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Contemporary Pragmatism 6-2 December 2009 (Contemporary Pragmatism S.)

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A Critique of Rorty’s Conception of Pragmatism

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Pragmatic Theory of Truth

XXI, Panda G. University,Vol-3, Issue-1, July. XX, De Tanmoy, Subramanian S. Juicy Jooz, Anwesha- Mgt. XXIII, Going social with Zepo. Chivukula Venkata Ramana and Balaji, D, Americans were busy working, shopping, and pursuing the American dream. The problem was not with the incapacities of everyday, ordinary people nor was the problem inherent to the very notion of democracy.

Matters were bad, but not quite hopeless. Instead, what was required was a better understanding of the emergence of American democracy and a more intelligent pursuit of conditions that would enable it to flourish under continuously changing conditions. The challenge involves recognizing the various ways ordinary Americans, in response to their environment, have forged a democratic way of life that we now associate, mistakenly, with liberal institutions. In other words, we have become quite taken with abstractions associated with democracy and less attentive to the actual doings and sufferings of those who provide its content.

Initially, we my find ourselves, under some circumstances, directly affected by a particular transaction. We work diligently, perhaps with the aid of friends, to secure consequences that favor us and to rid ourselves of others that do not.


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  • This mode of action is principally pre-political in the sense that it illustrates what we, as social creatures, do in the face of problematic situations. Such transactions are direct and their effects are primarily local. But when transactions affect people indirectly, Dewey argued, a more general public emerges with designated individuals officials and material agencies the state. These individuals and state institutions assume the task of conserving and protecting the interests of those affected.

    Both officials and the state emerge in response to human needs. As Dewey writes: Men [sic] have looked in the wrong place.

    Online Contemporary Pragmatism Volume 7 Number 2 December 2010

    They have sought for the key to the nature of the state in the field of agencies, in that doers of deeds, or in some will or purpose back of the deeds. They have sought to explain the state in terms of authorship. Ultimately all deliberate choices proceed from somebody in particular; acts are performed by somebody, and all arrangements and plans are made by somebody in the most concrete sense of somebody Here the state is denied transcendental status. Instead, it is the consequence of efforts to protect the shared interests of those similarly-situated.

    Officials are not disinterested elites or professional representatives. I have argued elsewhere, for example, that African American churches in the early 19th century performed this role in securing and evading consequences that specifically concerned African Americans. It would seem that the multiplicity of publics and the varied interests that call them into being complicate how we understand the emergence and subsequent function of the state.

    How Dewey accounts for the inevitable conflict among publics and the relation of those conflicts to the formation of the state is not readily apparent. Instead these moments mark the occasion for democratic deliberation or revolution and, ideally, the expansion of the state to incorporate those previously excluded.

    The burden of his argument rests with his effort to disentangle democracy from the accumulated developments of liberalism — developments that indeed threaten the conclusion, one which Lippmann draws, that ordinary Americans are in fact irrelevant to the workings of democracy. Dewey emphasizes instead the ways everyday Americans are committed to democracy as a way of life, which goes beyond liberal institutions to the very way in which individuals evidence certain values in their interactions with their fellows.

    The machine age changed matters. Americans felt indirect consequences but, under these conditions, failed to perceive them. The machine age required a reimagining of community in light of the new technologies that, at once, eclipsed prior communal formations and would aid, if intelligently utilized, in forging more meaningful forms of social interaction. Communication across various divides was necessary if genuine communal life was to take shape. But, again, this necessitated breaking through established political forms.

    The Eclipse of a Black Public Given the persistent legacies of white supremacy in the United States, the actions of many American whites in relation to African Americans have had farreaching implications and have necessitated conjoint action on the part of African Americans to secure some consequences and avoid others. In short, a national black public has everything to do with responding to the persistence of racism in American society under particular conditions.

    From the national black convention movement of the early nineteenth century to more recent efforts around Hurricane Katrina and the campaign of Barack Obama, African Americans have sought forms of and created forums for political redress in light of the perceived effects of actions that extend beyond those immediately involved. There have been, at least, three national black publics since the dawn of the twentieth century. The first involves what I call Mass Migration and the Problem of the Color Line, the period between and from the publication of W.

    This period of black political activity was marked by the immediate effects of the consolidation of the white south and the subsequent mass migration of large numbers of African Americans from rural areas to urban centers, from South to North. This public was eclipsed as international pressures and domestic retrenchment World War II, the Great Depression, and the Cold War fundamentally impinged on the form and content of black political engagement.

    This public was eclipsed by the onslaught of the Cold War and the ascendance of cold war black politics with the Brown v. Board of Education decisions in and The third national black public, Civil Rights, Black Power and the Age of Reagan, emerged with the mass mobilization of African Americans protesting legal segregation in the aftermath of the Brown decision, the murder of Emmett Till, and the defiance of Rosa Parks in This public was eclipsed in with the election of Ronald Reagan.

    This late period was obviously characterized by the successful The Problem of African American Public s 23 challenge of Jim Crow, the rise and decline of the Black Power era, and a subsequent white backlash. In each instance, African American conjoint action changed, because of demographic shifts, international conflict, mass mobilization of black citizens, and the changing nature of race and racism in our country. Struggle remained a consistent feature of these publics, but that struggle looked differently under different conditions.

    During no other period in African American history was a national black public as active and vibrant as that of the s and s. This period resulted in the end of legal segregation, unprecedented growth in the black middle class, and the powerful expression of black cultural pride. It was also a moment marked by cities burning, violent encounters between the state and black citizens, and a palpable sense of white fatigue with regards to matters of race and civil rights. Indeed, the successes and failures of this moment stand alongside the tremendous transformations within African American communities and American society that have so complicated and intensified contemporary racial politics in the United States that a national black public cannot currently identify and distinguish itself.

    Some even ask the question is there such a thing as a black public under present conditions. In his brilliant work, Black Visions, Michael Dawson isolates a number of developments that affected the form and content of the black public during this period. Intensified state repression and internal ideological fragmentation contributed to the ruin of many Civil Rights and Black Power organizations.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. This program also sought to fuel internecine conflicts between black militant organizations, resulted in the arrest of many local and national leaders on trumped-up charges, and in some cases was involved in the assassination of targeted individuals. State repression often resulted in wholesale paranoia among many black activists.