Cycles of American Political Thought : The Great Courses: Intellectual History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Joseph F. Kobylka
  • Series: The Great Courses: Intellectual History
  • 18 hrs and 14 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

American history is often presented as a tale of dynamic movers and shakers who subdued an untamed wilderness on the way to forging a great nation - all the while leaving philosophy for their European counterparts.
But this history neglects the philosophical underpinnings of America. As these 36 lectures demonstrate, America has borne the imprint of influential thinkers from its earliest days, from the Reformation theology of John Calvin to the Enlightenment philosophy of John Locke.
Throughout this epic historical journey, you'll explore the many ways this nation has answered the question: What is an American? Professor Kobylka traces the many answers that have been offered showing how the idea of "We the People" has changed and expanded far beyond the Founding Fathers' original conception.
You'll navigate America's ever-shifting political landscape and see how the great political trends in American history can be understood as variations on a single theme: the philosophy of liberalism, this conception that government is the source of some of our most deeply valued political notions. You'll also meet the great men and women who, over the course of American history, have molded political thought and policy.
This is your opportunity to gain a deep understanding both of the nation's past and how this rich political history continues to influence the current day. Even if you've studied American history before, you'll encounter something new: a unique synthesis of viewpoints, ideas, and events that's enlightening and compelling.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Thorough Review and Summary

What made the experience of listening to Cycles of American Political Thought the most enjoyable?

Prof. Kobylka presents the information in these lectures clearly, and without any apparent editorial bias. On the few occasions he editorializes, he makes it quite clear that is what he is doing. On the whole, he presents a remarkably balanced view of political thought in the US.


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, but it's 18+ hours long and not designed to be listened to in such a manner.


Any additional comments?

The principal thread of American political thought is Liberalism. This doesn't mean that it adheres to the current, popular use of the word "liberal" - you have to be able to hear that word with choking on your own rage.

It can sometimes be difficult to discern when he is quoting, paraphrasing, or simply commenting. This is due to him not using the (annoying) convention of announcing "quote-unquote" when he transitions to and from quotations.

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- Chris

Challenging topic, middling delivery

Is there anything you would change about this book?

An interesting overview of American history, seen through the lens a political philosophy.


What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

It was interesting to learn about the push and pull of political philosophy in America, with the alternation between the active versus the limited state, the primacy of liberty versus equality. The professor's delivery was less appealing to me. Sometimes he rushed and slurred his words, making him difficult to follow. At other times his delivery was annoyingly halting.


Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Joseph F. Kobylka’s performances?

Probably not.


If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Not applicable.


Any additional comments?

I find the comments about Dr. Kobylka's "liberalism" pretty far off the mark. I think in general is pretty neutral. He expresses abhorrence toward slavery and racism but hopefully that is no longer controversial. He discusses socialism in a nonjudgmental fashion, but he does the same with Reaganism. Pretty balanced, on the whole.

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- Dr. Liz

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses