New book makes case for pragmatist approach to practice of social inquiry, knowledge production

May 5, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the need for pragmatism in our understanding of the production and impact of knowledge in society. A new book, The Power of Pragmatism: Knowledge Production and Social Inquiry, co-edited by Jane Wills, University of Exeter and professor Robert W. Lake of the Bloustein School, outlines the origins and implications of this way of thinking for a range of professions from social science to cartography, urban management, and planning, environmental stewardship and development. The book challenges the ‘quest for certainty’ that has plagued the search for a life well-lived. 

Newly published by Manchester University Press, the book makes the case for a pragmatist approach to the practice of social inquiry and knowledge production. Through diverse examples from multiple disciplines, contributors explore the power of pragmatism to inform a practice of inquiry that is democratic, community-centered, problem-oriented, and experimental. Drawing from both classical and neo-pragmatist perspectives, it advances a pragmatist sensibility in which truth and knowledge are contingent rather than universal, made rather than found, provisional rather than dogmatic, subject to continuous experimentation rather than ultimate proof, and verified in their application in action rather than in the accuracy of their representation of an antecedent reality.

The Power of Pragmatism offers a path forward for mobilizing the practice of inquiry and knowledge production on behalf of achieving what Dewey called a sense for the better kind of life to be led.

The Power of Pragmatism: Knowledge Production and Social Inquiry is available directly from the publisher, or at

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