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Pragmatist Politics

Making the Case for Liberal Democracy

2012
Author:

John McGowan

Pragmatist Politics

A refreshingly liberal account of the possibilities for American democracy

John McGowan suggests that, in our current age of cynicism, the time is right to take a fresh look at pragmatism, the philosophy of American democracy. In Pragmatist Politics, the combination of pragmatism and comedy takes us on a wide-ranging exploration of what American politics—and by extension American life—could actually be like if it truly reflected American values.

This is an exceptional book, both instructive and challenging, and one that almost anyone concerned with the huge political problems facing modern, developed societies will welcome.

Alan Malachowski, author of The New Pragmatism

In our current age of cynicism, John McGowan suggests that the time is right to take a fresh look at pragmatism, the philosophy of American democracy. As McGowan shows, pragmatism can be an inspiring alternative to the despair that seems to dominate contemporary American politics. Pragmatist Politics is passionate and convincing, both heartfelt and clear-eyed. It offers an expansive vision of what the United States could be and should be.

From John Dewey and William James, McGowan derives a history of democracy as a way of life, characterized by a distinctive ethos and based on an understanding of politics as potentially effective collective agency. That democratic ideal is wedded to a liberalism that focuses on extending the benefits of democracy and of material prosperity to all. Beyond the intellectual case for liberal democracy, McGowan turns to how James, especially, was attuned to the ways that emotional appeals often trump persuasion through arguments, and he examines the work of Kenneth Burke, among others, to investigate the link between liberal democracy and a comic view of human life. Comedy, McGowan notes, allows consideration of themes of love, forgiveness, and generosity that figure far too infrequently in philosophical accounts of politics.

In McGowan’s work, the combination of pragmatism and comedy takes us on a wide-ranging exploration of what American politics—and by extension American life—could actually be like if it truly reflected American values.

Pragmatist Politics

John McGowan is the Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Distinguished Professor of Humanities and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of five previous books, including American Liberalism.

Pragmatist Politics

This is an exceptional book, both instructive and challenging, and one that almost anyone concerned with the huge political problems facing modern, developed societies will welcome.

Alan Malachowski, author of The New Pragmatism

[McGowan] makes a powerful case to defend human freedom and politics from a postmodern perspective rooted in the analogy of politics being similar to a comedic play. Good for collections on democracy and philosophy.

CHOICE

Pragmatist Politics

Contents

A Note on References
Introduction: Philosophy and Democracy

1. The Philosophy of Possibility
2. Is Progress Possible?
3. The Democratic Ethos
4. Human Rights
5. Liberal Democracy as Secular Comedy

Appendix: Martha Nussbaum’s List of “Central Human Functional Capabilities”

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Pragmatist Politics

UMP blog - Trying to escape "politics" as usual.

When President Obama issued his recent executive order to stop the deportation of undocumented aliens under the age of thirty who have no criminal record, the press predictably called the move “election-year politics.” The more accurate description, it seems to me, would be “democracy in action.” Isn’t this the way it is supposed to work? Citizens exert pressure on elected officials through the vote. If Obama believes he must protect some illegal immigrants in order to secure the Hispanic vote this year, then the system is working for Hispanics.

Read the full article.