This volume examines the roots of pragmatist imagination and traces the influence of American pragmatism in diverse areas of politics, law, sociology, political science, and transitional studies.
The work explores the interfaces between the Progressive movement in politics and American pragmatism. Shalin shows how early 20th century progressivism influenced pragmatism's philosophical agenda and how pragmatists helped articulate a theory of progressive reform. The work addresses pragmatism and interactionist sociology and illuminates the cross-fertilization between these two fields of studies. Special emphasis is placed on the interactionists' search for a logic of inquiry sensitive to the objective indeterminacy of the situation. The challenge that contemporary interactionist studies face is to illuminate the issues of power and inequality central to the political commitments of pragmatist philosophers.
Shalin explores the vital link between democracy, civility, and affect. His central thesis is that democracy is an embodied process that binds affectively as well as rhetorically and that flourishes in places where civic discourse is an end in itself, a source of vitality and social creativity sustaining a democratic community. The author shows why civic discourse is hobbled by the civic body that has been misshapen by past abuses. Drawing on the studies of the civilizing process, Shalin speculates about the emotion, demeanor, and body language of democracy and explores from this angle the prospects for democratic transformation in countries struggling to shake their totalitarian past.