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THE BIG PICTURE AND THE CLOSEUP: TWO PERSPECTIVES ON CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY*

  • PAUL S. BOYER (a1)
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1 Rodgers does note a key qualification that Nozick built into his theory: if the original distribution of goods violates free-market principles—as in a slave society—then all that follows is unjust as well. At this point in Nozick's system, Rodgers observes, “history brought logic to a stop” (190).

2 Rodgers, Daniel T., Contested Truths: Keywords in American Politics since Independence (New York, 1987).

3 On this point, see the reviews of Age of Fracture by Michael O'Brien (Times Literary Supplement, 29 July 2011, 8–9); and Lisa Szefel in the History News Network website, HNN, 24 Feb. 2011; and the follow-up discussion in the blog of the Society for US Intellectual History, 4 March 2011, at http://us-intellectual-history.blogspot.com/2011/03/szefel-on-age-of-fracture.html. These reviews came to my notice after my own was essentially completed.

4 By contrast, Rodgers's Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (New York, 1987) is a pathbreaking cross-cultural study. On this point, too, see Michael O'Brien's TLS review.

5 Quoted in Dumenil, Lynn, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York, 1995), 11.

6 Returning later to the differences between “vulgar” and “philosophical” pragmatism, Kloppenberg notes that sometimes “it can be hard to distinguish in practice between the two” (193).

7 A comparison of how each author treats Rawls's work would make an intriguing assignment for a graduate historiography seminar.

8 David Greenberg, “Hope, Change, Nietzsche,” in “The Book: An Online Review of The New Republic,” 26 May 2011, at www.tnr.com/book/review/reading-obama-james-kloppenberg?page=0,1. This review, too, came to my attention only as I completed final revisions of this essay.

9 Scott, Janny, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother (New York, 2011).

10 Obama, Barack, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York, 1995), 27–8, 47, 48.

11 Comments one participant in an online discussion of Reading Obama, “It was so dense and intellectual that I decided to take fiction breaks in order to refresh my reading brain.”

* My thanks to Charles Capper and Ann Boyer for their helpful critical readings of earlier drafts of this review.

** Sadly, on 17 March 2012, several months after he delivered this review essay, Paul Boyer passed away.

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
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