A Democratic Ideal for Troubled Times: John Dewey, Civic Action, and Peaceful Conflict Resolution

Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies 2 (2):pp. 2-29 (2016)
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In an era defined by events that continuously shake Fukuyama’s thesis according to which liberal democracy constitutes the end of History, there is need for a democratic ideal that puts the role of civic action at the heart of its justification. In this article, I argue that John Dewey’s democratic ideal understood as a matter of civic co-creation, where democratic pursuits are continually redefined by citizens through solving communal problems - not set by history, once and for all - provides a valuable response to this need. To this end, this article reconsiders Deweyan democracy by:(1) presenting it as a transformational process, in opposition to liberal democracy; (2) discussing Dewey’s conception of active citizenship as requiring more than mere political participation; (3) articulating Dewey’s democratic ideal as a form of applied social intelligence; (4) making explicit the pedagogical consequences of Deweyan democracy; and (5) interpreting it as a form of peaceful conflict resolution aiming at balance in inter-personal relationships.

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Joshua Forstenzer
University of Sheffield


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