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The Presence of Democracy: Deweyan Exceptionalism and Communist Teachers in the 1930s

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 66, Number 1, January 2005
pp. 79-97 | 10.1353/jhi.2005.0025


In the 1930s, John Dewey helped lead a purge of communists from the New York City teachers union. That he justified this action politically and philosophically calls into question the claim that Deweyan pragmatism was a radically democratic philosophy. Instead, Dewey's abiding belief in the exceptionally democratic character of American life allowed him to evade genuine democracy, to normalize political engagement while aligning it with national and nationalist imperatives, and to endorse the repression of legitimate political dissent.

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