidence logically illustrates Obama’s growth in these
...more
Alex Templeton
I would first off like to state that saying "I really liked this book" is not synonymous with "I recommend you go out and read this book!" It took me weeks to finish this book, as it was so dense and intellectual that I decided to take fiction breaks in between parts in order to refresh my reading brain. Indeed, it was the kind of book I wish I had read in college, so someone a lot smarter than I am could explain it fully to me. But! I forced myself through it because I found the central concept ...more
Jack
Philosophy isn't my strong suit, but Kloppenberg, in a very short book, seems to do a fine job of summarizing the important political philosophy strands of the 20th century and how Obama was impacted by those strands. There are a number of interesting points that I took away from this book. First, I think for the first time I have a better understanding of why the President often does what he does and what he believes. With quite a few of Obama's predecessors, it wasn't so hard to determine what ...more
William Ramsay
This is not a book I would have chosen - it was a gift. But it turns out I enjoyed it very much. Kloppenberg is the chair of the history department at Harvard. The intent of the book is to understand how Obama thinks and why he thinks the way he does. Of course, the focus of the book is the president, but most if it, and indeed the best part, deals with the turmoil of thought that broiled around Harvard when Obama was a student there. The law department and philosophy departments were wrestling ...more
Will Hornbeck
This book reads way too much into The Audacity of Hope. Don't get me wrong: The Audacity of Hope is a great book, much better than any campaign extended-think-piece I've ever read, and clearly reflecting Obama's nuanced political philosophy that made him so downright interesting. But Kloppenberg's overwrought analysis of each word and its roots in the Western philosophy canon reminds me of the EB White quote: "Explaining a joke [or Obama's philosophy] is like dissecting a frog. You understand it ...more
Linda
This is an excellent, scholarly analysis of the background, education and ideas of
President Obama. Chapter 1 discusses his family and his upbringing, the different ideas
and beliefs that he learned. Chapter 2 is an erudite discussion of pragmatic philosophy
and law school trends, that i found hard to understand. Chapter 3 is the best, a discussion
of his ideas about American history, the Constitution, Lincoln and more. I found especially
interesting the influence of LIncoln who had to balance
...more
Dan Gorman
Essentially a very long interpretative essay, this book situates President Obama in the context of his legal and philosophical education, and then links the man's ideas to greater trends in American political thought. Prof. Kloppenberg makes a good case for Mr. Obama as being a product of William James and John Dewey's pragmatist tradition. The book is structured impeccably, like the best academic texts - in the introduction, Kloppenberg maps out the central theme of each chapter, and the rest o ...more
Zina
Really thought-provoking account of Obama's "political sensibilities." It was well-written and engaging, and I felt like I learned a fair amount about political theory in general as well as the particular amalgamation of theories to which Obama subscribes (according to Kloppenberg, at least). It was written about a year after Obama took office, so I'd be curious what Kloppenberg would have to say now about how the President is doing. My one complaint was that the book was mostly unabashedly favo ...more
Laura
A short but dense and fairly academic analysis of Barack Obama's books and speeches, as well as his earlier work on the Harvard Law Review, and how they point to his understanding and embrace of philosophical pragmatism. There is in-depth discussion of the works of numerous philosophers and other academics past and present, as well as many of the professors who taught Obama during his college and law school years. An interesting read. At the very least, it should provide a new perspective for th ...more
Laura
I always find it curious when people say they have trouble figuring out what President Obama stands for or that he is a "blank slate". Having followed him pretty closely for 2.5 years, I find him remarkably consistent in his positions and his methods for achieving his goals. If you are one of the confused ones, however, you should read this book as it examines Obama's political and intellectual philosophy, as set out in his writings and speeches, and places it in the larger context of American p ...more
Jackie
Kloppenberg effectively uses Barack Obama as a case study for understanding pragmatism, and provides a clear yet concise summary of the major pragmatist thinkers throughout American history in the process. Read as a philosophy of pragmatism, this book is amazing and is very easy to read compared to many of the alternatives. Read as a political narrative, this book is heavily biased, but still provides interesting insight to the mind of the President of the United States.
Josh
The book serves as a nice scholarly antidote to the bizarre alternative narrative peddled by Dinesh D'Souza in his documentary film on Obama last year. While academic in tone and repetitive at times, the book does a good job tying together the disparate philosophies that came to influence our current president. Recommended reading for those on the left who may be dismayed by Obama's tendency to compromise even when it appears he has all the leverage on his side.
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
BARACK OBAMA, though he is evidently thoughtful and intellectually capable, is not usually considered a man of ideas. In contrast to a policy wonk such as Bill Clinton or an ideological standard-bearer such as Ronald Reagan, Obama has never even brandished a distinct political philosophy.Read more...
John
What you would expect from a Harvard intellectual historian. Kloppenberg makes the case that the primary reason for Obama's almost pathological insistence on compromise is his imbibing of philosophical pragmatism. A review of the major intellectual influences on one of our most intellectual presidents from his days at Occidental and Columbia to Harvard Law.
Kristina Klausser
It took me quite a while to get through this one. While very interesting, it's also very heavy, sometimes very academic reading. There wasn't really anything new or surprising here but it does give some insight into President Obama's way of thinking and his experience in college, law school, etc.
Heather
This book places Obmama within the context of the philosophers that he encountered through his studies. This is an interesting look at the past and present ideas that have influenced his thinking.
Craig
A very insightful analysis the intellectual traditions that have nurtured Obama's though. Reads very briskly without sacrificing the quality of its inquiry.
Margaret
not a page turner exactly but so so interesting. i now want to read tons of books about pragmatism, which will likely be really boring. oh well.
Marisa
Erudite and insightful at places, but also unnecessarily long-winded and repetitive.
Jeff
Boring analysis, probably written as a textbook for his class, didn't finish it.
Joan
Oct 27, 2010 Joan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
great review; can't wait to get and read it !
Kim
Kim marked it as to-read
May 21, 2015
Jane Hong
Jane Hong marked it as to-read
May 19, 2015
Menh Saroeurn
Menh Saroeurn marked it as to-read
Apr 30, 2015
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