On Obama

By Paul C. Taylor

© 2016 – Routledge

134 pages

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pub: 2015-11-11
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About the Book

On Obama examines some of the key philosophical questions that accompany the historic emergence of the 44th US president. The purpose of this book is to take seriously the once common thought that the Obama presidency had ushered in a post-historical age. Three questions organize the argument of the book: What’s living and dead in the idea of post-racialism? Did Mr. Obama’s preference for problem-solving over ideological warfare mark him not just as a post-partisan figure but as a philosophical pragmatist? Did the US become post-imperial when the descendants of slaves and of British imperial subjects inhabited the White House? In addition to taking up these questions, the book considers Mr. Obama’s own relationship to the post-historical idea and explores the ethical implications of certain ways of entertaining that idea.


"In this work of nuanced complexity, Taylor reminds us that at its best philosophy is a supreme form of cultural criticism aimed at both slowing and making visible the currents of thought defining the eras in which we live. With that in mind, he turns his attention and ours to President Obama as the embodied nexus of both racism and racialism and our desire to move beyond both. This is not fast food, but a slow cooked meal with ideas that are fresh, deliciously rewarding and satisfying."

Noliwe M. Rooks, Cornell University, USA

"With dusk having descended on the ‘Age of Obama,’ the owl of Minerva brilliantly takes flight in Paul Taylor’s scrupulous, deep thinking, and richly insightful essay on a presidency widely believed to be ‘post-historical.’ On Obama is publically engaged philosophy at its best: analytically astute and gracefully written, it invites us to take seriously the intellectual impulses behind the idea that the Obama presidency has been a genuine harbinger of ‘change.’"

Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia University, USA

"The Obama presidency calls out for serious philosophical reflection. With intelligence and eloquence, wit and wisdom, Paul Taylor has answered. In this thoughtful, wide-ranging, and accessible meditation on the historical and normative significance of Obama, he pushes us to think more honestly about race, pragmatism, and empire at this unexpected moment when the most powerful political leader in the world is black."

Tommie Shelby, Harvard University, USA

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Post-Historical Presidency 1. On Post-Racialism: The President as Racial Project 2. On Post-Partisanship: The President as Pragmatist 3. On Post-Imperialism: The World’s Moses, America’s Zipporah 4. Conclusion: The End of the End

About the Author

Paul C. Taylor teaches philosophy and African American studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA.

About the Series

Thinking in Action

'Three of the first batch deserve high praise: On Immigration and Refugees, by the great logician (and campaigner for racial equality) Michael Dummett; On Belief, by that master of postmodern paradox, Slavoj Zizek; and On the Internet by Hubert L Dreyfus.' - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

This is clearly an important series. I look forward to reading future volumes.' - Frank Kermode, author of Shakespeare's Language

Both rigorous and accessible.' - Humanist News

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Thinking in Action
is a major series that takes philosophy to its public. Each book in the series is written by a major international philosopher or thinker, engages with an important contemporary topic, and is clearly and accessibly written. The series informs and sharpens debate on topics as wide ranging as the internet, religion, the problem of immigration and refugees and the way we think about science. Punchy, short, and stimulating, Thinking in Action is an indispensable series of books for anyone who wants to think seriously about major issues confronting us today.

Edited by Simon Critchley, New School University, USA and Richard Kearney, Boston College, USA

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Political
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies