Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History

Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History

Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History

Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History

Synopsis

Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy is James Livingston's virtuoso reflection on the period between 1890 and 1930, a primal scene of American history during which a wave of new intellectual and cultural currents came together-and fell apart-to reorient society.

Casting a new perspective on seminal American thinkers and activists like John Dewey, William James, and Jane Addams and important contemporary figures like Judith Butler, Teresa Brennan, and Richard Rorty, Livingston analyzes the intersections and similarities of pragmatism and feminism, while tying in critical insights on corporate capitalism, consumer culture, social democracy, populism, and the social self. Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy is a truly original work that blends historiography, feminist theory, philosophy, and American intellectual history.

Excerpt

Modern Subjectivity and Consumer Culture

The Revenge of the New Woman

The Terms of Debate

My purpose in this chapter is to explore the relation between modern subjectivity and consumer culture. But I want to emphasize the historiographical dimensions of that relation-I want to demonstrate that the recent critique of consumer culture is an attempt to retrieve the modern subject from the wreckage of nineteenth-century proprietary capitalism, and that the attempt itself continues to command intellectual respect because it reenacts a “primal scene” of American historiography. The point of emphasizing these historiographical dimensions of the relation between modern subjectivity and consumer culture is of course polemical. Ultimately my claim will be that the critique of consumer culture blocks the search for alternatives to the “man of reason” who served as the paradigm of self-determination in the modern epoch, and thus blinds us to the political, intellectual, and cultural possibilities of our own postmodern moment.

Let me begin, then, by defining the terms of my inquiry. By “modern subjectivity” I mean the historically specific compound of assumptions, ideas, and sensibilities that convenes each self as a set of radical discontinuities (e.g., mind vs. body) which are in turn

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