Pragmatism has enjoyed a considerable revival in the latter part of the twentieth century, but what precisely constitutes pragmatism remains a matter of dispute. In reconstructing the pragmatic tradition in political philosophy, Matthew Festenstein rejects the idea that it is a single, cohesive doctrine. His incisive analysis brings out the commonalities and shared concerns among contemporary pragmatists while making clear their differences in how they would resolve those concerns. His study begins with the work of John Dewey and the moral and psychological conceptions that shaped his philosophy. Here Festenstein lays out the major philosophic issues with which first Dewey, and then his heirs, would grapple.
The book's second part traces how Dewey's approach has been differently developed, especially in the work of three contemporary pragmatic thinkers: Richard Rorty, Jürgen Habermas, and Hilary Putnam. This first full-length critical study of the relationship between the pragmatist tradition and political philosophy fills a significant gap in contemporary thought.