It seems clear that the world view that blended pragmatism and the idea of progress into the theoretical foundation of twentieth-century liberalism has now gone into something of an eclipse. Pragmatism today is generally regarded as philosophically passé and psychologically naive; liberalism seems to have vastly misconstrued both the nature of postindustrial power and the real possibilities of human rationality; and progress--or what has usually been regarded as such--apparently exacts its own grim compensation for every facet of social and technological advance. That liberal optimism proclaiming its faith in progress through a humanistic, experimental science has been greatly eroded in the past decade. The dominant mood in America today swings from a shallow nostalgia through existential resignation to what Theodore Roszak has called "that dispiriting conviction of cosmic absurdity" haunting contemporary culture.
One reason for this general lapse from optimism and confidence may lie, ironically, largely within the compass of pragmatic liberalism itself, for to score its own telling blows against the regnant orthodoxy of late nineteenth-century rationalism and conservatism, pragmatic liberalism may have both overdramatized the accomplishments it portended and underestimated the