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The Public and its Problems

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  344 ratings  ·  23 reviews
A classic in social and political philosophy. In his characteristic and provocative dialectic style, John Dewey clarifies the meaning and implications of such concepts as “the public,” “the state,” “government,” and “political democracy”; distinguishes his a posteriori reasoning from a priori reasoning which, he argues, permeates less meaningful discussions of basic ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Swallow Press (first published 1927)
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Sarah Clement
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I became obnoxious to everyone around me whilst reading this book, mainly because - even almost a century after its publication - so much of it rings true. All of us know democracy isn't perfect. Young people in the western world have mostly lost faith in democracy, according to most recent surveys, but it seems to me that we've lost interest in discussing this social experiment and how we can make it better. Some of what Dewey has to say will seem absolutely out of reach in the modern world, ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
Reading this book reminded me why I'm not a poli-sci or sociology major. It's not that there was anything awful about the book, it's just not my 'cup o tea' as it were.

The book is actually a collection of thoughtful and insightful lectures-turned-essays contemplating the form of democracy and what truly constitutes a "public", a "society", a "community" and what government's involvement should be in all these.

For me, the writing had some great nuggets scattered throughout but unfortunately I
That people act for reasons should lead us to study the causes of those reasons (genealogy). Instead Dewey focuses on consequences (functionalism).
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of my committee members suggested I re-read John Dewey's The Public and Its Problems because my dissertation is dealing with issues of privacy, publicity, and the social. It was a delight to return to early 20th century pragmatism, since I haven't read much (except for Josiah Royce) since my master's program. Here's a few (disjointed) notes and quotations from Dewey.

Dewey argues that the public/private distinction is not simply an individual/social distinction, because private acts can be
Sep 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: oldshelf
A little obtuse in its wording, Dewey still manages to make some cutting critiques of the public's role in governance. Being a bit of a newcomer to the political scene, some of it was a bit confusing to me, but it was definitely an interesting read.
Moud Barthez
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
it is a hard book to warp your head around, it's tiny but delicate book, it's mainly about hypothesis between The Public as a whole and it's role in the society and the societies role as individuals in constructing a Governmental rule, and the role of democracy and communication on the Public.
it is kinda of a book that gives you headache, i don't recommend it to anyone, it a bit academical advanced and not using examples to simplify the theories just the cheer hypotheses by itself to justify and
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
some good points, but honestly I expected more given rorty's account of him. i guess it's all in rorty
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
John Dewey argues that the public is “in eclipse” because it is bewildered. (121-123) “There are too many publics and too much of public concern for our existing resources to cope with.” (126) This, Dewey asserts, is without historical parallel. (126) He attributes the public’s bewilderment primarily to the social changes wrought by the industrial revolution as well as the continuing technological transformation of society. (141-142, among others) These changes dislocated the public by ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I like it.
John Carter McKnight
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
My copy is a forest of sticky tabs. For the most part, it's absolutely astonishing that this book was written in 1927: its analysis of our political ills and their technological/economic roots is sharp and accurate today.

Dewey argues that mass technologies - industrialism and mass communications - pretty much necessitate the death of citizenship in favor of consumerism, by weakening strong ties and empowering weak ones, while not being blind to the many advantages of the mass age.

He's scathing
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is hard to evaluate. It's really a set of working hypotheses on the relationship between public rationality and mass society. He wants to avoid saying that the public is lost for good, like Lippmann and other said before him. Rather it's asleep or eclipsed. The problem is that his plea for increased communication and rationality is never as convincing as his description of democracy's erosion from within. This makes it seem quaint.
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
Okay this book is not the most interesting book in the world until about the fourth chapter. The writing is a little repetitive. But the idea are very interesting. Also it tends to jive well with both cynicism and optimism that America had the exact same problems almost a hundred years ago. Sure it hasn't gotten any better, but at least it isn't getting worse. The book also assumes a lot about the capacity of people which is as always endearing.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Oh where oh where has the public gone oh where oh where could it be? Poor John Dewey, like Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville before him; they just want selfish individualists to give a shit about their polity and inject a good shot of republican spirit into political discourse. I am sensitive to both their arguments and cause.
Tommy Estlund
Very interesting look at how we view community in relation to political thought. Dewey does a great job of drawing to the fore the way we see certain political institutions as "sacred" and view with a reverence that...they might not truly deserve. A difficult read, but a good one.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has so much to offer!!! Dewey is so so optimistic about the public, but I got behind it tbh. If you're uncomfortable with seeing the world through an ideological lens, read up! It may be impossible for his propositions to ever become a reality but a girl can dream \_(ツ)_/ ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
John Dewey rocks the house. He puts his finger on problems that (sadly, perhaps) we still have not managed to resolve, without caving in to pessimism or cynicism. For instance, He is thinking about prospects for "glocalization" well before Roland Robertson coined the term.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
The type of professor who assigns this book wants you to learn something about American political thought - I'm just not sure what.
Sep 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Decent. There are others I'd recommend first.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My head is spinnnnnnnninggggggggg
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You know a book is good when your very first thought upon finishing it is "...damn."

And that's "damn" pronounced as "dayum," as in "daaaaayum that's a good book."

Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
timely as ever!
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Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
The ideas are great, but man. Dewey sure can't write.
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John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism and of functional psychology. He was a major representative of the progressive and progressive populist philosophies of ...more