M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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6 Problems of Men, New York, The Philosophical Library, 1946, p. 58.

Democracy is a way of life controlled by a working faith in the possibilities of human nature. Belief in the Common Man is a familiar article in the democratic creed. That belief is without basis and significance save as it means faith in the potentialities of human nature as that nature is exhibited in every human being irrespective of race, colour, sex, birth and family, of material or cultural wealth. This faith may be enacted in statutes, but it is only on paper unless it is put in force in the attitudes which human beings display to one another in all the incidents and relations of daily life. The founda­tion of democracy, according to Dewey, is faith in the capacities of human nature ; faith in human intelligence and in the power of pooled and co-operative experience, ft is not belief that these things are complete but that, if given a show, they will grow and be able to generate progressively the knowledge and wisdom needed to guide collective action. He remarked that "the key-note of democracy as a way of life may be expressed, it seems to me, nr. the necessity for the participation of every mature human being in formation of the values that regulate the living of men together : which is necessary from the standpoint of both the yencral social welfare and the full development of human beings as individuals."* Dewey firmly maintained that mankind was ever subject to passion, d'.igin-i. self-interest, partisanship and propaganda. But these causes have lost "whatever frank, stout dowiirightncss they once possessed . . . .They find entrance into tiic mind invested with a protective sheen of loyalty, sanity and security, progress, or whatever ideals are in fashion."93 And a society ot free individuals in which all. through their own work, contribute to the liberation and enrichment of the lives of others, is the only environment in which any individual can really grow normally to his full stature. To profess democracy as an ultimate ideal and the suppression of democracy as a means to the ideal may be possible ia a country that has never known even rudimentary democracy, but when professed in a country that has anything of a genuine democratic spirit in its traditions, it signifies desire for possession and retention of power by a class, whether that class be called Fascist or Proletarian. Dewey was not happy with a



  1. 488

  2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

  1. state which tries to curtail reasonable freedom, although he never supported the idea of freedom as a licence to do whatever one likes without being considerate to others. He firmly asserted that our state is founded on freedom, but when we train the state of tomorrow, we allow it just as little freedom as possible. He remarked : "No govern­ment by experts in which the masses do not have the chance to inform the experts as to their needs can be anything but an oligarchy managed in the interest of the few. And the enlightenment must proceed in ways which force the administrative specialists to take account of the needs. The world has suffered more from leaders and authorities than from the masses."94 Dewey strongly believed in human equality and denounced those persons who condemned Nazism for intolerance, cruelty and stimulation of hatred while their own actions were moved by racial, colour, or other class prejudice. The democratic faith in human equaiity is belief that every human being, independent of the quantity or range of his personal endowment, has the right to equal opportunity with every other person for development of whatever gifts he has. The democratic belief, according to John Dewey, in the principle of leadership, is a generous one. It is belief in the capacity of every person to lead his own life free from coercion and imposition by others provided right conditions are supplied.

  2. Democracy as a Way of Personal Life

  3. As such, democracy is a way of personal life controlled not merely by faith in human nature in general, but by faith in the capa­city of human beings for intelligent judgment and action if proper conditions are furnished. Dewey stated :


    1. 9 Quoted from the speech of Dewey given in John Dewey by Irwin Edmad (The Bobbs-Merrill Compacy, Inc., New York, 1955), pp. 311-12.

    "I have been accused more than once and from opposed quarters of an undue, a Utopian faith in the possibilities of intelli­gence and in education as a correlate of intelligence. At all events, I did not invent this faith. I acquired it from my surroundings as far as those surroundings were animated by the democratic spirit. For what is the faith of democracy in the role of consultation, of conference, of persuasion, of discussion, in formation of public opinion which in the long run is self-corrective, except faith in the capacity of the intelligence of the common man to respond with common sense to the free play of facts and ideas which are secured by effective guarantees of free inquiry, free assembly, and free communication ? I am willing to leave to upholders of totalitarian states of the right and the left the view that faith in the capacities of intelligence is Utopian. For the faith is so deeply embedded in the methods which are intrinsic to democracy that when a professed democrat denies the faith he convicts himself of treachery to his profession."*

  4. The final guarantee of democracy is in free gatherings of neighbours on the street corner to discuss back and forth what is read in uncensored news of the day, and in gatherings of friends in the living rooms of houses and apartments to converse freely with one another. Intolerance, abuse, calling of names because of diffe­rences of opinion about religion or politics or business, as well as because of differences of race, colour, wealth, or degree of culture, are treason to the democratic way of life. For everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life. Merely legal guarantees of civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail if in daily life freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred. These things really speak­ing, destroy the essential condition of the democratic way of living even more effectually than open coercion, which—as the example of totalitarian states proves—is effective only when it succeeds in breed­ing hate, suspicion, intolerance in the minds of human beings.

