Richard Posner argues for a conception of the liberal state based on pragmatic theories of government. He views the actions of elected officials as guided by interests rather than by reason and the decisions of judges by discretion rather than by rules. He emphasizes the institutional and material, rather than moral and deliberative, factors in democratic decision making. Posner argues that democracy is best viewed as a competition for power by means of regular elections. Citizens should not be expected to play a significant role in making complex public policy regarding, say, taxes or missile defense.
Making a significant contribution to the theory of democracy, this reference maintains that the advantage of democracy is not that it is the rule of the wise or the good, but that it enables stability and orderly succession in government and limits the tendency of rulers to empower themselves to the disadvantage of the public.
1. Pragmatism: Philosophical versus everyday. 2. Legal pragmatism. 3. John Dewey on Democracy and law. 4. Two concepts of democracy. 5. Democracy defended. 6. The concepts applied.
Author: Michael Sullivan
Publisher: Indiana University Press
In Legal Pragmatism, Michael Sullivan looks closely at the place of the individual and community in democratic society. After mapping out a brief history of American legal thinking regarding rights, from communitarianism to liberalism, Sullivan gives a rich and nuanced account of how pragmatism worked to resolve conflicts of self-interest and community well-being. Sullivan's view of pragmatism provides a comprehensive framework for understanding democracy, as well as issues such as health care, education, gay marriage, and illegal immigration that will determine its character in the future. Legal Pragmatism is a bold, carefully argued book that presents a unique understanding of contemporary society, law, and politics.
This volume examines the roots of pragmatist imagination and traces the influence of American pragmatism in diverse areas of politics, law, sociology, political science, and transitional studies. The work explores the interfaces between the Progressive movement in politics and American pragmatism. Shalin shows how early 20th century progressivism influenced pragmatism's philosophical agenda and how pragmatists helped articulate a theory of progressive reform. The work addresses pragmatism and interactionist sociology and illuminates the cross-fertilization between these two fields of studies. Special emphasis is placed on the interactionists' search for a logic of inquiry sensitive to the objective indeterminacy of the situation. The challenge that contemporary interactionist studies face is to illuminate the issues of power and inequality central to the political commitments of pragmatist philosophers. Shalin explores the vital link between democracy, civility, and affect. His central thesis is that democracy is an embodied process that binds affectively as well as rhetorically and that flourishes in places where civic discourse is an end in itself, a source of vitality and social creativity sustaining a democratic community. The author shows why civic discourse is hobbled by the civic body that has been misshapen by past abuses. Drawing on the studies of the civilizing process, Shalin speculates about the emotion, demeanor, and body language of democracy and explores from this angle the prospects for democratic transformation in countries struggling to shake their totalitarian past. View Table of Contents
Author: Robert B. Westbrook
Publisher: Cornell University Press
"The pragmatists' response to the claim that theirs is a deeply American philosophy has been less to challenge the claim than to attempt to embrace it on their own terms. . . . One could speak of a national philosophy as one could not speak of a national chemistry or physics. But national cultures were complicated and often conflicted. Hence the relationship between a philosophy and a national culture could be at once close and fraught with tension."—from Democratic Hope Pragmatism, as Richard Rorty has said, "names the chief glory of our country's intellectual tradition." In Democratic Hope, Robert B. Westbrook examines the varieties of classical pragmatist thought in the work of John Dewey, William James, and Charles Peirce, testing in good pragmatic fashion the truth of propositions by their consequences in experience. Westbrook also attends to the recent revival of pragmatism by Rorty, Cheryl Misak, Richard Posner, Hilary Putnam, Cornel West, and others and to pragmatist strains in contemporary American political thinking. Westbrook's aims are both historical and political: to ensure that the genealogy of pragmatism is an honest one and to argue for a hopeful vision of deliberative democracy underwritten by a pragmatist epistemology and ethics.
Author: Christopher Ansell
Publisher: Oxford University Press on Demand
The philosophy of pragmatism advances an evolutionary, learning-oriented perspective that is problem-driven, reflexive, and deliberative.
The Priority of Democracy
Author: Jack Knight, James Johnson
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Pragmatism and its consequences are central issues in American politics today, yet scholars rarely examine in detail the relationship between pragmatism and politics. In The Priority of Democracy, Jack Knight and James Johnson systematically explore the subject and make a strong case for adopting a pragmatist approach to democratic politics--and for giving priority to democracy in the process of selecting and reforming political institutions. What is the primary value of democracy? When should we make decisions democratically and when should we rely on markets? And when should we accept the decisions of unelected officials, such as judges or bureaucrats? Knight and Johnson explore how a commitment to pragmatism should affect our answers to such important questions. They conclude that democracy is a good way of determining how these kinds of decisions should be made--even if what the democratic process determines is that not all decisions should be made democratically. So, for example, the democratically elected U.S. Congress may legitimately remove monetary policy from democratic decision-making by putting it under the control of the Federal Reserve. Knight and Johnson argue that pragmatism offers an original and compelling justification of democracy in terms of the unique contributions democratic institutions can make to processes of institutional choice. This focus highlights the important role that democracy plays, not in achieving consensus or commonality, but rather in addressing conflicts. Indeed, Knight and Johnson suggest that democratic politics is perhaps best seen less as a way of reaching consensus or agreement than as a way of structuring the terms of persistent disagreement.
