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Pragmatism and power, or the power to make a difference in a radically contingent world

Allen, John (2008). Pragmatism and power, or the power to make a difference in a radically contingent world. Geoforum, 39(4) pp. 1613–1624.

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Power seems to occupy an understated role in much pragmatist thought, both classical and contemporary. It is clearly a blind spot in Richard Rorty's work, although it is ever present in the background, and for John Dewey and William James it often appears as indistinguishable from the power to act or intervene in events so as to make a difference. In this paper, I want to push a practical account of power a step further by drawing out its expedient, anti-foundational character and its Dewey-style grounding in experience. I also try to show how the power to make a difference may just as easily be transformed into the powers of imposition and constraint, where one side gains at the expense of another. Following that, I draw out a more provisional sense of power based upon the difference that space and spatiality make to what pragmatists have traditionally referred to as the contextuality and contingency of events. This is tentatively explored by a consideration of what spatial experiments with power might look like when employed to bring about change and make a difference in the world.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2008 Elsevier Ltd
ISSN: 0016-7185
Keywords: power; experience; contingency; context; anti-foundational; spatial experiments
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Item ID: 11709
Depositing User: Jan Smith
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2008 08:42
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2019 05:50
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