The Ethics of Identity
Author: Kwame Anthony Appiah
Race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality: in the past couple of decades, a great deal of attention has been paid to such collective identities. They clamor for recognition and respect, sometimes at the expense of other things we value. But to what extent do "identities" constrain our freedom, our ability to make an individual life, and to what extent do they enable our individuality? In this beautifully written work, renowned philosopher and African Studies scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah draws on thinkers through the ages and across the globe to explore such questions.
The Ethics of Identity takes seriously both the claims of individualitythe task of making a lifeand the claims of identity, these large and often abstract social categories through which we define ourselves.
What sort of life one should lead is a subject that has preoccupied moral and political thinkers from Aristotle to Mill. Here, Appiah develops an account of ethics, in just this venerable sensebut an account that connects moral obligations with collective allegiances, our individuality with our identities. As he observes, the question who we are has always been linked to the question what we are.
Adopting a broadly interdisciplinary perspective, Appiah takes aim at the cliches and received ideas amid which talk of identity so often founders. Is "culture" a good? For that matter, does the concept of culture really explain anything? Is diversity of value in itself? Are moral obligations the only kind there are? Has the rhetoric of "human rights" been overstretched? In the end, Appiah's arguments make it harder to think of the world as divided between the West and the Rest; between locals and cosmopolitans; between Us and Them. The result is a new vision of liberal humanismone that can accommodate the vagaries and variety that make us human.
Author: Garrison Keillor
Both deeply personal and intellectually savvy, Homegrown Democrat is a celebration of liberalism as the "politics of kindness." In his inimitable style, Keillor draws on a lifetime of experience amongst the hardworking, God-fearing people of the Midwest and pays homage to the common code of civic necessities that arose from the left: Protect the social compact. Defend the powerless. Maintain government as a necessary force for good. As Keillor tells it, these are articles of faith that are being attacked by hard-ass Republican tax cutters who believe that human misery is a Dickensian fiction. In a blend of nostalgic reminiscence, humorous meditation, and articulate ire, Keillor asserts the value of his boyhoodthe values of Lake Wobegonthat do not square with the ugly narcissistic agenda at work in the country today.
The Washington Post - Ted Van Dyk
Garrison Keillor's Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America is a graceful, loving celebration of the old-time Minnesota liberalism of the heart that is so sorely missed in today's politics. His book is dedicated, appropriately, "to all of the good Democratic-Farmer Laborites of Minnesota."Homegrown Democrat reads like a personal letter from an incorrigibly idealistic old friend. It is filled with personal stories, observations on people and events and unquenchable hopefulness.
Characteristically soothing and lyrical, Keillor's voice takes on an almost preachy tone in this polemic against the "hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills" that he feels populate the Republican party. Though Democrats will laud the points he scores against the Bush administration and Republicans in general, Keillor's presentation suffers from too much emotion, coupled with a more rigid adherence to the script than he usually observes in his Lake Wobegon stories (A Prairie Home Companion, etc.). One of the audiobook's joys comes when Keillor uses multi-syllabic, pleasingly perverse language la Charles Dickens to convey the deeds of Republicans, whom he views as slimy, odious characters working to fashion a world where people live in fear, only venturing out of their homes in giant cars to gather supplies in the nearest mall. Keillor's trademark dreaminess resurfaces, however, when he returns to familiar ground and offers up his Minnesota boyhood as a case study of the benefits of voting for the Democratic ticket. Kind but strict parents and a decent public education all served Keillor well, and he sees these things as a cure-all for society's ills. Though this one-size-fits-all answer won't sit well with some listeners, Keillor's likeminded fans will enjoy hearing his passionate take on politics. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Forecasts, June 21). (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
While Keillor might wish he were known first as a writer his fiction appeared in The New Yorker long before Prairie Home Companion became a public radio fixture the truth is that his readership comes precultivated from the horde of Lake Wobegone obsessives to whom his voice is soothingly familiar. That audience is probably going to vote Democratic this November, and Keillor's partisan hope is that his offering will help get some of them actually to work for the party's presidential nominee. The Keillor encountered here is at times openly surly. But Keillor most effectively connects with others when he is happy, and so his positive consciousness streams in which he invokes the Scandinavian-derived, northern Midwestern progressive, Socialist Democrat tradition are far more memorable than his snarling, anti-Republican rants. Some urbanites will read Keillor's paeans to wise municipal Democratic stewardship with amusement, but all will appreciate Keillor's candor in distancing core Rooseveltian values from certain tendencies of political correctness and Yuppie hubris. Recommended for public libraries where political (and Lake Wobegone) books circulate well. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Table of Contents:An Interview with Garrison Keillor