Is progressivism a religion

126 II. The theory of democracy in John Dewey The fact that pragmatism is sometimes elevated to the rank of a "philosophy of democracy "384 is above all thanks to John Dewey. None of the pragmatic philosophers has expressed himself as thoroughly and fundamentally on questions of political philosophy as he has. In addition, he regularly took a public position on current political issues and thus in the 20s and 30s of the last century as a "public philosopher" in the United States exerted an influence on intellectual political life that is comparable to the role played by for example Jean-Paul Sartre played in post-war Europe. The following is intended to show how the basic philosophical positions of Dewey's pragmatism are reflected in his political thinking. Then the two lines of reasoning that characterize Dewey's theory of democracy are traced: on the one hand, a moral-naturalistic teleology, on the other hand, a functional-epistemological argument based on a specific understanding of the function of the public. First, however, the historical background and the history of ideas should be briefly described, against which Dewey developed his theory of democracy. 1. John Dewey as "Public Philosopher" of Progressivism Dewey has been actively involved in the public discussion of political and social issues throughout his life. He wrote countless articles and columns in daily newspapers and political magazines on political topics as diverse as the USA's entry into the war, the political situation in China or the trial of Leon Trotsky. Dewey thus became one of the most influential intellectuals in the United States, whose judgment was widely heard outside of the university, and one of the most important masterminds of the movement of "progressivism", a movement that significantly influenced the political climate at the beginning of the 20th century shaped the United States. a) The Progressivism Program Progressivism was a reaction to the political challenges that American democracy was faced with in the face of radical economic and social structural change at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Industrialization in particular had led to considerable changes and distortions within social structures. One of them is the title of the monograph by Fott (1998) and an anthology published by Joas on Dewey's pragmatism. On the other hand, huge corporations and trusts had emerged, which concentrated economic power on themselves to an extent previously unknown. On the other hand - not least due to an enormous influx of European emigrants who offered themselves as cheap labor - an increasing impoverishment of the industrial proletariat could be observed. In this changed social climate, the classic liberal guiding ideas that had previously shaped the American social and economic order, namely private autonomy, free market and laissez-faire, began to become increasingly questionable. Private autonomy was de facto worthless for those who had nothing to offer but their labor and were therefore forced to take jobs with poor pay and catastrophic working conditions. The free market was taken to absurdity where a handful of trusts had divided the market among themselves and thus could dictate prices. And a regulatory, laissez-faire attitude was unable to put an end to these abuses. In addition to the climate of economic modernization that got out of hand, there was a feeling of unease that the institutions that represented traditional values ​​and moral concepts were increasingly losing their authority and were thus unable to adapt a meaningful religious, moral or moral sense to the rapid change in the social world to give political interpretation. James Kloppenberg described this epoch feeling “Theory was out of phase with reality ”385. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, intellectual currents emerged that tried to restore the lost harmony between theory and reality. The name "Progressive Movement" or "Progressivism" was soon coined to identify these movements. Behind each is a collective name for various social reform initiatives that arose from very different sources. They had their origin partly in the moralism of the long-established Protestant denominations, but partly also in a technocratic belief in science, such as was widespread especially in the newly formed middle classes386. In view of these different origins, it is hardly surprising that very different goals were pursued within the “Progressive Movement” and that even within the movement there were considerable differences of opinion between the representatives of the individual directions387. Despite these inner ambivalences and contradictions, common features can still be identified: On the one hand, progressivism was about overcoming the atomistic individualism of classical liberalism and instead understanding the democratic citizen as someone who first developed his individual identity through culture and the Can develop the values ​​of the community in which he lives. Associated with this was the advocacy of an active “welfare state”, which met the material requirements of this individual self-development for 385 Kloppenberg (1986) p. 298. 