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The Public and Its Problems

The Public and Its Problems: An Essay in Political Inquiry

JOHN DEWEY
Edited and with an Introduction by MELVIN L. ROGERS
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v1gh
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  • Book Info
    The Public and Its Problems
    Book Description:

    The revival of interest in pragmatism and its practical relevance for democracy has prompted a reconsideration of John Dewey’s political philosophy. Dewey’s 1927 work The Public and Its Problems constitutes his richest and most systematic meditation on the future of democracy in an age of mass communication, governmental bureaucracy, social complexity, and pluralism. Drawing on his previous writings and prefiguring his later thinking, Dewey argues for the importance of civic participation and clarifies the meaning and role of the state, the proper relationship between the public and experts, and the source of democracy’s legitimacy. These themes remain as important today as they were when Dewey first engaged them, and this is the work to which scholars consistently turn when assessing Dewey’s conception of democracy and what might be imagined for democracy in our own time. In this carefully annotated edition, Melvin L. Rogers provides an introductory essay that elucidates the philosophical and historical background of The Public and Its Problems while explaining the key ideas of the book. He also provides a helpful biographical outline of Dewey’s life and bibliographical essay for further reading to assist student and scholar alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05932-7
    Subjects: Philosophy
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHRONOLOGY (pp. ix-xii)
  5. EDITORIAL NOTE (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Revisiting The Public and Its Problems (pp. 1-32)
    Melvin L. Rogers

    Published in 1927 and reissued in 1946 with an added subtitle and introduction,The Public and Its Problems: An Essay in Political Inquiryis not John Dewey’s (1859–1952 ) only work on politics. Still, it is perhaps one of his richest meditations on the future of democracy in an age of mass communication, governmental bureaucracy, social complexity, and pluralism that implicitly draws on his previous writings and prefigures his later thinking. It is this work, above all else, to which scholars consistently turn when assessing Dewey’s conception of democracy and what might be imagined for democracy in our own...

  7. FOREWORD (1927) (pp. 33-34)

    This volume is the result of lectures delivered during the month of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, upon the Larwill Foundation of Kenyon College, Ohio. In acknowledging the many courtesies received, I wish to express also my appreciation of the toleration shown by the authorities of the College to delay in publication. The intervening period has permitted a full revision and expansion of the lectures as originally delivered. This fact will account for an occasional reference to books published in the interval....

  8. INTRODUCTION (1946) (pp. 35-40)

    This book was written some twenty years ago. It is my belief that intervening events confirm the position about the public and its connection with the state as the political organization of human relationships that was then presented. The most obvious consideration is the effect of the Second World War in weakening the conditions to which we give the name “Isolationism.” The First World War had enough of that effect to call the League of Nations into being. But the United States refused to participate. And, while out-and-out nationalism was a prime factor in the refusal, it was reinforced by...

  9. 1 Search for the Public (pp. 41-59)

    If one wishes to realize the distance which may lie between “facts” and the meaning of facts, let one go to the field of social discussion. Many persons seem to suppose that facts carry their meaning along with themselves on their face. Accumulate enough of them, and their interpretation stares out at you. The development of physical science is thought to confirm the idea. But the power of physical facts to coerce belief does not reside in the bare phenomena. It proceeds from method, from the technique of research and calculation. No one is ever forced by just the collection...

  10. 2 Discovery of the State (pp. 60-80)

    If we look in the wrong place for the public we shall never locate the state. If we do not ask what are the conditions which promote and obstruct the organization of the public into a social group with definite functions, we shall never grasp the problem involved in the development and transformation of states. If we do not perceive that this organization is equivalent to the equipment of the public with official representatives to care for the interests of the public, we shall miss the clew to the nature of government. These are conclusions reached or suggested by the...

  11. 3 The Democratic State (pp. 81-100)

    Singular persons are the foci of action, mental and moral, as well as overt. They are subject to all kinds of social influences which determinewhatthey can think of, plan and choose. The conflicting streams of social influence come to a single and conclusive issue only in personal consciousness and deed. When a public is generated, the same law holds. It arrives at decisions, makes terms and executes resolves only through the medium of individuals. They are officers; they represent a Public, but the Public acts only through them. We say in a country like our own that legislators...

  12. 4 The Eclipse of the Public (pp. 101-118)

    Optimism about democracy is to-day under a cloud. We are familiar with denunciation and criticism which, however, often reveal their emotional source in their peevish and undiscriminating tone. Many of them suffer from the same error into which earlier laudations fell. They assume that democracy is the product of an idea, of a single and consistent intent. Carlyle was no admirer of democracy, but in a lucid moment he said: “Invent the printing press and democracy is inevitable.”¹ Add to this: Invent the railway, the telegraph, mass manufacture and concentration of population in urban centers, and some form of democratic...

  13. 5 Search for the Great Community (pp. 119-141)

    We have had occasion to refer in passing to the distinction between democracy as a social idea and political democracy as a system of government. The two are, of course, connected. The idea remains barren and empty save as it is incarnated in human relationships. Yet in discussion they must be distinguished. The idea of democracy is a wider and fuller idea than can be exemplified in the state even at its best. To be realized it must affect all modes of human association, the family, the school, industry, religion. And even as far as political arrangements are concerned, governmental...

  14. 6 The Problem of Method (pp. 142-160)

    Perhaps to most, probably to many, the conclusions which have been stated as to the conditions upon which depends the emergence of the Public from its eclipse will seem close to denial of the possibility of realizing the idea of a democratic public. One might indeed point for what it is worth to the enormous obstacles with which the rise of a science of physical things was confronted a few short centuries ago, as evidence that hope need not be wholly desperate nor faith wholly blind. But we are not concerned with prophecy but with analysis. It is enough for...

  15. NOTES (pp. 161-176)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE (pp. 177-180)
  17. INDEX (pp. 181-190)
  18. Back Matter (pp. 191-191)