Organic Democracy: The Political Philosophy of John Dewey

Organic Democracy:
The Political Philosophy of John Dewey

By Scott London

John Dewey has been described as “a philosopher who combined the stubborn perseverance of a New England farmer with the zeal of a reckless liberal.” He was a progressive and far-sighted thinker with a distinctly American sensibility, one who espoused the virtues of pragmatism and experience over absolute and metaphysical truths and who advanced a social and political philosophy perhaps more thoroughly democratic than any that has been formulated before — or since. Today, a half-century after his death, John Dewey remains if not America’s premier political philosopher, then at least its greatest spokesman for civil society, community values, grass-roots liberalism, and — some would argue — even democracy itself.

John Dewey was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont. After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont, followed by a brief stint as a high school teacher, he earned his Ph.D. from John Hopkins University. He went on to teach at the University of Michigan for about ten years, the University of Chicago for another ten, and finally Columbia University where he chaired the philosophy department for over twenty years. After his retirement in 1930, he remained active and continued to write many articles and books not only on philosophy and logic but on art, education, science, and social and political reform. Among his many books are Democracy and Education, Reconstruction in Philosophy, The Public and Its Problems, and Freedom and Culture. In addition to his life as a philosopher and teacher, he was a tireless social activist and championed a wide range of humanitarian causes during his lifetime. He died in 1952.

A society was not an entity unto itself, Dewey said, but rather an aggregate of individuals who grow and evolve. By extension, only a society that could grow and evolve as its citizens did would be truly free.

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MORE on Dewey:

Center for Dewey Studies

Pragmatism Cybrary

Dewey’s Political Philosophy – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

John Dewey – WIKIpedia