'Don't Kick the Habit'

A Taylorian Critique of Rorty’s Achieving Our Country

in Theoria
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In his Theoria 97 (June 2001: 23-40) assessment of Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, Fred Dallmayr agrees that Rorty’s criticism of the contemporary Left in America is necessary, that the Left has indeed lost the momentum that in previous years so impacted American society. He further agrees with Rorty that there is an important distinction to be made between the old-guard ‘reformist’ Left and the new orthodoxy of ‘cultural’ Leftism. Dallmayr argues, however, that Rorty’s critique is unbalanced, and is unfairly biased against the ‘cultural’ Left, despite the occasional conciliatory statement. He argues further that there is something worrying in the style of American pride that Rorty is promoting. In particular, argues Dallmayr, it seems to ignore the fact that in the contemporary world national boundaries can no longer be sharply defined, and the narrow form of national pride that Rorty seems to espouse can be a destructive force in the interwoven international community. Undoubtedly, Dallmayr makes some telling points against Rorty’s position in what is a thoughtful and well-crafted response. There is, however, more to be said, and I wish in this paper to add to Dallmayr’s critique, working from within the philosophical framework provided by Charles Taylor.1 I will also consider the attempt, made by Gary Gutting, to overcome some of the shortcomings of Rorty’s pragmatism by drawing on aspects of Taylor’s philosophy.


A Journal of Social and Political Theory