What Dewey Knew: The Public as Problem, Practice, and Art

Laura Bieger*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    This essay takes the present “post truth” threat to democratic politics as an occasion to revisit John Dewey’s view of the public as a political actor that is both indispensible for the project of modern democracy and vulnerable to self-effacement. Drawing on a recent development in democratic theory—epistemic democracy—that is in part inspired by Dewey, I trace how Dewey’s relativist understanding of truth animates his views of the public as a political actor and of democracy as a “collective exercise in practical intelligence” (Festenstein). But in linking the epistemic thrust of Dewey’s political theory with his view of communication as art, I move beyond established understandings of epistemic democracy to argue that the aesthetic is assigned with a key role in collectively exercising the practical intelligence that both sustains democracy and moves it forward—and that epistemic democrats have overlooked so far.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages14
    JournalEuropean Journal of American Studies
    Volume15
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Apr-2020

    Keywords

    • Aesthetics
    • Communication
    • Epistemic democracy
    • John Dewey
    • Jürgen Habermas
    • The public

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