Pragmatism and the American Mind: Essays and Reviews in Philosophy and Intellectual History

By Morton White | Go to book overview

4. The Revolt Against Formalism in American Social Thought of the Twentieth Century1

Historians of American thought and critics of American culture are only too aware of the kinship among some of our distinctive intellectual currents -- instrumentalism in philosophy, institutionalism in economics, legal realism in the law, economic determinism in politics and literature, the new history. From a methodological as well as a political and ethical point of view they unite to form the distinctive liberal. Weltanschauung of twentieth-century America. No' great research is necessary in order to establish the surface connections of these influential patterns of social thinking in their mature forms; nor, for that matter, does it require much effort to show a striking similarity in the intellectual origins of Beard, Dewey, Holmes, James Harvey Robinson, and Veblen. But these connections and this similarity can hardly be appreciated without a study of the ideas against which they re

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1
This essay first appeared in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume VIII ( April 1947), pp. 131-52. It then appeared, with some minor changes, as Chapter 11 of my Social Thought in America ( New York, Viking Press, 1949), which was reprinted as a paperback in 1957 by the Beacon Press of Boston. The essay has also been reprinted in Historical Vistas, edited by R. Wiebe and G. McWhiney ( Boston, 1964), pp. 417-38. The present version is virtually the same as the original and is reprinted by permission.

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