The following article is a review of three recent books on social and political philosophy by the American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty. This review is something of an Epilogue, or sixth chapter, to my book, Richard Rorty's Politics: Liberalism at the end of the American Century. It appears here in print for the first time.



A Review of Three Recent Books by Richard Rorty

Copyright 2003 by Markar Melkonian



Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies. Richard Rorty, Derek Nystrom, and Kent PuckettChicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2002.

Philosophy and Social Hope. Richard Rorty. London and New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America. Richard Rorty. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 1998.


The three books under review are all recent works about America’s Promise, and they all address an audience larger than the Modern Language Association’s mailing list. Achieving Our Country was adapted from Rorty’s 1997 Massey Lectures at Harvard University. The book takes its title from a line in James Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time, and it takes as its subject the life and health of an alleged constituency that Rorty calls “the American left.” The second book, Philosophy and Social Hope, consists of previously published articles and lectures on a number of topics, including the public/private split, liberal education and citizenship, pragmatism and law, religious tolerance, and the politics of identity. One of the most interesting essays in the book, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids,” is autobiographical. The third book, Against Bosses, Against Oligarchs consists of a wide-ranging interview with Rorty about politics and his life. At 78 pages, Against Bosses would count as a book by the Library of Congress definition, but it reads more like a pamphlet. Together, these three books--a series of lectures, a collection of essays and an interview--give us a rather depressing picture of Rorty's political trajectory in the years between Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

Throughout the 1980’s, Richard Rorty had been best known as the author of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), a big book about analytic philosophy that probably made a bigger splash in comp lit circles than in philosophy departments. In that book, Rorty urged his readers to “change the subject” from their Cartesian-Kantian preoccupations with the foundations of knowledge, in favor of “continuing the conversation of the West” on any number of useful--that is, non-epistemological--topics.(1) Since the publication of Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity in 1989, though, Rorty has spent less time churning out articles about eliminative physicalism and theories of reference, and more time apologizing (the term is his) for something he has called “bourgeois liberalism.” Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity has appeared in at least twenty-two translations, including Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and other languages of Donald Rumsfeld’s New Europe.

As a good pragmatist following in the footsteps of his hero Irving Howe, Rorty provides not just retrospective redescriptions but also advice and forecasts.(2) In the books under review, he addresses leftists in America who, he says, rightly feel shame for slavery, genocide and conquest. He wants to convince them, though, that their shame should be admixed with pride that they are citizens of a country that has produced people capable of feeling such shame in the first place. In addition to stealth bombers and Enron, America has also produced Emerson, Whitman, and Dewey--writers who embodied two principles that should inspire pride and hope: The unalienable Right of every individual to the pursuit of happiness; and the imperative to ameliorate “unnecessary” suffering and humiliation. “The Left,” which Rorty interestingly defines as “the party of hope,” should once again set itself the task of achieving the America of this promise, the unachieved America of Emerson, Whitman and Dewey. But leftists have no chance of doing so if they continue to fritter their energies on “cultural studies” rather than specific legislation and reform campaigns, and if they continue to dream of sweeping change rather than working for piecemeal reform.

Rorty is a prolific writer, so it is not surprising that his work is uneven. Reviewing his essays written over the past twenty years or so, however, it is striking that he has provided such singularly bad advice for purposes of grasping our time in thought. As late as the late 1980’s, for example, when it was clear to many observers on the left, right and center that the “intractable” regime in the Kremlin was doomed, Rorty wrote that “time seems to be on the Soviet side,” and that “thanks to modern technology,” the “impregnable and ruthless Inner Party” in Moscow could “stay in control forever.”(3) Since then, as we will see, his accuracy has not improved.

Rorty would be the first to warn against literalizing the metaphor of a prediction falling wide of its mark: In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, he makes the case that the world does not contain the sorts of targets that predictions can hit or miss. As a pragmatist, though, he is concerned with the consequences of his beliefs: Accordingly, when forecasts don’t pan out, the relevant beliefs are flawed. In this review, I will suggest that one important reason why Rorty’s descriptions and forecasts have not panned out has to do with his hostility to Marxism.

But if there is a body of beliefs that has disgraced itself in the past twenty years, isn’t it Marxism? Marxists failed to predict key events of the last century, including the ebb of labor militancy in the industrial West, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the global triumph of capitalism. True, Marxists have scored a number of bulls eyes, too: The authors of the Communist Manifesto famously predicted the apotheosis of Free Trade and the rise of the global market, the rise of industrial unionism and working-class parties, and the rapid and spectacular process of capital concentration that is taking place today, hour-by-hour, across the continents. Lenin and Luxemburg foretold escalating imperialist rivalries that would culminate in World War I; other Marxists foresaw the crisis of overproduction that lead to the Great Depression, and Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed remains one of the most prophetic accounts of the demise of Soviet power.

