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Is President Obama really a pragmatist?

Feb. 24, 2011

KALAMAZOO--Social and political thoughts governing the nation will be explored early next month when a political scientist speaks at Western Michigan University.

Photo of Dr. Jack Knight.Dr. Jack Knight, professor of political science and law at Duke University, will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in Fetzer Center's Putney Auditorium. His talk, titled "Pragmatism and Democracy," is free and open to the public.

Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the idea of pragmatism has been given new life in discussions of American politics. Everyone it seems describes President Obama as a new breed of pragmatic politician. But, to what extent is he really a pragmatist? In this talk, Knight will assess these claims about President Obama through the lens of the early American pragmatists. In doing so, he will offer a more general discussion of America's unique contribution to social and political thought.

In another talk earlier that day, he will discuss his current research during a colloquium titled "Studying the Impact of Supreme Court Decisions" at 3 p.m. in Room 3301 of Friedmann Hall. The colloquium is aimed at faculty and graduate students in political science, but is open to all.

Knight earned his juris doctor and bachelor's degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago.

His research focuses on rules and norms that organize human interaction in a variety of economic, social and political contexts. His books include "Institutions and Social Conflict," published by Cambridge University Press in 1992 and "The Choices Justices Make" with Lee Epstein, published by CQ Press in 1997. The latter work was winner of the C. Herman Prichett Award for best book on law and courts.

Knight's visit is sponsored by the WMU Institute of Government and Politics and Department of Political Science and is through the Visiting Scholars and Artist Program. Established in 1960, the program significantly contributes to the intellectual life of WMU and the community. Since the program began, it has supported more 600 visits by scholars and artists representing more than 60 academic disciplines.

For more information, contact Dr. Susan Hoffmann, WMU professor of political science, at (269) 387-5692 or susan.hoffmann@wmich.edu.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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