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Achieving Dewey’s Vision of a Radical Democracy: The Necessary Contributions of George Herbert Mead

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David Woods
Southern Connecticut State University
United States

During their forty years of working together, John Dewey and George Herbert Mead collaboratively developed a radical vision of democracy as well as transformative strategies that had real impact in their time and place. The purpose of this paper is to highlight Mead’s distinctive contributions and to deploy them to further the radical pragmatist project of achieving a deepening and extending democracy in the twenty-first century. Specifically I will focus on two intertwined aspects of Mead’s continuing importance for radical democrats: (1) what Mead said about democracy and sociality, and (2) how we can deploy Mead’s insights now in education and in opportunities for participatory democracy in urban planning. While it is true that Dewey wrote extensively about the need for and development of a radical democracy or a deep democracy that has been the basis for providing opportunities for citizens to influence public decision makers and to develop visions for their communities, I will argue here that we need Mead’s understanding of community and his definition of democracy to assist us if we are to implement Dewey’s vision of a radical democracy.


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