Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at Princeton. His latest book is The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.

 (November 2012)

IN THE REVIEW

We’re Still Puzzled

President Obama at the White House, January 2012

The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House

by Edward Klein

The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

by Michael Grunwald
You know the joke. A psychiatrist shows a patient a series of inkblots. Each time, the patient sees an erotic episode. “You seem to be preoccupied with sex,” the psychiatrist concludes. The patient protests: “You’re the one with all those dirty pictures.” Ask people to read the inkblots of American political life and that result, too, is likely to tell you more about them than it does about what is really going on.

Battling with Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois, 1904; photograph by J.E. Purdy

Democracy's Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois

by Lawrie Balfour

In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America

by Robert Gooding-Williams
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois looms over the study of African-American life like a cathedral over its close. He wrote in almost every conceivable genre—autobiography, biography, criticism, drama, essays, fiction, journalism, poetry, reviews—and was a scholar in a variety of disciplines. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868, he became, …

The Apple Fell Far from the Tree

Barack Obama with his stepgrandmother, Sarah, half-sister, Auma, and stepmother, Kezia, at their homestead in Alego, Kenya

The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family

by Peter Firstbrook
Families, it sometimes seems, are just a vast web of potential embarrassments…interspersed, no doubt, with the occasional opportunity for pride. Honor and shame, as much as love or liking, are what bind us to our kith and kin. The teenager rolls her eyes as her mother gets up to dance at the wedding; grandparents flush when their friends ask about the grandson who just “came out” in Sunday school; a wife looks down disconsolately as her intoxicated husband rises to make the after-dinner speech. We can all evoke such moments.

Religious Faith and John Rawls

The philosopher Martin Buber, Tel Aviv, 1962

A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith, with "On My Religion"

by John Rawls, edied by Thomas Nagel

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes and the American Political Tradition

by James T. Kloppenberg
In December 1942, a philosophy major at Princeton, who was due to begin serving in the army upon graduation, submitted his senior thesis. It was a substantial piece of work. Entitled “A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith: An Interpretation Based on the Concept of Community,” it …

How Muslims Made Europe

God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 570–1215

by David Levering Lewis
The conception of the Mediterranean as the meeting of three continents goes back to classical Greece. But it took a further intellectual leap to conceive of their inhabitants as a collectivity. You can have Europe, Africa, and Asia without thinking of Europeans, Africans, and Asians as particular kinds of people.