Philosophical pragmatism and the pursuit of perfection: an intellectual history of Barack Obama’s foreign policy

Middleton, Jonathan (2020) Philosophical pragmatism and the pursuit of perfection: an intellectual history of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the role played by philosophical pragmatism in shaping Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy. Extending the efforts of James Kloppenberg’s Reading Obama into the foreign policy sphere, the thesis posits that such an approach is more fruitful for understanding Obama’s foreign policy presidency than previous efforts which have tended to employ conventional IR categories to situate Obama.

This is a work of intellectual history, taking seriously the notion that we can draw understanding of actors in the past through the ideas and contexts which shaped their modes of thinking. This effort will thus place key Obama-era foreign policy issues in their proper intellectual context. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, crises in Libya and Syria, the “Pivot to Asia,” and the controversial use of drone technology in a continued counterterrorism effort will each be examined.

Obama’s engagement with philosophical pragmatism will not be argued as being a Deus ex machina - that which explains all - but instead forms an explication for a mode of thought that is complex and varied, but crucially, also best captures the essence of the central Obamian effort at reconciling those same contradictions. The logic of Obama’s foreign policy will thus be found as having greater coherence at its heart than prior critiques nominally allow. Philosophical pragmatism will be examined as an imperfect vessel for Obama’s own search for perfection in America’s approach to the world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2021 13:04
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2021 13:04
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/80950
DOI:

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