Pluralism, Pragmatism and American Democracy

I am not so sure that I would put great faith in a revitalization of the pragmatic tradition, as such. It is something that can be drawn on, certainly. But the people most closely identified with the current revival of pragmatism, with some important exceptions, seem to me more a part of the problem. In a way, that is what the book functions to show. It is often stated that Emersonian philosophy lost its grip on the country in light of its inability to deal with the excesses of the Gilded Age –more or less as the prior “common sense” philosophy failed to deal with the problems of the country leading up to the Civil War. We are presently in a new Gilded Age arising from globalization. Among the pragmatists, I am closest to William James –who knew Gilded Age politics from the inside.

I take it that Fukuyama is important to contemporary discussions more because of his break with the neocons. (That is, less, because of “the end of history.”) (See, Fukuyama 2006, After the Neocons; and also, Fukuyama 1995, Trust, The Social Virtues and the Building of Prosperity.) The Introduction to my new book is essentially a matter of contemporary political analysis. I try to sketch the nature of the social political problems and the reasons for the blockage of needed reforms. Reform is what one would expect the pragmatists to favor.

9781443889223I think the election of Mr. Trump was symptomatic of the general malaise. We never built down from the highly centralized political-institutional configuration of the Cold War (no post-war reconstruction to speak of) and the result is that there is a constant struggle to control the resources of the federal government for purpose of feeding the institutionalized (corporatist) support for the contending major political parties and factions. That’s a pretty good definition of political factionalism, I’d say–historically responsible for the destruction of many a fine republic.

In a way, my introductory political analysis points to the problems which the revival of pragmatism failed to effectively address.

You might say that doctrinaire relativism is a distorted reflection of the self-privileged status of our institutional insiders. But as such, its a demand for more of the same. Its an attempt to accommodate the powerful insiders in the hope of self-advancement. You can understand why, then, some do not want to see the issues discussed. Among students, we notice, every “sensitivity” is to be accommodated, even at the expense of free discussion and academic freedom. (Think of this as a distorted reflection of the demand for deference to the high, mighty and wealthy.)

H.G. Callaway

Author of Pluralism, Pragmatism and American Democracy: A Minority Report

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s