Pragmatic Apparatus – Does Pragmatism Have A Theory of Power?

Cited by Lee Sonogan

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Abstract by Joel Wolfe

Asking if pragmatism, and John Dewey in particular, has a theory of power poses the question about the intellectual resources that pragmatism has to offer the social sciences. Pragmatism stands accused of being naïve about power and presenting the specter of an overly soft program for doing social science. Yet, Dewey’s philosophical method provides a distinctive transactional theory of power and untapped resources for advancing social science. Dewey’s melioristic philosophical vision develops a theory of praxis that is a tacit theory of power. Explicating his concerns with experience, inquiry, and social life show how they converge into his theory of praxis and power. Developing this theory, next, enables distinctions to be outlined between Dewey’s transactional view of power and the mainstream interactional view seen in the work of Dahl, Lukes, and Mann. Furthermore, the theory of praxis establishes analytical categories for deconstructing the structure of transactional power, the patterns or modes of conjoint activity. Dewey’s pragmatist theory of power stands in marked contrast to interactional models and provides the analytical tools for the critical assessment of power.

Publication: Pragmatism and the Social Sciences: A Century of Influences and Interactions, vol. 2

Pub Date: 2012 Doi:

Keywords: more sections and references in this research article)

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