Lippmann, the indispensable opposition

Posted on 14 July 12


Jean Goodwin, “Lippmann, the indispensable opponent.” In Trained Capacities: John Dewey, Rhetoric, and Democratic Practice, edited by Brian Jackson and Gregory Clark, 142-158. University of South Caroline Press, 2014.

Lippmann and Dewey both confronted the problem of how to get the nation’s highly successful science to have impact in the public sphere.  Dewey’s solution to the problem is well known: an underspecified form of communication which would transform the Great Society beyond the understanding of any individual into the Great Community where policies could be wisely chosen. Lippmann was more uncompromisingly pessimistic, doubting the ability of anyone–including himself–to master the range of knowledge necessary to make fully informed decisions. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate role for even uninformed publics to participate in civic deliberations:  they act as adjudicators of debates in which the contending experts demonstrate their reasonability.

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