You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

More On Progressivism And Liberalism

by Eric Rauchway

puts his fingerneverJames KloppenbergNew RepublicThe Promise of American LifeProgressive Democracy
assumes the ability of the human intelligence to frame temporary programs which will provide a sufficient foundation for significant and fruitful action. It anticipates that as a result of such action a progressive democracy will learn how to be progressively democratic.
First, knowledge is never a simple reflection of the world outside us. It inevitably contains a fiduciary element; its verification requires us, in James's phrase, to "trade on each other's truth." Second, neither this pragmatic knowledge nor the sort of progress stemming from it is automatic. Third, our intelligence cannot yield definite answers to social questions; it only enables us to construct possible solutions ... solutions we must then test in practice. Finally, no abstract scheme of progress can be presented in advance; as individuals and as a society we can only tackle our problems instrumentally....1
Lippmann's faith in science was not naive.... not the science of positivism but the ... experimentalism of James.... Lippmann insisted that nothing can be more unscientific that the masquerade of certainty, and only one sort of political system leaves room for, and even insists upon, doubt. "There is nothing accidental then in the fact that democracy in politics is the twin-brother of scientific thinking."... This was precisely the argument that Dewey had tried repeatedly to make, but he never made it more persuasively--perhaps because he never made it so clearly.2
this bookthe previous postsays