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Freedom and Culture [Paperback]

John Dewey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1989 Great Books in Philosophy
The twentieth century has witnessed the blossoming of Western culture: new technology; communications and transportation systems; social, political, educational, agricultural, and medical advances. But with these changes have come the strains and tensions of conflicting interests, desires, and values within the community. John Dewey, one of America's most prolific writers of popular philosophy, believed that humankind could keep a firm hold on its destiny only if the critical intelligence of scientific method and its democratic counterpart were emphasized and promoted. Freedom of inquiry, tolerance of diverse ideas and opinions, cultural pluralism, free speech, and a willingness to cooperate in pursuit of shared values and ideals would be the springboard for social development.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful work. Oct. 25 2002
Format:Paperback
FREEDOM AND CULTURE is particularly helpful in understanding the different views of freedom and liberty found within the Anglo-American school of thought as compared to the Continental school of thought. Dewey is always an informative read and he explains things very well, though that doesn't mean he would grab the attention of the uninterested. I greatly enjoyed this book, along with Dewey's other works.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good but Remarkably Short Scope. July 1 2002
Format:Paperback
Like so many other of Dewey's books, this could've been- indeed should've been- longer. It was also a bit more muddled than other Dewey-penned titles I've read. The ideas are many, but if one underlying theme had to be given, it would be the shattering of the nature/nurture dualilsm (as relating to political debate.) I've long since agreed with Dewey here. It is absurd to postulate as to what man's nature is apart from an environment for her to act on. This does not mean that Dewey is denying biological traits- nor is he saying that we are simply products of environment. He breaks through the dualism by suggesting that just as our environments exist the way they do because of our action upon them, we exist the way we do because of how our environemt acts on us. Any line drawing between inside and outside is dangerous and leads to bad theory.
From here, he takes the above theory to a few problems in political debate. Do capitialism and democracy HAVE to be exlusive and is there any good reason they can't function seperately? Does Marxism undermine itself by acknowledging environmental factors to the elimination of human autonomy? If, as Marxism holds, that environment is ALL there is, how can someone be class-conscious- isn't that an autonomous actiion? Dewey's point in asking these questions is to tell us that the answers (if there are any) are not as easy as poltical science might have us believe. For every decision (capitalism, totalitarianism, welfare state etc.) there are trade offs. Here's where Dewey brings in science.
As we know, the pragmatists are ga-ga over science and rightfully so. Science as Dewey knows it is a process, not a concrete method. Science is debate and discovery through experiment and dialogue.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom & Culture shock May 8 2004
Format:Paperback
An eye-opening book. Especially in view of the fact that Dewey was a totalitarian socialist who wanted government to take over all education via government schools. He called Edward Bellamy his "Great American Prophet" after Bellamy wrote the book "Looking Backward" wherein Bellamy penned his totalitarian vision. Edward Bellamy was the cousin of Francis Bellamy, another national socialist in the U.S. who, in 1892 created the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag (using a straight-armed salute) to promote government schools. They all wanted the government to takeover all schools and create an "industrial army" of totalitarian socialism as described in "Looking Backward" (an international bestseller written in 1887). Government-schools spread and they mandated racism and segregation by law and did so through WWII and beyond.
Dewey was "Johnny Socialism-Seed" as he spread Bellamy ideas at home and abroad.
Dewey was fascinated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and between 1920 and 1928 wrote many articles praising the "new" educational system imposed by the totalitarian socialists. At the invitation of the Commissar of Education in 1928, Dewey traveled to the fledgling police state. None of the socialist "utopia" espoused in 1917 had developed. Their educational ideal of "collective liberation" was in tatters. The individual (student)-collective (society) creed of Dewey's socialist education appealed to the Soviet socialists. Dewey studied its educational system, prepared educational surveys, and wrote several articles and a book on the topic.
After the First World War, Dewey also studied education in China and lectured there from 1919 to 1921. The Chinese literary reformer Hu Shih (1891-1962), completed his Ph.D.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom in Democracy Rejects Absolutism & Ulitmate Ends Nov. 28 2004
By R. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
John Dewey was an American who supported democracy. In this he leaned towards being a Democrat, rejecting the absolutism found in Republican conservatives. This book was written in 1939 when the scare of totalitarian governments were growing around the world. The idea that many of these people willingly gave up their democratic values and freedom in support of a dictatorial control was the shocker that needed to be addressed which included internally, here at home in the States, the need to address this issue. This book is not outdated, for democracy is a continual day by day experiment not an means to an end as in some ultimate answer as in Marxism and totalitarian states.

