The extended end notes for Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought (Oxford University Press, 2016) are available here.
James T. Kloppenberg was born in Denver and educated at Dartmouth (A.B. 1973) and Stanford (M.A. 1976, Ph.D. 1980). He and his wife Mary have lived in Wellesley, MA, since 1980. In recognition of his teaching, he has been awarded the Levinson Memorial Teaching Prize by the Harvard Undergraduate Council, named a Harvard College Professor, and honored eleven times by Harvard’s graduating classes as one of their favorite professors. He teaches courses on American and European thought, culture, and politics. He has served as chair of the History Department, the graduate program in American Studies, and the undergraduate program in Social Studies. Kloppenberg has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim, Danforth, and Whiting foundations, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, held the Pitt Professorship at the University of Cambridge, served twice as a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and has lectured widely in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Kloppenberg has written four books, co-edited two others, and published dozens of articles on politics and ideas in scholarly journals and popular periodicals including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, Le Monde, Democracy, and Commonweal. His first book, Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920 (1986), was awarded the Merle Curti Prize in intellectual history by the Organization of American Historians. It established the transnational connections between radical philosophers such as William James, John Dewey, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Henry Sidgwick, and it demonstrated the links between emerging European social democratic and American progressive reform movements. A Companion to American Thought (1995), co-edited with Richard Wightman Fox, brought together over 250 scholars to provide the first comprehensive reference work on the history of American culture. Kloppenberg’s second book, The Virtues of Liberalism (1998), transformed debates about American political thought by showing the ways in which American thinkers have drawn eclectically on ideas from liberal, civic republican, and religious traditions without seeing those traditions as inconsistent, let alone contradictory. Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (2011), named Book of the Year by PBS White House correspondent Mara Liasson, revealed the roots of Obama’s ideas in the experiences and intellectual traditions that shaped his sensibility. Kloppenberg’s Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought (2016), awarded the George Mosse Prize in intellectual history by the American Historical Association, traced the ideas and practices of popular sovereignty from the ancient world, when democracy was seen as the failure of good government, through the late nineteenth century, when it became firmly, if imperfectly, established on both sides of the Atlantic. Kloppenberg argues that democracy is an ethical ideal rather than merely a set of institutions; Toward Democracy explains why democracy can thrive only when it rests on shared cultural commitments to equality, autonomy, and an ethic of reciprocity. Most recently, The Worlds of American Intellectual History (2017), co-edited with Joel Isaac, Michael O’Brien, and Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, shows that scholars who study the history of American thought now follow ideas wherever they lead, usually beyond both national and disciplinary borders.
Kloppenberg is currently working on three projects that have grown from his earlier work. The first is a study of the wide-ranging cultural impact of philosophical pragmatism from the late nineteenth century to the present, encompassing fields such as education, politics, law, medicine, business, environmentalism, race, gender, and literature and the arts, particularly improvisational dance, music, and theater. The second is a history of social democracy in Europe and the US since 1920, which will show why Northern European nations, which combine generous programs of social provision with vibrant market economies--and not coincidentally contain the happiest people on earth--have served, and should continue to serve, as models for US progressive reformers. The third is an interpretive overview of the American democratic tradition, which will trace its ups and downs over five centuries, from its origins in sixteenth-century Europeans’ first exposure to some American Indians’ practices of self-government to the crisis of our own day, when dogmatism and autocracy challenge the cultural as well as institutional foundations of democracy in America.