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Jedediah Purdy

Jedediah S. Purdy

is a senior correspondent of The American Prospect and a second-year student at Yale Law School. Purdy started with the Prospect as a writing fellow, writing about culture, technology, politics, and the environment. His 1998 articles include "Age of Irony" on a generation that refuses to take itself seriously, and "Dolly and Madison" on the ethics of cloning.

His first book, For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today, was published by Knopf in September 1999. His current research addresses agriculture, environmental sustainability, and the place of work in American culture. He has also been working on conceptions of human excellence in democratic politics. In 1999 he was a faculty member at the Century Institute Summer Program on America's liberal and progressive political traditions.

Purdy was born and raised on a hillside farm in central West Virginia. Until age 14, he taught himself by reading, exploring the local woods and meadows, and working alongside his parents and younger sister. After a checkered high school career that eventually took him to Phillips Exeter Academy, he returned to West Virginia, where he worked as a carpenter and spent a year in environmental politics.

In 1997 he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in social studies. In 1996 he was selected as a Truman Scholar and as West Virginia's nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship.

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AP Photo/Winslow Townson

The surprising impact of popular movements on judicial doctrines Read more

Books

The cloning debate has highlighted moral questions that are likely only to become even more difficult as biotechnology advances: What should be the line between permissible and impermissible genetic interventions? Is our bedrock belief in human equality about to break down? Read more

Energy and the Environment

Wired magazine says with new technology we'll all be like gods and should get good at it. That apparently means feeling no restraint -- if something looks good, do it, buy it, invent it, become it. Where have we heard this before? Read more

Energy and the Environment

Under repressive totalitarian regimes, the absolute moral rectitude of Eastern European intellectuals like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik was heroic. Ten years after the fall of the Wall, what happens when the reality of democratic politics calls for quotidian pragmatism and petty compromise?  Read more

America and the World

Political excess in the twentieth century gives libertarianism understandable appeal. But caveat emptor; the path from Isaiah Berlin does not lead to Charles Murray. Read more

Features

A skeptical inquiry into the work of Richard Epstein and Richard Posner. Read more

Books

Two recent movies, Patch Adams and Life Is Beautiful, each claim to reveal the relation between fantasy and politics. One succeeds magnificently; the other is a fraud. Read more

Books, Arts and Culture

Strip mining is carving up broad swaths of West Virginia's hillsides and valleys. Are we willing to pay higher energy prices to stop it? Read more

Energy and the Environment

Taking irony seriously may seem like missing the point. Today's ironic sensibility is never serious. But the old masters of irony had serious fun cutting through cant and pretension. Read more

Books