2 American pragmatists

In the United States, too, there had been a desire at the turn of the century to escape from the dogmatic identification of liberty and the market. The progressive era, with its programme of regulating the robber barons, ushered in a more critical attitude. Historians Charles and Mary Beard wrote an iconoclastic account of the constitution, listing the economic holdings of the framers. The message was evident: The American constitution was not an absolute and universal ideal, but the juridical framework of sectional financial interests (and hence, government was justified in acting against those interests, even where its actions appeared unconstitutional). And, contrary to the mainstream political nativism, American anthropologists, like Margaret Mead, Herscovits and Ruth Benedict inspired by Franz Boas were looking at the moral codes of other cultures, and learning the lesson that the White race was only one amongst many.

It was the pragmatists, John Dewey, William James and CS Pierce that created the intellectual framework in which it was possible to reconcile these contradictory ideas of race and nation, liberty and government. Like the analytical philosophers in Britain, the pragmatists rejected the determinate totalities of classical philosophy in favour of a more eclectic approach. Dewey in particular did most to draw a generation of American radicals back into the fold. In the twilight of his life Dewey courted the renegade Bolshevik leader Trotsky in Mexico, at the behest of his radical students, like Max Eastman and Sidney Hook. To those younger American radicals Trotsky represented the lost ideal of the Russian revolution. To Trotsky, Dewey was the academic authority needed to give the stamp of respectability to his counter-enquiry to Stalin's show trials. To Dewey Trotsky's arguments case against capitalism could be plundered for arguments against the laisser faire policies in his own country, while Trotsky's denunciation of Stalin was the living evidence that bolshevism, too, could fail. In the long run it was Dewey's pragmatism that won out, as successive layers of American radicals embraced Dewey's philosophy as an alternative to the 'God that failed'. Passing through the Trotskyist milieu they had the best informed arguments against the Soviet Union to contribute to a new Cold War liberalism, but they also had reinvigorated Dewey's pragmatism.

After the second world war British analytic philosophy and American pragmatism merged more closely as a narrowly apolitical concern with matters of formal logic and semantics united such thinkers as Ayer in Britain and WVO Quine in the US.

American sociologists

The influence of positivism in the US was not wholly within the realm of philosophy. Early American sociologists were inspired by Comte and Durkheim. At the University of Chicago the study of urban populations rested the race question from eugenics and criminology from ethics. Studies like Robert and Helen Lynd's Middletown, while theoretically na´ve, nonetheless proved the worth of social research. Functional sociology, while criticised, was given a new lease of life by Talcott Parsons' integration of Durkheim's structural positivism and Weber's ideal-types. It was Parsons who wrote President Eisenhower's bon mot that freedom meant the freedom to fail as well as to succeed. But positivist sociology in the US was dealt a death blow by the success of Karl Gunnar Myrdal's Weberian magnum opus An American Dilemma (1944). Commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation as a study on the position of America's black people, the Swedish sociologist's analysis of racism as a cultural hangover of slavery made Weber's approach to sociology mainstream - so much so that the work was admitted as evidence in the famous Brown v Board of Education judgement that overturned segregation in schools. Peter Berger moved American sociology irretrievably out of the positivist orbit with his phenomenologically inspired The Social Construction of Reality, written with the German sociologist Thomas Luckmann.
3 Analysts and therapists