Like most of his colleagues, Rorty ignores these predictive successes and focuses on the failures: Marxism and all putative sciences of society and history, he says, have proven “completely irrelevant to what eventually happened.”(4) For decades, the scribes and academics have had a good time ridiculing silly pronouncements about “iron laws of history,” and they’ve been able to cite inaccurate predictions on all sorts of topics by even the most thoughtful Marxists. By the 1990’s it was unanimous: History had repudiated Marx. Opponents of Marxism--including many former Marxists--declared that if political power had ever come through the barrel of a gun, it no longer did. A new, multi-polar world had emerged in or around 1991, a bright world where Information, Technology and Free Trade were the keys to peace and prosperity, and America, the Hope of the Nations, no longer needed to bare its teeth because it had defeated that singularly Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. Class rule had given way to the rule of law; the rising tide of Free Trade would lift all boats, and conflicts among nations would henceforth be resolved “non-ideologically,” with the application of the right technology. A couple of months before the high-tech bubble burst, Newsweek announced that Communism was dead, replaced by “Dot-Com -ism.”

A funny thing happened, though, in the years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the construction of Sharon’s wall through the Holy Land: On point after point on which there had been a nearly unanimous consensus that Marxists had been wrong, it turns out that they were right after all—and it turns out that their celebrated, syndicated and well-remunerated opponents had been dead wrong. From Korea to Iraq to Venezuela, there is a rising suspicion that the magical invocations of Democracy and Freedom have served one overriding process: capital accumulation. The gap between rich and poor has grown, both globally and within the United States, even as productivity has soared.(5) The George W. Bush Administration and Congress demonstrate daily that “the rule of law” is but a scrim for class rule, and that the government is indeed little more than the executive committee of Corporate America. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon have demonstrated that their far-flung military interventions have had nothing to do with defending freedom against Soviet aggression. After the meltdown in the Pacific Rim, a deep global recession and the example of Argentina, the least one can say is that Marxism is not “completely irrelevant to what eventually happened,” after all. Meanwhile, the champions of “small government,” privatization, swollen military budgets, and Homeland Security have brought America’s state institutions into ever closer conformity with Engels’ stark picture of a group of armed men.

Since so few scribes and gazetteers have yet excreted stories that acknowledge these developments, Rorty can still get away with advice such as the following: “I think we should abandon the leftist-versus-liberal distinction, along with the residues of Marxism that clutter up our vocabulary—overworked words like 'commodification' and 'ideology,' for example."(6) Because this sentence encapsulates several of the main themes of the books under review, it deserves closer scrutiny. The balance of this review will address the leftist-versus-liberal distinction, and Rorty’s advice that “we” purge our vocabularies of Marxism.

I’ve discussed Rorty’s opposition to Ideologiekritik elsewhere, and I won’t repeat that discussion here.(7) So let us turn first to his objection to the word commodification. To avoid the charge of scholasticism, it seems we must avoid using this word when discussing such topics as: intellectual property rights; the buying and selling of a burgeoning array of services; the privatization of schools, utilities, healthcare services, and prisons; the internet as an immense catalogue and auction block; licensing fees for medical procedures; and commercial patents on forms of life. (Chances are, we have not seen the last of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “creative” plan, in collaboration with two private companies, for a futures market in assassinations, coups, and terrorist strikes, either.) To an innocent observer, it might seem more than passing strange that, at a time when commodification has become more extensive and intensive than earlier generations had ever imagined, Rorty advises us not to discuss the process.

But who is this “us”? Corporate America’s scribes and gazetteers have abstained from talk about commodification for as long as they’ve been around. Fish must not speak of water. Rorty wants the ban to be total, though: No discussion of commodification at all, not even in the several journals with four-digit subscription lists where the word has heretofore appeared. As with the word commodification, so also with the words imperialism, capitalism, exploitation, and so on. And all of this from a writer who assures us that he wants the crust of convention to be as thin as possible. (Apparently, Rorty himself has found it difficult to follow his own advice on this point: A few months after warning his readers of the danger of “Marxist scholasticism,” he could not resist observing that, by employing so many adjunct teachers, universities increasingly “commodify academic labor.”)(8)

Rorty is allergic to “Marxism,” this much is clear. “For us Americans,” he writes, “it is important not to let Marxism influence the story we tell about our own left.”(9) But surely he is aware that even the “mainstream social sciences” owe a great deal to Marx. So perhaps he intends here to endorse the standard solution to this problem, which consists in borrowing from Marx wantonly but without acknowledging the debt.

