Through a public darkly: Reconstructing pragmatist perspectives in communication theory
Communication Theory , Volume 18 - Issue 4 p. 478- 504
This article aims to retrieve the problem-responsive dimension of pragmatist theories in their relevance for the reconceptualization of public participation in communication theory. This dimension is central to pragmatist perspectives on the formation and functioning of publics and I propose that we reconstruct pragmatism as a tradition of communication theory in light of this fact. First, I reexamine the historical emergence of pragmatism in communication theory and I suggest James Carey was unable to challenge positivism or objectivism from within a pragmatist tradition. Second, I retrieve John Dewey's account of inquiry in a manner anticipating its implications for his theory of publics. Third, I resituate the Dewey-Lippmann debate within the context of a pragmatist tradition to demonstrate how deeply their differences turn on problem formulation. In conclusion, I connect the pragmatist tradition to contemporary work on problematization to address the limitations of each perspective.