By affirming the relativity of the American historical imagination, political theorist Michael J. Shapiro offers a powerful polemic against ethnocentric interpretations of American culture and politics. Deforming American Political Thought analyzes issues that range from the nature of Thomas Jefferson's vision of an egalitarian nation to the persistence of racial inequality. Shapiro offers a multifaceted argument that transcends the myopic scope of traditional political discourse. Deforming American Political Thought illustrates the various ways in which history, architecture, film, music, literature, and art provide approaches to the comprehension of diverse facets of American political thought from the founding to the present. Using these seemingly disparate disciplines as a framework, Shapiro paints a picture of American political philosophy that is as distinctive as it enlightening. Shapiro explores the historically vital role of dissenting points of view in American politics and asserts its continuing importance in today's political landscape. Exploring such diverse works as slave narratives, contemporary films, genre fiction, and blues and jazz music, Shapiro reveals that there have always been dissenting voices casting doubt on the moral purpose and exceptionalism of the American mind. An unprecedented inquiry into American politics, Deforming American Political Thought will surely serve to reinvigorate discussions about the essence of American political thought.
"Shapiro broadens the sources of political thought to include films, crime novels, architecture, and music. His focus on these different genres serves his aim of contesting Enlightenment understandings of politics and the cultural dominance of particular ethnic narratives in America." -- Choice
"Over the last three decades, Michael Shapiro has pioneered a new genre ofcross-disciplinary thinking and writing. In this latest work, he turns hisdiscerning eye to American political thought, offering a fresh alternativeto the standard lineup of thinkers and issues. Here Jefferson, Tocqueville,et al, share the landscape with Jamaica Kincaid, Thomas Pynchon, MichelleCliff, Alexie Sherman, Louis Malle, John Ford, Duke Ellington, and others.This extraordinary book should be read by all students of American politicalideas, ideals" -- Jane Bennett, Professor of Political Science and author of The Enchantment of M
"The clarity of his arguments, his mastery of materials, his always engaging and original readings of texts from diverse artistic genres have produced a book that will need to be grappled with by those within political science with a concern for the fate of the field, those committed to a critical reflection on what political thought is for, and those with an affinity for the arts who will welcome a wider horizon for its politics. A highly influential book for years to come. " -- Randy Martin, author of On Your Marx: Relinking Socialism and the Left
"Literary interventions are exactly what American Political Thought needs if this genre is to be understood for its deeply depoliticizing effects. In this sense then, Shapiro is political science's poet laureate, helping the discipline's practitioners to see the politically biased implications narratively created by their alleged objective facts, starting perhaps most critically with the narratives called American Political Thought. Like any great poet, Shapiro makes you think hard about how the obvious is often in service of power... Shapiro's timing could not be better. His literary interventions highlight the depoliticizing practices of America's master narratives in ways that have direct relevance to the politics of today." -- Sanford F. Schram, Bryn Mawr