Appropriately enough, Rorty has offered bad reasons to take his bad advice: “We” should abandon Marxism, he says, because it is “covered with filth because of the marks of the governments that have called themselves Marxists”(10) It does not seem to have occurred to him to examine the marks of the governments that have called themselves democracies. I will not belabor the point for readers of Richard Rorty's Politics; suffice it to say that if by the end of the Twentieth Century the Stalinists who called themselves Marxists were up to their knees in filth, then the self-described democrats were up to their chins in it. And the latter tide of filth continues to rise in the Twenty-First Century, from Serbia to Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Columbia, Palestine, and beyond. If one were to apply Rorty’s reasoning consistently, then, one should condemn democracy in all its forms long before one condemns Marxism.

And then there is the argumentum ad populum: “My anti-communist side of the argument,” Rorty says, “gets a lot of support from leftists in central and eastern Europe.”(11) Rorty’s friends in central and eastern Europe appear to have had a greater impact on him than on their own grandchildren--conspicuously many of whom showed up in Prague under fluttering red banners in December 2002, to toss rocks at NATO conferees. As for Rorty’s opposite numbers in Russia, perhaps these several loquacious Russians have been so busy attending international conferences that they have escaped the stammering anti-American rage of their impoverished compatriots.

The problem of Rorty’s opposition to Marxism is further complicated by the fact that, evidently and by his own admission, he is not very familiar with the subject.(12) He has known his share of Marxists, though, including Sidney Hook and other CCNY cafeteria disputants. Then there was the editor of the University of Chicago student newspaper who received “Moscow gold” in exchange for his subversive services, and the hippie-types who sang “Yellow Submarine” at a protest and spelled America with a “k.”(13)

In part because of his bad experiences with Marxists, Rorty hopes that “movement politics” has seen its day, replaced forever by campaigns for piecemeal reforms.(14) “Membership in a movement required the ability to see particular campaigns for particular goals as parts of something much bigger, and as having little meaning in themselves,” he writes.(15) Against this view, he urges his readers to see both cultural and political history as “a tissue of chances, mischances, and lost chances—a tissue from which, occasionally and briefly, beauty flashes forth, but to which sublimity is entirely irrelevant.”(16) Admittedly, the Civil Rights movement and the New Left did achieve their goals of expanding life options for African-Americans and stopping the war in Vietnam. But the excesses of the New Left fed into a disastrous rightwing backlash that has yet to subside and that contributed to the self-exile of leftists from the public square. Today, leftists who really want to change things for the better “should get back into the business of piecemeal reform within the framework of a market economy.”(17) Thanks to widespread recognition of this fact, “Movement politics” has seen its day.

Once again, though, events have rapidly outrun Rorty’s claims. The long, swift march from Seattle to Porto Alegre has brought together a broad array of environmental, labor, student, and human rights groups from dozens of countries. Meanwhile, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, new and even broader coalitions have formed--coalitions that have mobilized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators not only in London, Madrid, and Seoul, but in New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco, too. After the record-breaking demonstrations and rallies of early 2003 (including half a million demonstrators on the Capitol Mall in DC on January 18, 2003), even Newsweek subscribers should bristle at Rorty’s suggestion that “movement politics” has seen its day. The anti-war coalitions might never merge with the anti-globalization groups to form a sustainable institutional presence, but none other than Henry Kissinger himself has already provided the slogan for connecting their concerns: “Globalization,” Kissinger famously quipped, “is really another name for the dominant role of the United States.”

One of the main themes of the books under review is that leftists who want to change things for the better should wave the Stars and Stripes. “National pride,” Rorty writes, “is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition of self-improvement.”(18) If one sidesteps obvious misgivings about ascribing psychological states such as pride to nations, then this formulation sounds like a malicious spoof of progressive education: if Johnny is a thug and a bully on the playground, it’s because of his low self-esteem. So the most urgent task at hand is to help Johnny with his self-esteem problem. First comes self-esteem, and then comes achievement.