  5. Functioning of Democracy

  6. Given the two conditions just mentioned, democracy as a way of life is controlled by personal day-by-day working together with others. Democracy is the belief that even when needs and ends or consequences are different for each individual, the habit of amicable co-operation—which may include, as in sport, rivalry and competi­tion—is itself a priceless addition to life. To take as far as possible every conflict which arises—and they are bound to arise—out of the atmosphere and medium of force, of violence as a means of settle­ment, into that of discussion and of intelligence, is to treat those who disagree—even profoundly—with us as those from whom we may learn, and in so far, as friends. A genuinely democratic faith in peace is the possibility of conducting disputes, controversies, and con­flicts as co-operative undertakings in which both parties learn by giving the other a chance to express itself, instead of having one party conquer by forceful suppression of the other—a suppression which is nonetheless one of violence when it takes place by psychological means of ridicule, abuse, intimidation, instead of by overt imprison­ment or in concentration camps. To co-operate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because "of the belief that the expres­sion of difference is not only a right of the other persons but is a means of enriching one's own life-experience, is inherent in the demo­cratic personal way of life."10 Dewey while elaborating his stand­point regarding the functioning of democracy said that "to get rid of the habit of thinking of democracy as something institutional and external and to acquire the habit of treating it as a way of personal



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  1. life is to realize that democracy is a moral idea! and so far as it be­comes a fact is a moral fact. It is to realize that democracy is a reality only as it is indeed a commonplace of living."95

  2. Thus, democracy as compared with other ways of life, is, accor­ding to Dewey, the sole way of living which believes wholeheartedly in the process of experience as end and as means ; as that which is capable of generating the science which is the sole dependable autho­rity for the direction of further experience and which releases emo­tions, needs and desires so as to call into being the things that have not existed in the past. For every way of life that fails in its demo­cracy limits the contacts, the exchanges, the communications, the interactions by which experience is steadied while it is also enlarged and enriched. The task of this release and enrichment is one that has to be carried on day by day. Since it is one that can have no end till experience itself comes to an end, the task of democracy is for ever that of creation of a freer and more humane experience in which all share and to which all contribute. Political or economic demo­cracy is thus the setting for experimental method in social thinking. That alone is sufficient reason for cherishing it. Given that, all the implications about democracy making possible the realization of individuality amid co-operation will follow. Granted that, liberalism will then assume a new and richer significance.

  3. Perhaps no better illustration of the appropriateness of Dewey's criticism of current social and political philosophy can be found than the welter of discussion which has been rolling around the concepts of democracy and liberalism in these tragic years. It is not polite to say, "I told you so," but of any political philosopher Dewey should be granted that arid comfort. Democracy and liberalism have been so typically simple words, abstractions, functioning to inhibit investi­gation instead of encouraging it. They are battle-cries and shibbo­leths. Tiicy should be working hypotheses.

  4. Dewey's Attack on Liberalism

  5. The historical fate of the liberal movement exemplifies the bank­ruptcy of political concepts. This is a very trite observation and is the theme for too many current books. But Dewey has particularly addressed himself to this problem,1' and has undertaken so complete a reformulation of neo-Iiberalism—-and one that anticipated by a matter of years the rather febrile exhortations of so many writers to­day—that at least a mention of the libera! movement is necessary.


    1. 12 See particularly his Individualism—Old and New (1930) ; and Liberalism
      and Social Action (1935).

