Prolegomenon to the social philosophy of John Dewey

John Dewey has long recognized as one of America’s greatest philosophers. Yet his social philosophy has been underappreciated, especially as it has served to influence much of contemporary Communitarian thought. The purpose of this essay is to revisit aspects of Dewey’s alleged liberalism, specifically with respect to questions of human nature, social norms, morality, rights, social control, the role of institutions, and the place of the State. One sees that Dewey over time altered his perception of man as a fundamentally communal being and, in so doing, allowed a place for State control in shaping conduct to desired social ends, apparently unconcerned that such a program would lead in the end to the loss of individuality he so sought to protect.