Fortunately, Rorty has restated his advice in a way that skirts such extraneous objections: “[U]nless the left wraps itself in the flag,” he writes, “it hasn’t got a chance of practicing a majoritarian politics.”(19) This advice might be useful enough as far as it goes, but Rorty’s anguish about the lack of patriotism on “the Left” might strike some observers as unwarranted. True, Bernardine Dohrn, Fred Hampton, and the several professors of Humanities whom Rorty groups together as the Cultural Left never doffed straw hats and held hands during a chorus of God Bless America. But consider the anti-war demonstrators who poured into Union Square, the Capitol Mall, San Francisco’s financial district, and the streets of a dozen other U.S. cities in February 2003: One need only peruse the archives at the websites of International ANSWER, the Coalition for World Peace or for evidence that these throngs wrapped themselves in Red, White and Blue and hoisted high the slogan “Support Our Troops—Bring Them Home.” Despite the small but photogenic contingents of window smashers, the protesters’ message was one that Rorty should recognize: America must live up to its promise. So if Rorty wanted to, he could take solace in the fact that patriotism continues to reverberate among left-wingers.

If Bush and Company have succeeded in portraying the opponents of their latest romp in Iraq as America-hating dupes of Saddam Hussein, this probably has had less to do with the convictions and slogans of the anti-war forces themselves than with the fact that Chief Executives and the corporate-owned media have enormously greater resources with which to frame and control public discourse. At times, Rorty comes close to acknowledging that the mantle of patriotism is just one more stake of the class struggle: “Competition for political leadership,” he writes, “is in part a competition between differing stories about a nation’s self-identity, and between differing symbols of its greatness.”(20) But he never considers the possibility that the image of the America-hating leftist might be more a result of the weakness of “the Left” than a cause of it. It might be just one instance among innumerable instances of leftists failing to get their message across to a large audience.

Still, Rorty might have a good point when he writes that:

Those who hope to persuade a nation to exert itself need to remind their country of what it can take pride in as well as what it should be ashamed of. They must tell inspiring stories about episodes and figures in the nations’ past—episodes and figures to which the country should remain true.(21)

The really momentous question, though, is not whether Americans should have heroes, but rather who those heroes should be. Workers and dissidents in the United States have always had their own heroes--their Daniel Shays’s, John Brown’s and Frederick Douglass’s, their Big Bill Haywood’s and Joe Hill’s, their Mother Jones’s, Tom Mooney’s, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s, Malcolm X’s and Angela Davis’s.

Rorty, of course, has his own slate of favorite stories and symbols. To put the point too succinctly: He wants to combine Howard Zinn’s list of heroes, minus the most immoderate opponents of exploitation and genocide, together with Peter H. Gibbon’s pantheon (derived, perhaps, from his predictably over-praised paean, A Call to Heroism), minus the John D. Rockefellers and the Norman Swarzkopf types. Rorty explicitly wants to shove Eugene Debs onto the same pedestal with his jailer, Woodrow Wilson. But Wilson and many of Rorty’s other heroes, too, including Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, make their appearance as villains in A People’s History of the United States. The example of Rorty’s “part-time liberal,” Woodrow Wilson, will serve to illustrate a broader point here: The twenty-eighth president of the United States was a Klan promoter who dispatched federal troops to club striking miners in Colorado after the Ludlow massacre and who joined the slaughter in the “the War to End All Wars.” Wilson was also the bombardier of Veracruz, the invader of Haiti and Santo Domingo, a backer of the Espionage Act (1917), the Sedition Act (1918) and the Palmer Raids (1919), and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles.

If one were to remind Rorty or Gibbons of this rather unequivocal record, they might protest that one cannot expect purity from one’s heroes. One does not have to expect purity, though, to prefer Lenin to Wilson. Lenin fought tooth and nail for the self-determination of nations long before Wilson took up the slogan for which authors of high school textbooks today give him full credit. Wilson dispatched thousands of farm boys and sons of the working class to the killing fields in Europe, while Lenin put an end to the carnage on the Russian front. True, Lenin and the Bolsheviks abridged civil liberties in Russia during a desperate civil war; but Wilson abridged civil liberties in the United States for the sake of a war on the far side of an ocean. Lenin’s Red Army never stepped foot on U.S. territory, whereas Wilson’s army invaded Russia.

Debs admired Lenin as much as he admired Whitman. Rorty wants to drive a wedge between Debs and Lenin and to superglue Debs together with Wilson. But this contrivance is every bit as implausible as the claim that Tony Blair ever was an exemplary leftist,(22) or that the CIA was composed in part of “leftist good guys who used the taxpayers’ money to finance what Christopher Lasch was to describe disdainfully as the ‘Cultural Cold War’.”(23) The very fact that Rorty feels compelled to engage in this miserable exercise speaks volumes against his wish to smudge the leftist-versus-liberal distinction.

