JOHN DEWEY AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY by Robert B. Westbrook

JOHN DEWEY AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

Age Range: 1859 - 1952

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A comprehensive intellectual biography of the great democratic theorist and activist. Westbrook (History/Univ. of Rochester) traces Dewey's remarkable 70-year career with painstaking emphasis on his philosophy and politics, mentioning life circumstances only as they influenced his writings and social reform. Dewey (1859-1952) devoted his life, Westbrook remarks, to the construction of a persuasive philosophical argument for the conviction that ``democracy is freedom,'' and ``the pursuit of an activism that would secure its practical realization.'' He fought for an ethics of associated living, ``a society in which the good of each was the good of all and the good of all was the good of each.'' The book is divided into four time-periods, according to stages, not only of the development of Dewey's ideas of democratic reform, but of the social and political milieu in which he sought to implement them. Westbrook's tone is reverential, criticizing his subject only for a rare lapse or inconsistency of judgment, such as Dewey's support of Woodrow Wilson's decision to have the US enter WW I. Otherwise, Westbrook attempts, and largely succeeds, to reinterpret Dewey's writing, despite the ``lack of precision and clarity.'' His scholarship is definitive, and he succeeds in defending Dewey's work against most of his important critics, and reminding us that Dewey's concerns and ambitions are still relevant to today's world. A must for serious students of American politics, history, or philosophy, but not likely to create much of a stir outside the academic community. (Five illustrations--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8014-2560-3
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Cornell Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991