And now John Dewey will speak for himself:

The extreme danger of giving any body of persons power for whose exercise they are not accountable is a commonplace in a democracy. Arbitrary irresponsibility varies in direct ratio to the claim for absoluteness on the part of the principle in behalf of which power is exercised. To sustain the principle against heresy, or counterrevolutionary action, it finally becomes necessary to clothe the human officials that are supposed to represent the principle with the finality of the professed end. Divinity once hedged about kings. p.91

The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here - within ourselves and our institutions." p.49

Harm comes from the fact when a theory is framed in absolute terms, as one which applies to all places and times, instead of under the contemporary conditions and having definite limits. p. 75

While the possessing class is relatively more secure, yet its members are also profoundly unsettled by recurring cyclic depression . . . . . When disorders appear on any considerable scale, the adherence of the middle class to the side of "law and order" is won. Ironically enough, the desire for security which proceeds from the two groups of very different economic status combines to increase readiness to surrender democratic forms of action. pp. 60-61

The moral is not unintelligent glorification of empirical, pluralistic, and pragmatic method. On the contrary, the lesson to be learned is the importance of ideas and of a plurality of ideas employed in experimental activity as working hypotheses. thoughtless empiricism provides opportunity for secret manipulation behind the visible scene. When we assume that we are following common sense policies, in the most honorable sense of commons sense, we may in fact, unless we direct observation of conditions by means of general ideas, be in process of being led around by the nose by agencies purporting to be democratic, but whose activities are subversive of freedom: a generalized warning which, when translated into concrete words, should make us wary toward those who talk glibly about the "American way of life," after they have identified Americanism with a partisan policy in behalf of concealed economic aims." pp. 95-96

History shows that more than once social unity has been promoted by the presence, real or alleged, of some hostile group. It has long been a part of the technique of politicians who wish to maintain themselves in power to foster the idea that the alternative is the danger of being conquered by an enemy. pp. 37-38

As Huey Long is reported to have said, Fascists would come in this country under the name of protecting democracy from it's enemies. p. 68

Scientific method in operating with working hypotheses instead of with fixed and final Truth is not forced to have an Inner Council to declare just what is the Truth not to develop a system of exegesis which rivals the ancient theological way of explaining away apparent inconsistencies. it welcomes a clash of "incompatible opinions" as along as they can produce observed facts in their support. pp. 97-98

Any monolithic theory of social action and social causation tends to have a ready-made answer for problems that present themselves. the wholesale character of the answer prevents critical examination and discrimination of the particular facets involved in the actual problems. In consequence, it dictates a kind of al-or-none practical activity, which in the end introduces new difficulties. p. 100

When democracy openly recognizes the existence of problems and the need for probing them as problems as its glory, it will relegate political groups that pride themselves upon refusing to admit incompatible opinions to the obscurity which already is the fate of similar groups in science p. 102

It is no easy matter to find adequate authority for action in the demand, characteristic of democracy, that conditions be such as will enable the potentialities of human nature to reach fruition. Because it is not easy the democratic road is the hard one to take. It is the road which places the greatest burden of responsibility upon the greatest number of human beings. Backsets and deviations occur and will continue to occur. But that which is its weakness at particular times is its strength in the long course of human history. just because the cause of democratic freedom is the cause of the fullest possible realization of human potentialities, the latter when they are suppressed and oppressed will in time rebel and demand an opportunity for manifestation

With the founders of American democracy, the claims of democracy were inherently one with the demands of a just equal morality. We cannot now well use their vocabulary (They has the freedom to use words like ass and other non-conservative "obscene" words). Changes in knowledge have outlawed the significations of the words they commonly used. But in spite of the unsuitability of much of their language for present use, what they asserted was that self-governing institutions are the means by which human nature can secure its fullest realization in the greatest number of persons. The question of what is involved in self-governing methods is now much more complex. But for this very reason, the task of those who retain belief in democracy is to revive and maintain in full vigor the original conviction of the intrinsic moral nature of democracy, now stated in ways congruous with present conditions of culture. We have advanced fare enough to say that democracy is a way of life. We have yet to realized that it is a way of personal life and one which provides a moral standard for personal conduct pp. 129-130

