This book makes the case for a pragmatist approach to the practice of social inquiry and knowledge production. Through diverse examples from multiple disciplines, contributors explore the power of pragmatism to inform a practice of inquiry that is democratic, community-centred, problem-oriented and experimental. Drawing from both classical and neo-pragmatist perspectives, the book advances a pragmatist sensibility in which truth and knowledge are contingent rather than universal, made rather than found, provisional rather than dogmatic, subject to continuous experimentation rather than ultimate proof and verified in their application in action rather than in the accuracy of their representation of an antecedent reality. The power of pragmatism offers a path forward for mobilizing the practice of inquiry in social research, exploring the implications of pragmatism for the process of knowledge production.
Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some practical difference that must follow from one side or the other being right.
William James, Pragmatism: A new name for some old ways of thinking
The uses of Pragmatism
The essays in The power of pragmatism draw on the canon of first-generation Pragmatist thinkers, primarily John Dewey, alongside William James and George Herbert Mead, as well as on Richard Rorty’s more recent iconoclastic anti-representational pragmatist revivalism. One might ask, however, in what respects the
not expect or envision a specific type of future. Its concern, rather, is on the contextual experience of ‘what to do’ in the here and now. What planners have in mind is a set of practices and orientation, not one eventual end point.
This chapter argues that pragmatism has much to offer contemporary planning theory and practice and in what follows I discuss the influence of pragmatism on contemporary planning thought and introduce a new reading of pragmatist planning that can enhance theory and practice in future. Contemporary planning theory has been dominated by
this is to say that modernism is an anti-ecological form of knowledge both in its impact on ecology – or the three ecologies set out by Félix Guattari (2000, and see below) – and in its reductive stances. Pragmatism and related non-representational approaches, in contrast, are potentially ecological forms of knowledge that embrace the interconnectivity of all things and have an evolutionary understanding of how the earth and cosmos advance through space-time in a burgeoning becoming of which they are part.
In this chapter, I seek to highlight the links between
good immunity. The laws of economic science that allow markets to flourish also produce income inequality, negative environmental externalities and uneven development. These are just a few examples in a long list of unanticipated consequences of science that are coming home to roost in the Anthropocene ( Mitchell, 2002 ; Polanyi, 1920  , 1944  ). In both the natural and social sciences, belief in certainty has sometimes produced deadly effects.
This book aims to make the case for pragmatism as an approach to social inquiry in which the absence of
alternatives – armchair theorising associated with little-d development or conventional non-reflexive developmental action informed by big-D development – is better, but both would be relatively comfortable compared with trying to practise ‘reflexive development’ ( Jakimow, 2008 ), which is an approach to development that is more aligned with pragmatic principles. In this challenging environment, pragmatism provides some guiding principles to help navigate reflexive development which demands: (1) a non-relativist anti-foundationalism comprising “systematic understanding of
Dewey’s pragmatism and its implications for the spatialisation of social science
sufficient correctives throughout the discussion to avoid this possibility. One other preliminary is that this discussion focuses on the human experience of space. This is not uncontroversial, given current discussions of more-than-human environments, distributed agency and flat ontologies of human-non-human-object assemblages ( DaLanda, 2006 ; Deleuze and Guatarri, 1987 ). In the course of the discussion, I suggest how the exclusive focus on human experience and action can be justified in terms of the focus on space and spatial relations.
Pragmatism’s view of human
– and all this quite aside from the political sand traps and institutional impediments that can thwart academic scholarship. As illustrated by the contributors to this volume, pragmatism offers a way through these multiple challenges. How and why it does so bears careful scrutiny, especially in light of the growing crisis of collective confidence in our knowledge and its production today. In this brief concluding chapter I attempt to clarify some of the challenges facing the production of knowledge in the social sciences and to highlight the contributions that can be
poststructuralist theory considers crucial for democracy ( Mouffe, 2005 ). They also make use of corresponding patterns of critique by staging themselves as counterhegemonic fighters opposing the establishment elite holding positions of power in society.
Against these developments, pragmatism can play two of its strengths. First, according to pragmatic epistemology, truths cannot be denied their validity simply by referring to the contingency of all truths. Despite its consistent truth relativism, pragmatism offers guidelines by means of which it is possible to make a
to many people who, like Barbara, feel that change in their community associated with large-scale migration of people from different cultures has been negative for them. From a pragmatist perspective, the dominant culture within politics and academia shows little respect for the truths of people like Barbara and this is something that needs to be addressed.
Although it was conceived as a way of overcoming the dangers of hard-and-fast ideologically driven beliefs in the wake of the violence of the American Civil War ( Menand, 2011 ), pragmatism has often been