James T. Kloppenberg is Charles Warren Research Professor of American History at Harvard University. He has written about American politics and ideas from the seventeenth century to the present and the relation between contemporary critical theory and historical writing. His book Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (2011) explains the reasons for Barack Obama’s commitments to democratic deliberation and conciliation by examining his intellectual formation and his understanding of American history. His most recent book is Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought (2016), a study of the cultural preconditions necessary for democracies to flourish. He is currently working on three projects: a history of social democracy in Europe and the US; a study of philosophical pragmatism in dimensions of American culture ranging from the arts to the sciences; and an interpretive overview of the American democratic tradition. In recognition of his teaching, he has been named a Harvard College Professor and has been awarded the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize by the Harvard University Undergraduate Council.
William James is America's best loved and most influential philosopher. In this lecture, Kloppenberg outlines James's principal ideas and shows their influence across American culture, from the arts through law and medicine to the social and natural sciences.