SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Rorty’s Fractured Politics, and Why We Need Dewey to Rehabilitate Rorty’s Reformist Vision

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In reading Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country against his philosophical work we see two divergent visions of politics. Not only are these visions in conflict, but in his overtly political work Rorty seems to be critiquing the very politics that he positively articulates in his philosophical work. In this paper, I work through these two visions—the politics of reformist activism and the politics of passivity— in order to bring out the tensions in Rorty’s political theory. I offer critical commentary on the politics of passivity from a Deweyan perspective. Finally, I argue that we have good reasons to prefer Rorty’s reformist vision to his passivist one, but that in order to shore up the former we need to recuperate aspects of Dewey’s philosophy that Rorty has sought to jettison.


Jessica Hejny    
University of Oregon, Dept of Political Science
United States


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