In this article I argue for a model of Deweyan 'critical pragmatism' as a therapeutic alternative to traditional models of deliberative democracy that have been crippled by their inheritance of the threadbare liberal/communitarian debate. By orienting my discussion here with respect to the most serious radical democratic challenges to deliberative democracy, I hope to show how Deweyan critical pragmatism may help us develop new approaches to the theory and practice of deliberation that are both more attuned to power relations than traditional models and make more inventive use of everyday life to pursue more meaningful deliberative opportunities for citizens.
One of the most long-standing and potent charges against pragmatism from the point of view of political philosophy has been that of acquiescence. 1 Whatever the personal, moral or political commitments of particular pragmatists, this criticism alleges, pragmatism is vulnerable to appropriation by whatever social forces are most powerful. This criticism takes various forms (MacGilvray 2000), but its core can be fairly simply stated. On the one hand, pragmatism (at least in its Deweyan version) subsumes theoretical reasoning within practical reasoning. For the Deweyan account, inquiry is understood as a particular kind of activity. Like other activities, it is pursued in order to achieve particular goals. In its course one’s goals may change, new conceptions of what one is doing emerge and indeed who one is may emerge, etc. But inquiry should be understood as goal-directed activity, and successful inquiry as that which allows us to deal with the environment in better ways. On the other hand, Deweyan pragmatism is notoriously reticent about setting out ‘final ends’ for the sake of which this activity takes place (Richardson 1999: 122). Inquiry is then viewed as instrumental and goal-directed, but the goals to which it is or should be directed are left out of the picture of practical reasoning. Accordingly, social consensus or power rushes to fill the vacuum. The dilemma that this position presents for the pragmatist, then, is that either she abandons the aspiration to say something critical about existing social and political arrangements or she abandons the pragmatist view of inquiry: she cannot have both.
Durkheim and the Critique of Pragmatism
Sue Stedman Jones
Durkheim's lecture course Pragmatisme et sociologie was given in 1913-14, and thus counts amongst the last of his works. It is interesting, not just for this reason, but because here we encounter Durkheim, less in his characteristic empirical sociological mode and more as a philosopher. Here we find him engaging in a logical attack on what was then a popular movement of philosophy and debating the logical issues arising out of pragmatism. William James and the movement of pragmatism had a huge prestige on the European continent and a great influence after the turn of the century and shared a cult of admiration with Bergson (Stuart Hughes 1958:112). Durkheim challenged this on a philosophical level and found what he held to be its weakest point—the question of truth.
Paul Apostolidis, William E. Connolly, Jodi Dean, Jade Schiff and Romand Coles
Romand Coles, Visionary Pragmatism: Radical and Ecological Democracy in Neoliberal Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 240 pp., ISBN: 978-0-8223-6064-3 Paul Apostolidis, William Connolly, Jodi Dean, Jade Schiff, and Romand Coles
Time, Theater, and Story Dimensions of Intercorporeal Resonance in Romand Coles’s Visionary Pragmatism: Paul Apostolidis
Visionary Responsiveness, Critical Assemblages A Commentary on Visionary Pragmatism: William E. Connolly
Response to Romand Coles’s Visionary Pragmatism: Jodi Dean
Resonant Politics and the Politics of Autoresonance?: Jade Schiff
Response to Symposium on Visionary Pragmatism: Romand Coles
This article challenges the prevalent interpretation of John Dewey as a forefather of deliberative democracy, and shows how Dewey's theory can help turn democratic theory toward participatory democracy, which is widely seen as having been incorporated by deliberative democracy. I argue that Dewey would find deliberative principles to be abstracting from our unequal social conditions by attempting to bracket the unequal social statuses that individuals bring with them to the deliberation. Dewey traces the deficiencies of current political debate to these unequal social conditions, and he thus claims that democratic theorizing should focus on enacting effective plans for overcoming social inequality, plans that may require nondeliberative practices that compel concessions from advantaged social interests. Deliberative democrats have increasingly aimed to account for such practices, but I claim that participatory democrats can draw on Dewey to illustrate how their theory can more comfortably accommodate these practices that directly attack inequality than can deliberative democracy.
Infrastructures of Certainty and Doubt
Matthew Carey and Morten Axel Pedersen
This special section explores the various ways in which states of certainty and doubt are generated and sustained, focusing on what we call the ‘infrastructures’ that undergird, enable or develop alongside them. The articles in this collection build on the growing literature on these topics, notably the very extensive recent work on doubt, uncertainty and opacity, and they extend it further by directing attention not to the consequences of these states or people’s responses to them, but instead to the various semiotic, material and social forms that make possible the assertion or recognition of certainty or doubt. We use the idea of ‘infrastructure’ as a heuristic device to explore these processes.
Catalin Brylla and Mette Kramer
Traditionally, there has been little intersection between cognitive film theory and documentary studies. This article initially outlines the main reasons for this lacuna, but it also highlights the few existing exceptions. While these remain too embryonic to initiate a large, overarching, and evolving discourse, they constitute seminal landmarks and stepping stones for the future of cognitive documentary studies, which, as we argue, needs to be a pragmatic endeavor. Based on this premise, we propose a research framework consisting of four areas of interest: the mediation of realities; character engagement; emotion and embodied experience; and documentary practice. This framework takes into account intratextual and extratextual aspects in relation to documentary production and reception, as well as potential social impacts.
Much recent theory of an anti-foundationalist or ‘post-ist’ hue has made a point of returning us to historicity. If modern theory sought the universal, then postmodern theory has favoured the particular, the situated, and the historically contextual: the little narrative, the silenced voice, the marginalised other. This is, to be sure, a simplification of both sides of the comparison. But it opens up a pressing question. What kinds of relationship to historicity are opened up by postmodern theory? In an age when relations with the past have taken on a particular kind of resonance—through truth commissions, retrievals of underplayed or silenced events, commemorative projects, and in a more general sense, a concern for the historical contexts of group and individual identities—what help does such theory offer us in seeking a grasp of such relations?
The Novelist as Cultural Hero of Modernity? On Richard Rorty’s New Pragmatism
Let us begin with a generalisation: Richard Rorty’s approach to literature is consistently – to use his own opposition – ‘solidarity-related’; what he calls the ‘other side’, literary self-creation, remains programmatically and intentionally undiscussed. One gets the impression that literature, and the novel in particular, is being burdened with an (‘unbearable’) heaviness of responsibility. Does the novel in Rorty’s reflections appear as a source of multifarious metaphors, of whole worlds born out of a writer’s imagination? Is there in it another dimension, where mundane obligations no longer bind the human being and where one can give rein to usually hidden desires and passions? The answer is in the negative.
Pragmatisme et Sociologie Inaugural Lecture: Pragmatism and Sociology, 1913
La prise en note du cours de Durkheim a été fidèlement retranscrite et révisée depuis le manuscrit conservé à la Bibliothèque Victor Cousin de la Sorbonne. Nous indiquons par des chevrons la pagination originale de ce manuscrit. Les mots ou segments de phrase soulignés dans l’original ont été rendus par des italiques, les titres par du gras. Nos hésitations sur la transcription sont signalées par un point d’interrogation et placées entre crochets « [ ? sensitif] ». De même, les quelques mots ou segments illisibles sont indiqués entre crochets (« [illis.] »).