386 Cf. on the Progressive Movement et al. Hofstadter (1955); Westbrook (1991) p. 182 ff .; Vogt (2002) p. 83 ff. 387 In particular Vogt (2002) p. 85 ff. 128 should guarantee all citizens by eliminating imbalances in the markets and offering the socially weaker people protection from being overreached and exploited. State institutions should use modern methods of social sciences, economics and statistics for this purpose. In summary, the political project of progressivism could be characterized as an endeavor to provide American society with a solid ethical foundation as well as an efficient and modern organization388. The aim was to save the achievements of American democracy both from being undermined by unleashed industrial capitalism and from the danger of socialist revolution. In this respect, progressivism was a social democratic movement "via media" between radical liberalism and socialism389. The resistance of progressivism was directed primarily against those ways of thinking which, in its view, prevented an appropriate social reaction to the changing living conditions by continuing to adhere to traditional formal principles without taking sufficient account of the fact that these now refer to completely changed social contents were related. The Progressive Movement turned against an economy that was able to recognize a guarantee for increasing prosperity only in the free rulership of market forces, without noticing that in social reality numerous markets no longer functioned as freely and efficiently as the abstract ones Theories of economists provided. Progressivism also turned against a private law that wanted to link the effectiveness of contracts solely to the agreement of the parties' will, without taking into account that, due to diverse social interests and power relations, these parties were in reality far from being able to act as autonomously as the dogma of private autonomy imputed this. The critical impetus of the Progressive Movement therefore consisted primarily of what Morton White called a "revolt against formalism "390. The “Progressive Movement” was by no means a revolutionary, but a thoroughly reforming movement. The democratic constitution of the United States was not called into question; it was rather a matter of revitalizing this constitution through a renewed public spirit. It was a matter of course for all progressivists that the American polity was only conceivable as a democratic one. Even the social reform efforts of progressivism were not aimed at transforming the free-market economic constitution in a socialist sense. The Progressive Movement attached importance to a sharp demarcation from socialist or even communist ideas. Market and free competition should not be eliminated as evils, but should be restored to their original law by creating fair economic opportunities for all market participants. From the point of view of 388 Vogt (2002) p. 98. 389 Kloppenberg (1986) p. 413. 390 White (1952) p. 11 ff. 129 of the progressivists, it was above all necessary to limit the market power of the large corporations and cartels To improve the working conditions of the working population through legally guaranteed minimum standards. The progressive movement is primarily located in the period from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of the First World War. As a result of the war, the American public initially lost interest in domestic political reforms. It was precisely the impulses of the Progressive Movement aimed at social and economic reforms that got back on the agenda after the end of the war and continued into the era of Roosevelt's New Deal, after the global economic crisis that followed the stock market crash of 1929 increased confidence in the functionality of a largely unregulated market economy had also undermined. In the field of law, the reform impulse of the Progressive Movement only came to fruition in the 1920s and 1930s in the form of Sociological Jurisprudence and Legal Realism, after the Supreme Court initially opposed considerable resistance to progressivist legislation391. b) The role of John Dewey One of the most important sources of ideas for the progressivist movement was John Dewey392. The revolt against formalism found perhaps its most consistent and thorough expression in its pragmatic instrumentalism. Dewey's thesis that philosophy should no longer embark on a "search for certainty" but that it was its task to develop the intellectual tools that would enable people to deal with the dynamics and contingency that life in shaped modernity, corresponded to the progressivist view that political action had to be guided not by ideologies but by practical political and social needs. The maxim of pragmatism, according to which concepts and theories only had meaning insofar as they had consequences that could be experienced in practice, proved to be fertile ground for an alternative to the formalism, the principles of which were increasingly reduced to absurdity by social reality. Dewey's fundamental criticism of the dualistic structures of Western philosophy finally made it possible to tackle the overcoming of the dualism of the individual and society, which was the basis of classical liberalism in particular, and which was perceived by the progressivists as a decisive obstacle to social reforms. 