    Truly liberal programmes of any period must have, was Dewey's insistence, a similarity of purpose—a commitment to the principle that the mass of individuals should possess actual, not merely legal liberty. Clearly, this 'liberty* does not mean being let alone : it does mean that the individual be given full opportunity to develop the potentialities and talents that alone make bim an individual. But that purpose will remain empty, and indeed as abstract as any plat­form that has only nobility to recommend it, unless it be elaborated with great particularity. Especially must anyone who claims the name of liberal be prepared to specify. Dewey's complaint arose at this point, for the liberal is so often found either to fall back upon the most vague and vicious abstractionism dealing with individualism, laissez-faire, free competition, and the rest; or to give his programme content in terms of the historical liberalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the liberalism/that is, of the commercial, the pre-industrial, revolution. (Possibly the latter alternative is less harmful, since at least it is particularized by way of Adam Smith and the Mar Chester School).

  6. Devey's whole approach was introduced by his attack upon both of these brands of 'latter-day' liberalism. His plea was that liberal­ism should become again the truly radical, the subversive reform that once upon a time evoked energies directed to fundamental social changs. To accomplish this it must undergo basic readjustment. Its principle of providing a soil for the complete growth of person­ality must be so adopted to economic and political life that direction and relevance can be achieved. And that requires recognition of the power of organized society, which alone can insure the conditions in which individuals may function fully. Here is where Dewey broke cleanly with laissez-faire or individualistic liberalism—although that break was anticipated long since by liberals like Hobhouse and even John Stuart Mill in the closing years of his life when he changed his views so radically. Individualistic liberalism is bankrupt because it refuses to accept the corporate civilization which has made so many of its premises unreal and downright ghostly. It refuses to accept the need for co-operative control and organized social planning.

  7. The study of particular social needs and the construction of special social machinery, the planned social employment of the resources of scientific knowledge and of the forces of production— these cannot be carried through by the un-coordinated acts of indivi­duals, and they must not be stopped by platitudes of an older liberal­ism which is anarchy of natural laws and personal liberty. Tradi­tional liberalism has lagged far behind the shattering consequences of the industrial revolution, just as the folklore of capitalism has lagged behind the transformation of a scarcity into an abundance economy. Both have been sufficiently impressed by the realization that econo­mic insecurity is now institutional and not 'natural', just as both have failed to appreciate that 'socialism' must come—if it is not here al­ready. Whether the socialistic, the corporate, state be public or capitalistic—that is the specific problem that must be met. But libe-



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  1. ralism can never meet it by closing its eyes and wishing for the salad days.

  2. Why then was Dewey a liberal instead of a socialist—if these labels really are of interest to anyone ? Perhaps for the same reason that men like Max Lerner prefer the phrase 'democratic collectivism'. Socialism and communism are terms which are indissolubly connected with the name of Marx. Now, there is much in Marxism of which Dewey not only approved, but which, in real sense, he had actually helped put into operation. That is, the economic interpretation of history had been used by Dewey himself to explain many sections of the history of philosophy ; and, in addition through the work of his followers and students in political philosophy, history and law—the work of Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes, Pound and Cardozo—the actual rewriting of much of American history and jurisprudence in terms of an economic appraisal of institution has followed. Neither did Dewey quarrel with Marx over the very questionable intelligence and effectiveness of the capitalistic state, or over the values of a socialized society. Nor did the quarrel lie in any suspicion of the proletariat. "The world has suffered more from leaders and autho­rities than from the masses."1' Dewey was definitely suspicious of an elite class, even of experts whose investigations he cherished. Ex­perts can discover and make known the facts, but it is only as an embodied intelligence raises the entire level of a society that funda­mental social change has relevance.

  3. Dewey's Rejection of the Philosophy of Marx


    1. 13 The Public and Its Problems, p. 208.

    Dewey's refusal to follow the philosophy of Marx was, as might easily be expected, the refusal to accept metaphysical explanation for social and political problems. The Marxian dialectic, the class strug­gle, the labour theory of value—these are as abstract and, for Dewey, as essentially meaningless as any of the Hegelianisms or economic classicisms from which they derive. There is no cosmic reason why capitalism must give rise to communism via socialism, why collectivism must be achieved by means of a revolutionary technique, why surplus value must arise, why any abstract sequence must appear. Marxism is as much 'a logic of general notions' as the individualistic liberalism it despises. Both rely on a metaphysic of general principles. What does happen, what can happen—these are realistic and instrumental problems ; not what must happen. Once a philosophic concept is made supreme, then all apparent exceptions must be explained away. And despite its violent attacks upon traditional idealism and rational­ism, that is just what Marxism proposes to do.96 It seems to operate



