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The power of pragmatismKnowledge production and social inquiry$
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Jane Wills and Robert Lake

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526134943

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526134950

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Reflections on an experiment in pragmatic social research and knowledge production

Reflections on an experiment in pragmatic social research and knowledge production

(p.176) 9 Reflections on an experiment in pragmatic social research and knowledge production
The power of pragmatism

Liam Harney

Jane Wills

Manchester University Press

This chapter reflects upon the lessons learned through an experiment in pragmatic social research conducted in east London in the UK in 2015. The project drew upon the pragmatism of the Chicago School of Sociologists and the work of Ernest Burgess, Robert Park and G.H. Mead as well as the earlier work of William James and John Dewey. The E14 expedition tried to test whether, and if so, how, university researchers could work with a range of citizens to address public problems in a genuinely open way, listening to the full range of opinion and ideas. The project exposed the extent to which academic social scientists are often deaf to political opinions that are believed to be misguided, confused and/or incorrect. It also exposed the role played by the social infrastructure of pre-existing relationships, trust, shared interests and identity in underpinning and enabling effective collective action. The chapter advocates paying greater academic and political attention to the things that make public action and problem-solving possible, including being open to different ideas and beliefs, and nurturing the social relationships that enable democratic behaviour and practice.

Keywords:   publics, pragmatism, social infrastructure, pluralism, conservativism, problem-solving, democracy

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