Pragmatism, Practice and the Politics of Critique

in Contemporary Pragmatism
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Colin Koopman’s Pragmatism as Transition offers an argumentative retelling of the history of American pragmatism in terms of the tradition’s preoccupation with time. Taking time seriously offers a venue for reorienting pragmatism today as a practice of cultural critique. This article examines the political implications third wave pragmatism’s conceptualization of time, practice, and critique. I argue that Koopman’s book opens up possible lines of inquiry into historical practices of critique from William James to James Baldwin that, when followed through to their conclusion, trouble some of the book’s political conclusions. Taking time and practice seriously, as transitionalism invites pragmatists to do, demands pluralizing critique in a way that puts pressure on familiar pragmatist convictions concerning liberalism, progress, and American exceptionalism.

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