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“Philosophers,” Dewey writes, “are parts of history, caught in its movement; creators perhaps in some measure of its future, but also assuredly creatures of its past” (Dewey 1927, 2). The question of the philosopher’s embeddedness in either her own or some earlier historical moment constitutes an important theme in Dewey’s account of pragmatism, in particular his account of politics. In lieu of a formal treatise on history, this paper focuses on Dewey’s claims about history as they are enacted in his political analyses. Drawing on texts such as Liberalism and Social Action (1935) and Freedom and Culture (1939) as well “The Role of Philosophy in the History of Civilization” (1927), I hope to elucidate in greater depth the function and meaning of the term “historic relativity” as a central concept in Dewey’s philosophy of history (Dewey 1935, 42). Further, I evaluate Dewey’s criticisms of both classical liberalism and Marxism on historical grounds, where he employs what I call political obsolescence claims. From these texts I reconstruct and critically assess what I refer to as Dewey’s implicit philosophy of history. I conclude that the presuppositions of Dewey’s political reconstruction represent the very mode of uncritical historical reproduction which his philosophy ostensibly cautions against. To suggest one possibility for addressing these tensions, I gesture toward non-coincidence as a critical historical category through which we might articulate the historic present with the hope of transforming it.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History


Attempts to unify Marxist and feminist social critique have been vexed by the fact that ‘patriarchy’ predates the advent of capitalism (its transhistorical status). Feminists within the Marxist, socialist, and materialist traditions have responded to this point by either granting patriarchy a certain autonomy relative to capitalism (the ‘dual/triple systems’ approach), or by suggesting that patriarchal relations have a foundational and necessary status in the history of capitalist development (which we term the ‘origins-subsistence’ approach). This paper offers an alternative account of the relationship between capitalism and the transhistorical status of ‘patriarchy’. In aid of a ‘unitary theory’ of Marxist Feminism, we argue that the transhistorical status of patriarchy is better understood through an application of Marx’s concepts of formal and real subsumption. A modified version of these concepts can illuminate not only capitalist appropriation of antecedent social and economic forms, but also its capacity to produce new forms of gendered exploitation and oppression.

In: Historical Materialism