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Kenneth Burke lecture: Dr. Robert Asen

When Apr 10, 2018
from 04:00 PM to 05:30 PM
Where 100 Life Science Building
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Lives Lived Together: How John Dewey and Milton Friedman Imagined Human Relationships and Why this Matters for Contemporary Public Engagement

Publics operate dynamically through the networks of human relationships of the people who populate them. Critical for publicity, these relationships do not simply exist; they must be envisioned, constructed, practiced. The ways that we imagine human relationships shapes the possibilities for public action--the problems we see, the solutions we support, and the goals for which we strive. In this lecture, I explore the public imaginings of John Dewey and Milton Friedman. Influential intellectuals and prominent public advocates, Friedman and Dewey offered two different visions of human relationships, and they judged the value of public engagement differently. Milton Friedman situated the individual, and only the individual, at the basis of society. He rejected any effort to view human relationships socially as capable of forming a collective "we" that could address public issues. Individuals expressing free choice related similarly to other individuals. In contrast, John Dewey located the basis of society in the interrelationships of individual and community. Individuals could act together to build communities, and communities could help individuals realize their potential. In these relationships, Dewey discerned the convergence of publicity and democracy. In my lecture, I will explicating these alternative imaginings, including their tensions and problematics, as well as their potentialities for our contemporary moment.