MOHORCICH-DISSERTATION-2017.pdf (1.765Mb) (embargoed until: 2020-12-01)
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The American pragmatist tradition associated with John Dewey, William James, and others promises to bridge the gap between, on the one hand, abstract and generalizable analyses of political life and, on the other hand, practical efforts to redress political problems that are always specific in their context and effects. A persistent criticism of pragmatism has been that its problem-centric liberalism has tended to obscure from view issues of social, economic, and political power. This dissertation attempts to articulate a “power pragmatism” that combines Dewey’s skepticism of abstraction with a Foucauldian understanding of public problems as traversed by shifting relations of power and resistance. Such a perspective draws attention to the specific feedback loops that sustain a given situation and produce a particular set of consequences and to how these feedback loops are conditioned by and reinforce power differentials among social groups. Shulamith Firestone, I argue, exemplifies this Deweyan-Foucauldian combination. Her Dialectic of Sex contends that technoscientific tools like contraception and artificial wombs can be used to shift the responsibility of childbearing from women and dissolve sex-class domination at the root. Firestone focuses on relations of domination as a structuring feature of social reality, and she offers a disarmingly straightforward attempt to reconstruct pregnancy and gender through technology. The practical radicalism that results does not shy away from the liberatory potential within some forms of technology. I develop this point further in the last chapter, a discussion of how the technical-material infrastructure of a society might be arranged to maximize the spaces for survival, resistance, and autonomy.