Robert Bellah on Barack Obama and “the common good”

Robert Bellah, author of Habits of the Heart, has written a rapturous, but nonetheless scholarly essay at the blog The Immanent Frame that situates President-elect Barack Obama within the context of both Roman Catholic social teaching, Protestant individualism and the traditions of what he calls Biblical and Civil Republicanism. It is well worth a read.

If you look at Obama’s specific policy concerns you will find the common good at the core of almost all of them. Universal health care is an obvious example. And why, except for our culture of radical individualism, don’t we already have it as every advanced society in the world has it? Because in normal times common good arguments do not carry the day in America. Obama’s jobs program, his environmental program, his foreign policy concerns are all examples of making the common good the focus of politics. What all this leads to in my opinion is that Obama is not concerned with center-left or center-right but with making America into a country with a concern for all its citizens and not just the privileged few, a country like other advanced countries and less like a third world country.

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