Pragmatism and Social Hope

Pragmatism and Social Hope: Deepening Democracy in Global Contexts

Judith M. Green
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Pragmatism and Social Hope
    Book Description:

    Since 9/11, citizens of all nations have been searching for a democratic public philosophy that provides practical and inspiring answers to the problems of the twenty-first century. Drawing on the wisdom of past and present pragmatist thinkers, Judith M. Green maps a contemporary form of citizenship that emphasizes participation and cooperation and reclaims the critical role of social movements and nongovernmental organizations. Starting with empowering processes of storytelling, truth and reconciliation, and collaborative vision-questing that allow individuals to give voice and new meaning to their loss, anxiety, and hope, Green frames cooperative inquiries to guide transformative actions. From this "second strand" of the democratic experience, leaders and participating citizens can help to shape a more desirable democratic future.

    In dialogue with Richard Rorty, Judith Butler, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, Cornel West, and other contemporary thinkers, Green defines the need for deeper understanding and fulfillment of the potentials of the democratic ideal. Drawing insights from Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, William James, John Dewey, Jane Adams, and other earlier thinkers, Green frames a pragmatist understanding of emerging realities and possibilities, growing wells of shared truths, multifaceted histories, and mutually transformative experiences of citizenship. Employing examples from America's complex history and from recent world events, Green locates four sites for effective citizen activism: government at all levels, nonprofit organizations, issue-focused campaigns and social movements, and daily urban living. Green shows how citizens can revive social hope and deepen the democratic experience by drawing on their own knowledge and developing their capabilities through inclusive civic participation.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51822-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction Pragmatism and Social Hope: Deepening Democracy in Global Contexts
    (pp. 1-28)

    What America and the world need now is a multifaceted, context-sensitive, flexible, open-ended, constantly evolving, inquiry-guiding story, vision, and process of deepening democracy that can foster and educate widely shared social hope. We citizen-thinkers who have reawakened to our sense of democratic possibility and responsibility must think creatively and courageously about how to reestablish America’s commitment to achieving the effective, democratic solidarity of mind and heart amid our diversity that Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, William James, Jane Addams, John Dewey, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and other great thinkers of earlier generations affirmed as our...

  5. Chapter 1 Achieving Our Country, Achieving Our World: Rorty, Baldwin, and Social Hope
    (pp. 29-59)

    America and the world entered a new era in the always difficult struggle for democracy on September 11, 2001, when three fuel-laden jet airliners hijacked by criminals with an anti-Western ideological agenda slammed into New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, massive buildings that represented America’s economic, cultural, and military might to the world. A fourth jet crashed in a field in rural western Pennsylvania after courageous civilian passengers fought hand to hand with the hijackers to prevent their plane, too, from being used as a weapon. As lower Manhattan’s schoolchildren watched in horror and a worldwide community...

  6. Chapter 2 American Dreaming: From Loss and Fear to Vision and Hope
    (pp. 60-99)

    For us now, as for Richard Rorty when he composed Achieving Our Country (1998), losses and fears deeply influence the kind of guiding vision we are able to hope for and the actions we are able to take toward fulfilling its meanings. Writing and speaking bravely from his personal experience, Rorty told a pre-9/11 story of how our American universities changed after Vietnam into places of cynicism and quietism—a loss of their institutional purpose that so damaged his sense of meaning in living and his hope for the future that he greatly feared that America’s long-loved dream of democracy...

  7. Chapter 3 Hope’s Progress: Remembering Dewey’s Pragmatist Social Epistemology in the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 100-126)

    Since ancient times, many of the world’s great philosophies and religions have stressed the importance of hope, understanding it as the connective center of all transactions in our human emotional systems—as the future-focused nexus of “embodied feelings” that generate and in turn are framed by those aspirational ideals that give faith and love their capacity and direction for action. Hope draws upon yet exceeds evidence and previous experience.¹ As John Dewey taught us, our hopes also include the stirrings of creative imagination in projecting a future in which the best possibilities within our past-to-present trajectory in living will be...

  8. Chapter 4 Choosing Our History, Choosing Our Hopes: Truth and Reconciliation Between Our Past and Our Future
    (pp. 127-157)

    These uncertain, dangerous years at the second beginning of the twenty-first century are ones in which people everywhere call out for social hope, yet social hope is hard to find, hard to ground, and hard to sustain. Gifted young people become drug dealers, drive-by shooters, thugs, suicide bombers, ethnic cleansers, and religious warriors, destroying the hopes of other families and whole peoples because they can find no other more effective way to advance the realization of their own hopes for their families, their peoples, and this shared world. Other gifted young people join armies to fight them, to torture them,...

  9. Chapter 5 Trying Deeper Democracy: Pragmatist Lessons from the American Experience
    (pp. 158-193)

    It is time for me to offer a preliminary sketch of the kind of inclusive, truth-seeking American story and shared vision quest I think we need now to guide the pursuit of a deeper democracy in diverse global contexts. In this first part of this chapter, I will reply to the often-raised question, “if participatory democracy is such a good idea, why has it never been tried?” I aim to persuade my readers that this question rests on a mistaken premise. We have been trying a deeper, participatory democracy in America for as long as this place has a history....

  10. Chapter 6 The Continuously Planning City: Imperatives and Examples for Deepening Democracy
    (pp. 194-224)

    It may aid and comfort us as we analyze our complex, anxiety-provoking, global problem situation in these early years of the twenty-first century to remember that proponents of a “second,” deeper strand of democratic theory and practice have been arguing and demonstrating with some success since the days of the American Revolution that it is a feasible and desirable complement to the “first,” representative strand of democracy, which today’s neoconservative “democratic realists” regard as “democracy enough” but long experience shows to be neither stable nor consistently democratic in the absence of ongoing, active citizen participation. In the view of a...

  11. Chapter 7 The Hope of Democratic Living: Choosing Active Citizen Participation for Preferable Global Futures
    (pp. 225-250)

    In these early years of the twenty-first century, the names of cities—Seattle, Washington, Lima, Prague, Belgrade, Quebec, Genoa, New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Jerusalem, Beijing, Baghdad—have come to signify fears, tragedies, and a hopeful but still fragile rebirth of democratic citizen participation in shaping preferable global futures. The great practical and existential questions democratic theorists and democracy-minded citizens worldwide face now focus on how to frame their continuing hopes and life choices in the wake of the great and terrible events these city names evoke. Can democratic citizen participation effectively influence the course of future events on...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 251-268)
    (pp. 269-286)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 287-292)