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September 27, 2005


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Jodi, I have been reading through Publicity's Secret and you make a very convincing case that "communicative capitalism" prevents a robust, participatory community from emerging. As I am reading it I do get the sense of despair (though I have not yet read the last chapter). It is hard for me to imagine politics without a sense of community, even a displaced, decentered one. It seems like this question has been at the heart of so many of the discussions here as well. I find myself at a crossroads: Can we abandon the idea of community without also abandoning politics? And if we do that what are we left with?

Perhaps I am being to dire, or apocalyptic. (And just to be clear, I am enjoying the book.)


Thanks, Alain. And, as usual, you get right at the big questions. Thinkers like Dewey liked to talk about politics as relations among strangers. The problems with that view, it seems to me, is that it is premised on nation states and thus an underlying commmunity. All constitutionalism has this same supposition. This of course creates problems when we try to think globally. Or perhaps even non-territorially. Thinking in terms of diasporas can sometimes be helpful. But, then I think one starts to rely on texts, traditions, and language. Maybe the problem is thinking that one has to break entirely with these other notions rather than seeing community as constituted through the problematization of or engagement with them.


Its interesting you mention Dewey. Though it has been many years since I have picked him up, he is one of the few American philosophers who understood the economic challenges to realizing social democracy. I think it was near the end of "The Quest for Certainty" that he talks about inequality as the major obstacle to more political participation. I think he even goes as far to say that people cannot govern themselves without at least minimum needs being met, including an education focused around critical thinking.

And clearly you are right: it is not a question of a radical break from the traditional notions of community and politics. But the challenge is how to reanimate what is still living in these notions. I even suspect people like Dewey are a good resource (within the American context) for these problems. Of course I do not embrace Rorty's bourgieous liberal nonsense, but I do not think his appropriation of the pragmatic tradition is exhaustive.

I wonder though if talking about pragmatism situates me to close to Habermas? Just a thought.


It is nice when some of my favorite blogs almost seem to be in conversation (accidentally) with each other. So, I was wondering if you have seen Anne Galloway's blog post today on community, trust, and social software? at



I don't think the options are between community and individuation - these are, surely, bound up with eachother.

Anyway, this might be of interest re 'public sphere' discussions:



Thanks for the links! I'll check them out and get back...


This discussion has been of great interest to me as one who has been trying to revive Dewey's political philosophy (and Dewey generally, who I find to have been absolutely right about everything, all the time, at least as much as Zizek thinks this of Lacan). I think that the challenge that Dewey posed in The Public and Its Problems is still an open one: how do we inaugurate the symbolic tools of community which are equal to the immense technological capacities at our disposal. In hindsight, when one reads Dewey's laudatory comments about science and technology (in lieu of postmodernism, etc.) there does seem to be something of a gap between then and now which is even larger than it would seem from the number of intervening years. Nevertheless, I think that a Reconstruction in Philosophy is possible and I am unaware of any better terms to propose this than Dewey's. What we need is to get rid of the Rortyian liberal/democratic Dewey in favor of a Zizekian/Stalinist Dewey. In a manuscript of mine, I use Dewey's The Public and Its Problems as a blunt instrument to beat at contemporary theoretical debates (specifically, Levinas, Butler and the Law and Economics movement)... I'm afraid I fall short of making him a Stalinist however.

In general I'd say that I embrace the view which you seem to have abandoned Jodi, of insistng upon the hypothetical third. I still feel something of a commitment to such a position even though I'm not at all sure how to enact such a thing (or are we not trying to do precisely that on this blog of yours). In any event, if you're still interested in this sort of thing, I'd love to get your comments on my manuscript.


We can talk about some of this on email (before I commit to read anything, I need to know how long the ms. is; also, I read for lots of journals, so if it's article length, it might make more sense to submit it somewhere and recommend me as a reader). A good Dutch friend of mine is also working on Dewey these days. I think this whole return to Dewey, in particular a Lacanian Stalinist Dewey! sounds very exciting. I also full accept the idea of reconstruction in philosophy/political theory--a great way to proceed.

On the third, there is likely a lot of interesting stuff that one can do with this concept. I had to jettison it as part of my 12 step recovering Habermasian program (basically, the problem in my use of the concept was how I anchored it in Habermasian categories).

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