Common Knowledge 26 (3):434-434 (2020)

Barry Allen
McMaster University
Dewey watched the rise and fall of European fascism, writing about it many times in several contexts and venues. He analyzed its motives and its means, and was not sanguine that such a thing would never happen in the United States. Instead, he seemed to think the conditions were favorable, but also that there was still time for precautionary action. Dewey was enough of a Jeffersonian to think that democracy begins in neighborly communities. A democratic public has to be recreated each generation by individuals through collective acts of mutual recognition. No virtual community is an actual one. As in psychoanalysis, the presence of the other is not optional. Dewey expressed the faith that open communication, voluntary participation, and cooperative intelligence can adapt humanity to change without the wrenching regression to fascism. He thought that education was the point at which to build resistence to American fascism, and had a program for educators to implement. “When shall we realize,” he asked, “that in every school-building in the land a struggle is being waged against all that hems in and distorts human life?” Unfortunately, this is now realized, except by the wrong people, who undermine public education at every opportunity.
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DOI 10.1215/0961754x-8525973
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