“Richard Rorty on the American Left in the Era of Trump”

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Author: David Rondel1
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This paper revisits some of the arguments in Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, twenty years after the book first appeared. Not only are many of Rorty’s diagnoses and predictions eerily prescient in the wake of the rise of Donald Trump to the US presidency, but there is also perceptive political advice in Rorty’s book that I argue the contemporary American Left would do well to heed. While many post-election commentators have tended to read Achieving Our Country as an admonishment of so-called “identity politics” in favor of an “old Left” politics of redistribution and economic justice, I argue that the main distinction on which the analysis in Achieving Our Country hangs is between what Rorty calls “real politics” and “cultural politics”, a conclusion that is confirmed, I argue, by examining the three concrete suggestions for the American Left that together form the core positive argument in Rorty’s book.

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