To Rorty, America is a nation-state that has been waylaid by “a global overclass which makes all the major economic decisions, and makes them in entire independence of the legislatures, and a fortiori of the will of the voters, of any given country.”(24) It would be easy, of course, to custom-tailor a definition of “America” that would make it a victim of globalization.(25) But it is difficult to imagine any definition of America that would make it both a victim of globalization and at the same time a “community of communities,” in Dewey’s sense of the term: If America is a community of communities, then its imperial or imperialist character must in some way be tied up with its common purposes, its shared interests, its ethnos.

At one point, Rorty acknowledges Christopher Lasch’s claim that “the United States of the mid-twentieth century might better be described as an empire than as a community.”(26) Two sentences later, though, he dismisses that claim with something that sounds a lot like an argumentum ad misercordiam: “For if you turn out to be living in an evil empire (rather than, as you had been told, a democracy fighting an evil empire), then you have no responsibility to your country; you are accountable only to humanity.” At the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, this is a hard sell, even—or especially!—for some of the most vocal apologists for American power. From the pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to the podia of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Project for a New American Century, the scribes and gazetteers now extol “American imperial ambition,” “the United States as a full-fledged global empire,” America’s “full-spectrum dominance,” and “U.S. military and economic domination of every region of the globe, unfettered by international treaties or consensus.” “The American Empire,” Michael Ignatieff announced in the title of his piece in the New York Times Magazine of January 2003: “Get Used to It.”

One wonders what Rorty would say if he were to “get used to” the Empire, at least to the extent of letting it register on his story of America. Perhaps he would repeat his advice: “You have to be loyal to a dream country, rather than to the one to which you wake up every morning”:(27) America is a class-divided society, but the America of Rorty’s dreams is classless; America imposes tyranny outside its borders, but the America of his hopes is a beacon of freedom, and so on.

Rorty claims that his classless dream country is the same as that of his Marxist opponents, except that his dream country does not propose to “abolish private property,” as he imagines communists wish to do.(28) But nowhere does he explain how one can have capitalism without capitalist exploitation and class domination. Like Rorty, communists also hope for a classless society in which labor is highly productive. As communists envision things, though, market relations will no longer dominate life, and the state, narrowly conceived as a group of armed men, will cease to exist. (Aside from these negative attributions, communists have typically balked at “writing recipes for the cook shops of the future,” as Marx put it. For this reason, it might be misleading to describe their most distant goal as a dream country.) The communist vision, then, differs greatly from Rorty’s ideal of “a democratic world government,” and from his model for a global civilization—“a bazaar surrounded by private clubs.”(29) Communism and Rorty’s dream country are not the same destination.

Still, it is sad that Rorty’s utopia is evaporating like a mirage. “The whole point of America was that it was going to be the world’s first classless society,” Rorty wrote in 1996, with more than a hint of frustration.(30) Addressing an audience in Brazil that same year, he could not conceal his faltering faith:

My native country has world-historical importance only because it cast itself in the role of vanguard of a global egalitarian utopia. It no longer casts itself in that role, and is therefore in danger of losing its soul. The spirit which animated the writing of Whitman and Dewey is no longer present.(31)

It would seem, then, that Rorty wants his readers to sustain a hope that he himself has trouble sustaining.

The penultimate essay in Philosophy and Social Hope is entitled “Back to Class Politics.”(32) The tone of this short essay--the taut sentences, the emphatic parallel constructions, the repeated us of the imperative--are a sharp contrast to Rorty’s usual glib prose. “Back to Class Politics” contains atypical advice, too: “[W]e should remember that the early history of labour unions in America, as in the rest of the world, is a history of the skulls of strikers being broken by truncheons, decade after decade. We should also realize that those truncheons have recently reappeared…”(33) Rorty’s class-conscious orientation is a recent development. In an earlier unpublished draft of “Movements and Campaigns,” he likened nostalgia for the class struggle to nostalgia for les rois fainéants, the idle kings of pre-republican France; however, in the published version of the paper, the facetious reference to the class struggle has disappeared, and instead we read: “America, the country that was to have witnessed a new birth of freedom, will gradually be divided by class difference of a sort that would have been utterly inconceivable to Jefferson or to Lincoln or to Walt Whitman.”(34)

One need not share Rorty’s faith in the Democratic Party to agree with him that “the spectatorial Left,” multiculturalism and the politics of difference are hopelessly inadequate responses to these enormous and growing class divisions.(35) But ultimately, Rorty’s change of heart about class politics is too little too late, and his allergy to Marxism enfeebles it. After reading the books under review, one might well come away with the feeling that it’s time to change the subject from Richard Rorty’s politics.


