In this Book

Reconstructing Individualism
summary
America has a love-hate relationship with individualism. In Reconstructing Individualism, James Albrecht argues that our conceptions of individualism have remained trapped within the assumptions of classic liberalism. He traces an alternative genealogy of individualist ethics in four major American thinkers-Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, John Dewey, and Ralph Ellison. These writers' shared commitments to pluralism (metaphysical and cultural), experimentalism, and a melioristic stance toward value and reform led them to describe the self as inherently relational. Accordingly, they articulate models of selfhood that are socially engaged and ethically responsible, and they argue that a reconceived-or, in Dewey's term, "reconstructed"-individualism is not merely compatible with but necessary to democratic community. Conceiving selfhood and community as interrelated processes, they call for an ongoing reform of social conditions so as to educate and liberate individuality, and, conversely, they affirm the essential role individuality plays in vitalizing communal efforts at reform.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
  2. p. ix
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Introduction. “Individualism Has Never Been Tried”: Toward a Pragmatic Individualism
  2. pp. 1-22
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  1. Part 1. Emerson
  2. p. 23
  1. 1 What’s the Use of Reading Emerson Pragmatically?: The Example of William James
  2. pp. 25-52
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  1. 2 “Let Us Have Worse Cotton and Better Men”: Emerson’s Ethics of Self-Culture
  2. pp. 53-124
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  1. Part 2. Pragmatism: James and Dewey
  2. p. 125
  1. 3 Moments in the World’s Salvation: James’s Pragmatic Individualism
  2. pp. 127-190
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  1. 4 Character and Community: Dewey’s Model of Moral Selfhood
  2. pp. 191-243
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  1. 5 “The Local Is the Ultimate Universal”: Dewey on Reconstructing Individuality and Community
  2. pp. 244-278
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  1. Part 3 A Tragicomic Ethics in the Emersonian Vein: Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison
  2. p. 279
  1. 6 Saying Yes and Saying No: Individualist Ethics in Ellison and Burke
  2. pp. 281-310
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 311-370
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 371-376
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  1. American Philosophy
  2. pp. 377-378
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