  1. JOHN DEWEY

  2. 493

  1. at the same old stand: witness the feverish explanations of why fascism has arisen, why the proletariat seems so weak, why commu­nism began in Russia instead of in Germany where it should have begun. Intelligence cannot deal with inevitables. For example, Dewey could not accept violence as an inevitable process in social change. Neither could he accept the inevitability of war or fascism or communism. This does not mean that fundamental reforms can come about painlessly. There is nothing mealy-mouthed or tepid in Dewey's challenges. But it is the inevitability of violence—as of any­thing else—that precludes the use of reflective methods. It is only when things are not final and once-for-all that thinking can function. Indeed, as with William James, Dewey was ever captured by the creationism of conscious intelligence : it can literally make and remake worlds. That is possible only when worlds—cosmic or social—are not yet completely made.

  2. Dewey's Approach to Socialism and Communism

  3. This approach to socialism and communism is one more -example of Dewey's reliance upon techniques instead of concepts. It is per­haps the reason why he did cling to the name of liberal, for liberalism still connotes 'the mediation of social transition.' This does not necessarily imply that liberalism is to provide a cushion for a shifting order; it is rather that the liberal philosophy seems elastic and tentative enough to supply the means to effect such transitions. It permits, indeed demands, an experimental method (which Dewey was very much fond of). In fact, Dewey's thinking is so adjusted to the dimensions of the present and the future that dated questions are at all in order. It would, of course, be too easy to remark that the distorted picture society presents to us is a result of the failure to accept experimentalism. George Raymond Geiger is right when he remarks in his essay Dewey's Social and Political Philosophy that "it would be more hopeful to suggest when men are finally ready to apply the recognized techniques of inquiry to the solution of social riddles, the thought of John Dewey will be there, waiting to give inspiration and guidance.97*









  4. but apparently Dewey bad failed to be convinced, just as Hook himself is unconvinced, that Marxist communism has been achieved in the Soviet Union (although Earl Browder—who certainly would yield to none in his Marxism—would hardly agree). 15 "Dewey's Social and Political Philosophy" by G. R. Geiger, compiled in The Philosophy of John Dewey, ed. by Paul Arthur Schlipp (New York, 1951, second ed.).

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  2. BERTRAND RUSSELL (I 872-1 969)



  3. Family Background and Mental Make-up

  4. Bertrand Arthur William Russell belongs to one of the oldest and most famous families in England, a family that has given states­men to Britain for many generations. His grandfather, Lord John Russell, was a great liberal Prime Minister who fought an un­yielding battle for free trade, for universal free education, for the emancipation of the Jews, for liberty in every field. His father, Viscount Amberley, was a free thinker, who did not overburden his son with the hereditary theology of the West. He was heir presump­tive to the Second Earl Russell but he rejected the institution of in-heritance.and proudly earned his own living. When Cambridge dis­missed him for his pacifism he made the world his university, and became a travelling Sophist, whom the world supported gladly.

  5. There have been two Bertrand Russells : one who died during the war ; and another who rose out of that one's shroud, an almost mystic communist born out of the ashes of a mathematical logician. Perhaps, there was a tender mystic strain in him always ; represented at first by a mountain of algebraic formulae ,• and then finding a distorted ex­pression in a socialism that has the earmarks rather of a religion thaa of a philosophy. The most characteristic title among his books is Mysticism and Logic (1919): a merciless attack on the illogicality of mysticism, followed by such a glorification of scientific method as makes one think of the mysticism of logic. Russell inherits the English positivist tradition and is resolved to be tough-minded be­cause he knows that he cannot.

  6. Philosophy Before the War

  7. (i) Emphasis on Logic and Science. In Mysticism and Logic Russell attacks the illogicality of mysticism and glorifie-- the scientific method. He puts emphasis on logic and regards mathema­tics as divine, not in philosophy.' In his heart he usually thinks of philosophy as an inferior pursuit compared with mathematics and science. One of the most often repeated notes in his writings is the continued gibery at 'the philosophers' for being too lazy to undertake

  1. BERTRAND RUSSELL
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