Saturday, February 20, 2010

Power with Purpose: Obama and Pragmatism

Obama's pragmatism has provoked a good deal of criticism. Much of it rehearses old philosophical prejudices or conflates "pragmatism" in the philosophical sense with "pragmatism" in the everyday political sense - the sense that equates it with opportunistic and unprincipled political realism.

If you want some background within which to situate Obama's approach, you might like to take a look at my new book: The New Pragmatism (Acumen (UK) & McGill-Queen's University Press (US)). It tries to explain in clear and accessible terms how pragmatism offers just the kind of social hope that Obama constantly invokes. And, for a quick take on what pragmatism can offer in politics without encouraging a wishy-washy approach, one that lacks deep convictions, see pp.116-118.


  1. Hi Alan,
    I am a pragmatist who's written on Rorty as well and am trying to order your book for our library. Is it a revised edition of the 2006 book with that title? Anyway, we need to get a hold of it! SAAP recently had a plenary session on Obama's pragmatism, by the way:
    Thanks for your writings and your blog! You can find me at

  2. Love the book! Wrote a short review on my new blog (which is in Norwegian).

  3. Hi Kenneth,
    Thanks very much for your generous comments. Please keep in touch.

    very best wishes, Alan