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eight pragmatism, constructivism, and the theory of culture Stefan Neubert  Pragmatism and constructivism share a common interest in cultural theory. Classical Pragmatists like John Dewey and George Herbert Mead held their philosophies to be contributions to the theory and criticism of culture. In the case of Dewey it is well known that ‘‘culture’’ increasingly became the dominant focus of much of his thinking in his later period, so much, indeed, that by the end of his life he was ready even to exchange his favorite philosophical candidate , ‘‘experience,’’ with the term ‘‘culture’’ as it was then established in its anthropological sense (see LW 1:361–62). Present-day Pragmatists prove their continuing interest in culture by focusing their work on themes like technology, art, education, democracy, or community—topics that in the tradition of Pragmatist thought are deeply embedded in the overarching concern for culture. Present-day constructivists, on the other hand, have witnessed in the last decades what some have called a ‘‘cultural turn’’ in constructivist discourses. PAGE 162 { 162 } ................. 17147$ $CH8 01-07-09 14:26:17 PS stefan neubert 163 It is by now a well-established conviction among most of its exponents that constructivism cannot be radical or methodologically consistent without broadly taking into consideration the cultural contexts always implied in the human production or construction of realities. Given these shared interests, then, what specific contributions and suggestions can Pragmatism and constructivism offer each other with regard to cultural theory? What points of coincidence and what lines of divergence do their respective views of culture amount to? What can they contribute to and learn from each other with respect to the theory of culture? In this chapter, I will try to give some answers to these questions from the perspective of Cologne interactive constructivism (Reich 1998a, 1998b, 2000a; Neubert and Reich 2000; Neubert 1998). I will largely confine my discussion to the relationship between constructivism and Deweyan Pragmatism, indicating here and there some implications for the contemporary neo-Pragmatist program of rereading Dewey through postmodern eyes. Cultural Theory in the Deweyan Tradition I want to confine myself in the first part of this chapter to highlighting three major perspectives on cultural theory to be found in Dewey ’s thought (Neubert 1998). Each of these perspectives has been developed most comprehensively and extensively in his middle and especially in his later works, although in many ways they draw upon sources that go back to the very early and formative periods of his thinking (see Westbrook 1991). In general, I agree with Jim Garrison on his claim that ‘‘Dewey was a ‘social constructivist’ decades before the phrase became fashionable’’ (Garrison 1997a, 39), and I think this claim in particular holds true for Dewey’s views on culture. The perspectives I want to sketch are in my view still highly relevant for present-day constructivist theories of culture, even if I suggest that they should in part be critically reviewed and reconstructed in the light of more recent theoretical developments. PAGE 163 ................. 17147$ $CH8 01-07-09 14:26:18 PS 164 pragmatism, constructivism, and the theory of culture Culture and Experience Important for Dewey’s theory of culture is first of all his philosophical core concept, ‘‘experience.’’ Experience in the Deweyan sense is characterized by continuity and interaction. It is an active-passive continuum of human sense production whose basic unit is the act, ‘‘and the act in its full development as a connection between doing and undergoing, which, when the connection is perceived, supplies meaning to the act’’ (LW 11:214). In its most comprehensive sense, experience means life-experience, the sum of a ‘‘life-career of individualized activities’’ (LW 5:224) and learning processes that each in their turn have contributed to the quality of subsequent experiences. In its most immediate sense, primary experience constitutes our very being-inthe -world or being-in-situations as an unresolved wholeness. ‘‘‘Experience ’ ( . . . ) recognizes in its primary integrity no division between act and material, subject and object, but contains them both in an unanalyzed totality’’ (LW 1:18). When reflected upon, the materials of primary experience are discriminated and turned into objects of secondary experience, i.e., objects of thought. That happens whenever we are involved in a troubled, problematic, or tensional situation that demands inquiry into its constitutive elements in order to resolve the problem or tension at hand. Dewey makes clear that for him this is a process of construction (see LW 1:16) that implies a circular...


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