391 See in detail below p. 249 ff. 392 Hofstadter (1955) p. 154 counts him as part of the "brain trust of the progressive movement". On the philosophical foundations of progressivism, see also Kloppenberg (1987) p. 410 ff. 130 le reforms such as limiting working hours or the introduction of a minimum wage. Dewey expressly shared the political goals of progressivism, especially of its more radical wing393. The renewal of the moral foundation of American democracy and the need for social reforms, which were guided not by ideology but by social science findings, were at the center of his political commitment. Dewey's position on socialism deserves a closer look. On the one hand, Dewey was always a vehement supporter of the expansion of the welfare state and he advocated not leaving control of the means of production in the hands of a few privileged private individuals. However, he also kept his distance from socialism throughout his life, insofar as it advocated a complete nationalization of the means of production. Dewey saw in such measures the danger that they would conjure up a centralized state bureaucracy whose abundance of power could endanger the democratic structures of participation394. He rather had a model in mind, such as that propagated by the British "Guild Socialism". After that, the means of production should, if possible, be checked by the workers in the respective companies on site. Dewey's mission statement was "a federation of self-governing industries with the government acting as adjuster and arbiter rather than as direct owner and manager" 395. Dewey consequently placed his hopes not on centralized state socialism, but on the democratization of the factories. In his opinion, this was the only way to create economic conditions for the broad mass of the American population that enabled them to participate actively and in a self-determined manner in the democratic community. However, neither the capitalist economic order nor state socialism were able to guarantee such economic autonomy for the citizens, because in both cases economic power lay either with the private owner of the means of production or in the hands of the state. Dewey's views thus moved on the social democratic line of the left wing of the Progressive Movement and are thus evidence that this movement was not about the abolition but about a fundamental renewal of free competition by actually giving all citizens free participation in the market economy and Democracy should be made possible. Dewey's political engagement as a public intellectual is nothing that can be separated from his pragmatic philosophy. His political program turns out to be a consistent application of pragmatic thinking to the sphere of the political. To explain this connection between philosophy and politics in more detail is the subject of the next section. 393 On this Hoy (1998) pp. 3 f. 394 Cf. in particular Dewey's essay "What are we fighting for?", Dewey MW 11.104. Also Westbrook (1991) pp. 224 f. 395 Dewey MW 11.105. 131 2. Philosophy and Politics Dewey sees the core of pragmatic philosophy in the fact that it has left the dualism of theory and practice behind396. Instead, he insists that theoretical reflection and practical action are always inextricably linked. Theory only gains its meaning from the fact that it is related to possible actions and their consequences, and rational action must always be guided by theoretical reflection. Against this background, it goes without saying for Dewey that political philosophy and political practice belong together. Political action requires philosophical clarification and guidance, and political theory is not an end in itself for the sake of pure knowledge, but must always keep an eye on its practical social effects and be measured against them. With regard to political theory, too, Dewey propagates an experimentalism in which theory and practice form a unit. As will be explained later, for Dewey it follows not least from this experimentalist basic attitude that a democratic constitution of the community is preferable. The basic epistemological positions of pragmatism thus have a direct impact on political theory. This connection between philosophy and politics becomes particularly clear in a short text by Dewey entitled "German Philosophy and Politics", which appeared for the first time in 1916 and was revised again in 1942 in view of the Second World War and National Socialism. a) The political significance of Kant's moral philosophy Dewey tries to interpret forms of German politics in the 20th century, initially the aggressive power politics of the Wilhelmine Empire, and later also National Socialism, in terms of the history of ideas as the consequences of certain positions in German philosophy. Dewey does not see the philosophical root of the political evil in the usual suspects, i.e. neither in Hegel's state philosophy nor in Nietzsche's superhuman fantasies, but rather in the premises of Immanuel Kant's idealistic philosophy. Dewey particularly holds the Kantian moral philosophy responsible for German war policy398. In doing so, he continues the criticism that he has already made in his 396 above, p. 53 ff. 397 below, p. 152 ff. 398 In "German Philosophy and Politics", Dewey does not go into the historical and political causes of the First World War it simply presupposes that it is the Western powers who represent the cause of reason and civilization in this conflict. On the political aspects, however, Dewey has expressed himself in numerous contributions and essays, not aimed at a philosophical specialist audience, but at a broader public, in which he, among other things,vehemently for Woodrow Wilson's desire to intervene