While many current analyses of democracy focus on creating a more civil, respectful debate among competing political viewpoints, this study argues that the existence of structural social inequality requires us to go beyond the realm of political debate. Challenging prominent contemporary theories of democracy, the author draws on John Dewey to bring the work of combating social inequality into the forefront of democratic thought. Dewey's 'pragmatic' principles are deployed to present democracy as a developing concept constantly confronting unique conditions obstructing its growth. Under structurally unequal social conditions, democracy is thereby seen as demanding the overcoming of this inequality; this inequality corrupts even well-organized forums of political debate, and prevents individuals from governing their everyday lives. Dewey's approach shows that the process of fighting social inequality is uniquely democratic, and he avoids current democratic theory's tendency to abstract from this inequality.
Jeff Jackson is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. His work has appeared in such journals as Political Theory, Polity, Democratic Theory, The Pluralist, and Education and Culture. He has published on a wide range of topics, including contemporary democratic theory, American pragmatist philosophy, Platonic and Hegelian philosophy, the possibilities for a universal basic income, and philosophy of education.
Introduction; 1. The democratic individual; 2. The Hegelian development of Deweyan democracy; 3. The pursuit of democratic political institutions; 4. From deliberative to participatory democracy; 5. Agonism, communitarianism, and cosmopolitanism; 6. Educating democratic individuals; Conclusion.