Filling in the missing spaces left by traditional textbooks on American political thought, Reconsidering American Political Thought uses race, gender, and ethnicity as a lens through which to engage ongoing debates on American values and intellectual traditions. Weaving document-based texts analysis with short excerpts from classics in American literature, this book presents a re-examination of the political and intellectual debates of consequence throughout American history.
Purposely beginning the story in 1619, Saladin Ambar reassesses the religious, political, and social histories of the colonial period in American history. Thereafter, Ambar moves through the story of America, with each chapter focusing on a different era in American history up to the present day. Ambar threads together analysis of periods including Thomas Jefferson’s aspiration to create an "Empire of Liberty," the ethnic, racial, and gender-based discourse instrumental in creating a "Yankee" industrial state between 1877 and 1932, and the intellectual, cultural, and social forces that led to the political rise of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama in recent decades. In closing, Ambar assesses the prospects for a new, more invigorated political thought and discourse to reshape and redirect national energies and identity in the Trump presidency.
Reconsidering American Political Thought presents a broad and subjective view about critical arguments in American political thought, giving future generations of students and lecturers alike an inclusive understanding of how to teach, research, study, and think about American political thought.
Table of Contents
1. Colonial Legacies: 1619-1763
2. Revolution and Order: 1763-1800
3. Democracy and the Empire of Liberty: 1800-1850
4. Fracture and Reunion: 1850-1877
5. The New American State: 1877-1932
6. Redefining Rights: 1932-1980
7. Neo-Conservatism and Superpower: 1980-2010
Saladin Ambar is Associate Professor of Political Science and Senior Scholar at the Center on the American Governor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. He is the author of How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and Malcolm X at Oxford Union: Racial Politics in a Global Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which was nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for best non-fiction book by an African American author. Ambar's most recent book, American Cicero: Mario Cuomo and the Defense of American Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 2017), is the first to examine the entire political career of former New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo. Ambar's research interests include the American presidency, American political development, American political thought, and race and ethnic politics.
"Scholars, students, and everyone else seeking to understand US political thought will be swept up by Saladin Ambar’s retelling of the American story. Reconsidering American Political Thought is populated by a familiar cast of characters and yet is refreshing and original in its recentering of figures whose voices have been erased or relegated to footnotes in similar texts. Ambar’s writing sparkles, his editorial choices are incisive, and the narrative his text spins from these choices soars." — Elizabeth F. Cohen, Professor of Political Science, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
"Composed with clarity and verve, this refreshingly inclusive treatment of American political thought places race and gender at the center, from which they had been marginalized far too long. By inviting students into the realm of ideas as shaping, and shaped by, historical development, the book offers a deep reconsideration and a model of learned revision." — Ira I. Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University
"Saladin Ambar’s work, Reconsidering American Political Thought, is an impressive weaving together of variegated strands of four centuries of American political thinking and understanding. This book is able to do something that is quite rare: putting all facets of political thought into sustained dialogue and positioning that dialogue within a nuanced and inclusive understanding of American political history and development. Political rhetoric, art, literature, music are all engaged and placed into encounters with each other – showing how so many different dimensions of American political thought influenced and reflected each other over the course of the history of the north American continent, at least since Europeans arrived on these shores, and since the first enslaved individuals were forcibly brought to these same shores. This is a brilliant, thoughtful, and deeply researched exploration of not only American political thought, but ultimately what that thought teaches about the people, the governmental system, and the future of this vast continent." — Lilly J. Goren, Professor of Political Science, Carroll University, Waukesha, WI.
"A dazzling book that reconsiders America itself. Ambar broadens our gaze by adding race and gender perspectives to the great sweep of American thinking. He broadens it further by placing literature, history, religion, and national myth alongside the familiar thinkers. The result is a bold, essential, elegant, fascinating, fresh, subversive way to read the United States and its peoples." — James A Morone, John Hazen White Professor of Political Science, Public Policy, and Urban Studies, Brown University
"Ideas jump off the page in this beautifully written and artfully conceived text of political theory written for all of us. Starting from a different vantage point, Ambar conveys with flair the continuing relevance of political theory in diverse democracy." — Jane Yunhee Junn, Professor of Political Science, USC