--Markar Melkonian




Melkonian, Markar 1999, Richard Rorty’s Politics: Liberalism at the End of the

American Century, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.

Rorty, Richard 1979, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton: Princeton

University Press.

Rorty, Richard 1987, “Thugs and Theorists,” Political Theory 15, no. 4: 564-80.

Rorty, Richard 1989, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Rorty, Richard 1995, “A Spectre Is Haunting the Intellectuals,” European Journal of

Philosophy 3:3 (December 1995): 289-298.



1 Rorty 1979, p. 394.

2 Rorty 1998, p. 115.

3 See the discussion in Melkonian 1999, pp. 105-106.

4 Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, pp. 18-19.

5 Rising productivity and deeper poverty for the majority: This is one of the seeming paradoxes that Marx and Engels described so well. For documentation of the growing gap between rich and poor in the United States, see: Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Heather Boushey, of the Economic Policy Institute, The State of Working America, 2002-2003 (Cornell University Press, 2003). By 1995 at the latest, Rorty was aware of this seeming paradox (Rorty 1999, p. 258).

6 Rorty 1998, p. 42. A note on “clutter”: Darwin, the historicizer of nature, and Marx, the naturalizer of history, made humans part of the same world that physicists, geologists and astronomers describe. Together, these two “obsolete nineteenth century system-builders” enable us to tell long, detailed and ever-changing stories about one particular species of animal on planet Earth. What’s more, they have enabled us to tell these stories elegantly, without recourse to human essences, supernatural agencies, or special modes of “understanding” that have been jerry-rigged for the purpose of separating Man from Nature and teleporting our species outside of time and space. 121 years after Darwin’s death, it is still profoundly un-commonsensical to concede that Homo sapiens is a result of on-going evolutionary change; and 120 years after Marx’s death, it is no less surprising to realize that patterns of social production, appropriation and consumption have also changed thoroughly, and that this change is on-going. For this reason, Marxism most certainly will clutter up “our vocabulary,” if that vocabulary consists of the dominant “social sciences” that Weber and Dewey helped to cobble together. Marxism will clutter up Rorty’s prescribed vocabulary just as assuredly as Darwinism will clutter up the vocabulary of Scientific Creationism.

7 See: Melkonian 1999, pp. 116-124.

8 Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p 41.

9 Rorty 1998, p. 41.

10 Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p. 20.

11 Rorty 1998, p. 57.

12 Refer to the discussion in Melkonian 1999, pp. 164-165n.

13 Moscow Gold: Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p. 4; Yellow Submarine: Rorty 1998, p. 146n; America with a k: Rorty 1998, p. 68.

14 Refer to “Movements and Campaigns,” first published in 1995 and reprinted as an appendix to Achieving Our Country (pp. 111-124).

15 “Movements and Campaigns,” in Rorty 1998, p. 114.

16 Rorty 1998, p. 123.

17 Rorty 1998, p. 105.

18 Rorty 1998, p. 3.

19 Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p. 16.

20 Rorty 1998, p. 4; also see Rorty 1998, p. 146n.

21 Rorty 1998, p. 3.

22 Tony Blair, soon to reveal himself as George W.’s “willing partner” in the Iraq crusade, makes his appearance as a venerable leftist in Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p. 17.

23 Rorty 1998, p. 63.

24 Rorty 1999, p. 233.

25 The picture of America as a victim of globalization appears in Achieving Our Country and in such essays as “Looking Backwards from the Year 2096” (Rorty 1999, pp. 243-251).

26 Rorty 1998, p. 66.

27 Rorty 1998, p. 101.

28 Rorty 1999, pp. 230-231.

29 The ideal and the model both appear at: Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, p. 49.

30 Rorty 1999, p. 259.

31 Rorty 1999, p. 234.

32 The essay was written in 1996 and appeared in the Winter 1997 issue of Dissent, pp. 31-34.

33 Rorty 1999, p. 256.

34 Rorty 1999, p. 259.

35 Refer, for example, to: Rorty 1998, pp. 75ff; Rorty 1999, pp. 252-254; Rorty, Nystrom and Puckett 2002, pp. 21-31.


Aphorism: No such thing as truth? But surely there’s such a thing as being taken for a chump!


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