War under existing conditions compels nations, even those professedly the most democratic, to turn authoritarian and totalitarian . . . the necessity of transforming physical interdependence into moral-into-human-interdependence is part of the democratic problem: and yet war is said even now to be the path of salvation for democratic countries p. 166

Any doctrine that eliminates or even obscures the function of choice of values and enlistment of desires and emotions in behalf of those chosen weakens personal responsibility of judgment and for action. It thus helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state p. 172

The conflict as it concerns the democracy to which our history commits us is within our own institutions and attitudes. It can be won only by extending the application of democratic methods, methods of consultation, persuasion, negotiation, communication, co-operative intelligence, in the task of making our own politics, industry, education, our culture generally, a servant and an evolving manifestation of democratic ideas. Resort to military force is a first sure sign that we are giving up the struggle for the democratic way of life, and that the Old World has conquered morally as well as geographically - succeeding in imposing upon us its ideals and methods.

If there is one conclusion to which human experience unmistakably points it is that democratic ends demand democratic methods for their realization. Authoritarian methods now offer themselves to us in new guises. They come to us claiming to serve the ultimate ends of freedom and equity in a classless society. Or they recommend adoption of a totalitarian regime in order to fight totalitarianism. In whatever form they offer themselves, they owe their seductive power to their claim to serve ideal ends. Our first defense is to realize that democracy can be served only by the slow day by day adoption and contagious diffusion in every phase of our common life of methods that are identical with the ends to be reached and that recourse to monistic, wholesale, absolutist procedures is a betrayal of human freedom no matter in what guise it presents itself. An American democracy can serve the world only as it demonstrates in the conduct of its own life the efficacy of plural, partial, and experimental methods in securing and maintaining an ever-increasing release of the powers of human nature, in service of a freedom which is co-operative and a co-operation which is voluntary. pp. 175-176
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful work. Oct. 25 2002
By Joseph B. Howard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
FREEDOM AND CULTURE is particularly helpful in understanding the different views of freedom and liberty found within the Anglo-American school of thought as compared to the Continental school of thought. Dewey is always an informative read and he explains things very well, though that doesn't mean he would grab the attention of the uninterested. I greatly enjoyed this book, along with Dewey's other works.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but Remarkably Short Scope. July 1 2002
By Kevin S. Currie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like so many other of Dewey's books, this could've been- indeed should've been- longer. It was also a bit more muddled than other Dewey-penned titles I've read. The ideas are many, but if one underlying theme had to be given, it would be the shattering of the nature/nurture dualilsm (as relating to political debate.) I've long since agreed with Dewey here. It is absurd to postulate as to what man's nature is apart from an environment for her to act on. This does not mean that Dewey is denying biological traits- nor is he saying that we are simply products of environment. He breaks through the dualism by suggesting that just as our environments exist the way they do because of our action upon them, we exist the way we do because of how our environemt acts on us. Any line drawing between inside and outside is dangerous and leads to bad theory.
From here, he takes the above theory to a few problems in political debate. Do capitialism and democracy HAVE to be exlusive and is there any good reason they can't function seperately? Does Marxism undermine itself by acknowledging environmental factors to the elimination of human autonomy? If, as Marxism holds, that environment is ALL there is, how can someone be class-conscious- isn't that an autonomous actiion? Dewey's point in asking these questions is to tell us that the answers (if there are any) are not as easy as poltical science might have us believe. For every decision (capitalism, totalitarianism, welfare state etc.) there are trade offs. Here's where Dewey brings in science.
As we know, the pragmatists are ga-ga over science and rightfully so. Science as Dewey knows it is a process, not a concrete method. Science is debate and discovery through experiment and dialogue. While the natural sciences have been quick in their advances, the social sciences barely creep along. Dewey suggests a few reasons. So as not to give away the book (which you should buy after this review!) the one I'll relay is that of commercialism. He who has the money can decide what research to do and why. Dewey is not a Feyerabendian flake who thinks that this makes science a mere myth, but
he does see the problem when only a few hands hold the ability to do science. To his credit, he sees totalitarian states as even more harmful to scientific progrss.
My only problem with the book is that at 133 pages, the readers appetite will be wet by every chapter but she will have to look elsewhere for detailed explanations and more thorough discussion. My reccomendation is to read Dewey's "The Quest For Certainty" before, after or during this book.
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