Posted: September 18th, 2008
Branding Democracy: Barack Obama and the American Void

Simon Critchley examines Obama’s subjectivity, the existential detachment that seems to haunt him, and its relation to democracy. When democracy is promoted as a brand, it can be seen to generate many desires, such as participation, freedom of expression, a sense of belonging, and the promise of individual success—all embodied in the notion of “liberty.” How and where do these desires find fulfillment or displacement? Simon Critchley is a philosopher and author. This program is in conjunction with The New School’s international, interdisciplinary exhibition—Ours: Democracy in the Age of Branding—investigating democracy as a global brand.

  • Mitchell Aboulafia

    Professor Critchley is coming from a tradition in European Philosophy that is filtering how he sees Obama. Unfortunately, his views perpetuate a mythology about Obama’s “strangeness.” But there is nothing strange about Obama’s political views for those who are familiar with the American philosophical tradition of pragmatism or the Social Gospel Movement. Interestingly, Critchley makes much of Obama’s mother being an anthropologist, but what he fails to mention is that Ann Dunham’s thesis director was Alice G. Dewey, John Dewey’s granddaughter. This is no accident. Obama’s thought and practice can be located in the tradition of pragmatism and in the liberal Social Gospel Movement that was influential in Chicago during the early part of the 20th century. The latter is still influential in some Chicago churches and community groups.

    Obama’s unique personal history does not lead him to dismiss controversy in the political realm or to become some naive dreamer of community. One builds the latter for Obama. One doesn’t wish it into existence. Cirtchley is simply wrong in seeing Obama as supporting an anti-political sensibility. It is just a different one from the categories that Critchley and many others employ.

    This alternative, and I believe correct, reading of Obama’s intellectual and political roots needs to be offered. (I hope to publish something soon on the topic.)

  • Tina

    Hi America.
    I am a swiss citizen and I am so happy Obama is the winner!
    Today I feel American! My hart is American! My blood is American! My bones are American!
    Today … I LOVE AMERICA!!!