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William James

Politics in the Pluriverse

Kennan Ferguson

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William James is known today strictly as a philosopher of pragmatism. Williams James: Politics in the Pluriverse challenges this understanding. Kennan Ferguson argues that James should instead be known as the progenitor of pluralism, one of the most influential and durable American political philosophies of the twentieth century.

James contended that engagement with the foreign, the difficult, and the uncomfortable makes us who we are. Rather than mitigating differences or attempting to resolve conflicts, he embraced them, wholeheartedly advocating the opportunity to be transformed. Pluralism, in the mind of the thinker who popularized the term, led to a more complex, more contentious, and far more interesting world.

Ferguson traces the historical importance and contemporary possibilities of pluralism's original political insight. In this important work he examines the trajectory of pluralism in the United States and England, the mutual influences of turn-of-the-century American and European philosophical traditions, and the relationship between pluralism and James's active anti-imperialism. James's unexpected political concepts and commitments both illuminate political philosophy of the 20th century and challenge contemporary assumptions about the desirability of unanimity. Pluralism, not unity, should be the goal of both politics and philosophy.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 140Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/2
978-0-7425-2326-5 • Hardback • May 2007 • $79.00 • (£49.95)
978-0-7425-2327-2 • Paperback • May 2007 • $28.95 • (£17.95)
978-1-4616-4718-8 • eBook • May 2007 • $27.99 • (£16.95)
Kennan Ferguson is director of the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Studies at the University of South Florida. He is the author of The Politics of Judgment: Aesthetics, Identity, and Political Theory.
Chapter 1 Series Editor's Introduction
Chapter 2 The Universe and the Pluriverse
Chapter 3 The Descent of Pluralism
Chapter 4 Soveriegnty, Self-Determination, and the Nation
Chapter 5 La Philosophie Américaine: James, Bergson, and Intercontinental Pluralism
Chapter 6 Onticology Recapitulates Philosophy
Chapter 7 Conclusion
Ferguson cogently compares James with Kant, Hegel, Bergson, and others on a variety of topics, including sovereignty and psychology. Summing Up: Recommended.
CHOICE, January 2008


Ferguson's emphasis on James's pluralism, rather than his pragmatism, demonstrates how much we now can learn from James's political thinking and vigorous political activities. The depth of James's pluralism is nicely captured in Ferguson's concept of the pluriverse, a complex, constantly changing, constantly challenging character of the human condition. This is a provocative work that is a major addition to the James literature and a valuable contribution to contemporary political theory.
Richard E. Flathman, George Armstrong Kelly Memorial Professor of Political Science at the Johns Hopkins University, and author of Pluralism and Libe


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