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice In 1858, challenger Abraham Lincoln debated incumbent Stephen Douglas seven times in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. More was at stake than slavery in those debates. In Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism, John Burt contends that the very legitimacy of democratic governance was on the line. In a United States stubbornly divided over ethical issues, the overarching question posed by the Lincoln-Douglas debates has not lost its urgency: Can a liberal political system be used to mediate moral disputes? And if it cannot, is violence inevitable? “John Burt has written a work that every serious student of Lincoln will have to read...Burt refracts Lincoln through the philosophy of Kant, Rawls and contemporary liberal political theory. His is very much a Lincoln for our time.” —Steven B. Smith, New York Times Book Review “I'm making space on my overstuffed shelves for Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism. This is a book I expect to be picking up and thumbing through for years to come.” —Jim Cullen, History News Network “Burt treats the [Lincoln-Douglas] debates as being far more significant than an election contest between two candidates. The debates represent profound statements of political philosophy and speak to the continuing challenges the U.S. faces in resolving divisive moral conflicts.” —E. C. Sands, Choice
Democracy and Tradition
Author: Jeffrey Stout
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Do religious arguments have a public role in the post-9/11 world? Can we hold democracy together despite fractures over moral issues? Are there moral limits on the struggle against terror? Asking how the citizens of modern democracy can reason with one another, this book carves out a controversial position between those who view religious voices as an anathema to democracy and those who believe democratic society is a moral wasteland because such voices are not heard. Drawing inspiration from Whitman, Dewey, and Ellison, Jeffrey Stout sketches the proper role of religious discourse in a democracy. He discusses the fate of virtue, the legacy of racism, the moral issues implicated in the war on terrorism, and the objectivity of ethical norms. Against those who see no place for religious reasoning in the democratic arena, Stout champions a space for religious voices. But against increasingly vocal antiliberal thinkers, he argues that modern democracy can provide a moral vision and has made possible such moral achievements as civil rights precisely because it allows a multitude of claims to be heard. Stout's distinctive pragmatism reconfigures the disputed area where religious thought, political theory, and philosophy meet. Charting a path beyond the current impasse between secular liberalism and the new traditionalism, Democracy and Tradition asks whether we have the moral strength to continue as a democratic people as it invigorates us to retrieve our democratic virtues from very real threats to their practice.
Democracy by the People
Author: Eugene D. Mazo, Timothy K. Kuhner
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Introduces citizens to solutions for reforming the American campaign finance system.
How Judges Think
Author: Richard A. Posner
Publisher: Harvard University Press
A distinguished and experienced appellate court judge, Posner offers in this new book a unique and, to orthodox legal thinkers, a startling perspective on how judges and justices decide cases.
In this book, one of our country's most distinguished scholar-judges shares with us his vision of the law. For the past two thousand years, the philosophy of law has been dominated by two rival doctrines. One contends that law is more than politics and yields, in the hands of skillful judges, correct answers to even the most difficult legal questions; the other contends that law is politics through and through and that judges wield essentially arbitrary powers. Rejecting these doctrines as too metaphysical in the first instance and too nihilistic in the second, Richard Posner argues for a pragmatic jurisprudence, one that eschews formalism in favor of the factual and the empirical. Laws, he argues, are not abstract, sacred entities, but socially determined goads for shaping behavior to conform with society's values. Examining how judges go about making difficult decisions, Posner argues that they cannot rely on either logic or science, but must fall back on a grab bag of informal methods of reasoning that owe less than one might think to legal training and experience. Indeed, he reminds us, the greatest figures in American law have transcended the traditional conceptions of the lawyer's craft. Robert Jackson did not attend law school and Benjamin Cardozo left before getting a degree. Holmes was neither the most successful of lawyers nor the most lawyerly of judges. Citing these examples, Posner makes a plea for a law that frees itself from excessive insularity and takes all knowledge, practical and theoretical, as grist for its mill. The pragmatism that Posner espouses implies looking at problems concretely, experimentally, without illusions, with an emphasis on keeping diverse paths of inquiry open, and, above all, with the insistence that social thought and action be evaluated as instruments to desired human goals rather than as ends in themselves. In making his arguments, he discusses notable figures in jurisprudence from Antigonc to Ronald Dworkin as well as recent movements ranging from law and economics to civic republicanism, and feminism to libertarianism. All are subjected to Posner's stringent analysis in a fresh and candid examination of some of the deepest problems presented by the enterprise of law.
Over a career spanning American history from the 1880s to the 1950s, John Dewey sought not only to forge a persuasive argument for his conviction that "democracy is freedom" but also to realize his democratic ideals through political activism. Widely considered modern America's most important philosopher, Dewey made his views known both through his writings and through such controversial episodes as his leadership of educational reform at the turn of the century; his support of American intervention in World War I and his leading role in the Outlawry of War movement after the war; and his participation in both radical and anti-communist politics in the 1930s and 40s. Robert B. Westbrook reconstructs the evolution of Dewey's thought and practice in this masterful intellectual biography, combining readings of his major works with an engaging account of key chapters in his activism. Westbrook pays particular attention to the impact upon Dewey of conversations and debates with contemporaries from William James and Reinhold Niebuhr to Jane Addams and Leon Trotsky. Countering prevailing interpretations of Dewey's contribution to the ideology of American liberalism, he discovers a more unorthodox Dewey—a deviant within the liberal community who was steadily radicalized by his profound faith in participatory democracy. Anyone concerned with the nature of democracy and the future of liberalism in America—including educators, moral and social philosophers, social scientists, political theorists, and intellectual and cultural historians—will find John Dewey and American Democracy indispensable reading.
Building a Social Democracy examines the various types of communication practices that are necessary to build a social democracy. Danisch contends that rhetorical pragmatism improves our sociopolitical circumstances by turning questions about epistemology into questions about communication practices.