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

By James Livingston | Go to book overview

6

Unstiffening Our Theories

Pragmatism, Feminism, and the End(s) of Capitalism

The Gender of Modernity

Those readers who value William James are typically admirers of his rhetorical strategies-that is, of his deceptively simple language. So they tend to appreciate and emphasize the metaphors that often carry the weight of Jamesian argument. I am no exception to the rule. In chapter 2, I tried to explain his persistent use of financial metaphors as a clue to his acceptance of a “credit economy” and its (corporate) corollaries, and in other chapters I have mentioned that James pretends pragmatism is the kind of woman who can “unstiffen our theories.” At the outset of this last chapter, I want to revisit these primal scenes of pragmatist metaphor. Doing so will allow me to explicate their intellectual implications and thus to introduce two related arguments. First, Judith Butler's theoretical position can best be defended by rewriting its genealogy so that William James rather than Friedrich Nietzsche appears as its locus classicus; here I am taking my cue from Butler's rewrite of Slovoj Žižek in Bodies That Matter. Second, the corporate “world of large-scale production” which Teresa Brennan criticizes so forcefully in History after Lacan can be seen as the necessary condition of pragmatism and feminism as well as socialism. 1

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