Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Barack Obama. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
New York: Crown Publishers, 2006

Reviewed by T. Hatch

Written with one eye towards an impending presidential campaign The Audacity of Hope is in many ways a testament to Barack Obama's traditionalism. Rather than casting the Senator from Illinois as sui generis even a cursory perusal of this book belies notions of Obama's political uniqueness and originality. With particular attention to chapter eight i.e. “The World Beyond Our Borders” is illustrative of this point. In Weberian terminology Obama may inspire charismatically but his real metier is that of a traditional appeal to well established values.

Chapter eight is largely about Obama's interpretation of the Cold War. It reads something like a high school textbook in that the actions of messrs. Truman, Acheson, Marshall, and Kennan were a heroic response to Soviet expansionism. They were at the center of the design of the post World War II world order which, had by necessity, the US government in a starring role. Obama maintains that the security situation in 2008 is much different than it was in the halcyon days of the Cold War. Although, it seems that this argument is either naïve or disingenuous. Other than the departure of the US government's erstwhile partner in global management the same national security paradigm, albeit with the US as the headlining hegemon, remains firmly in place. Obama's political weltanschauung is quintessentially that of a Cold War liberal.

Unlike the author of the felicitous locution “audacity of hope” Obama does not use words like “oppression” and “imperialism” when describing the past or present role of the US government in the world. Jeremiah Wright unconstrained by electoral strictures is free to “say what a pastor says” and engage in the subversive activity of truth telling. The prophetic tradition of truth telling (and enraging the complacent ones) is neither an effective means of fetching votes nor is it in Barack Obama's nature to seek out confrontation.

Burling 2nd floor E901.1.O23 A3 2006

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