Classical Pragmatism: Roots and Promise for a PA Feminist Theory




Shields, Patricia M.

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Taylor & Francis


In a recent "Administrative Theory & Praxis article, Janet Hutchinson and Hollie Mann (2004, p. 79) noted, "there is as yet no defining body of feminist theory in our field." They trace the lack of feminist theory to the historic exclusion of women from positions of power and the liberal, narrow, dominant model of administration in public administration that reduces the potential for ongoing feminist praxis. While the liberal historic concern with equity has led to many advances for women in public administration, it has restricted the creative development of a feminist PA theory. In response to these conditions Hutchinson and Mann (2004, p. 92) argue that PA scholars should "develop a body of feminist theories as well as a distinctly feminist praxis to add to the growing body of theoretical work in other disciplines." Classical American Pragmatism is an untapped philosophy already linked to feminist discourse that can add and enrich PA feminist theory and praxis. This brief paper explores how classical pragmatism, a respected, comprehensive philosophy developed by Jane Addams, John Dewey and George Herbert Mead, can contribute to defining a richer feminist PA theory. Over the last decade interest in classical pragmatism has grown. Both feminist philosophers and public administration scholars have sought to recover and extend classical pragmatism in their respective fields. Classical pragmatism, feminism and public administration are linked historically through the nexus of Hull-House. This paper highlights the connection between pragmatism, PA theory and feminist theory. It calls on PA feminist to explore these connections further.



pragmatism, feminism, Addams, Jane, Public Administration, Political Science


Shields, P. M. (2005). Classical pragmatism: roots and promise for a PA feminist theory. Administrative Theory and Praxis, 27(2), pp. 370-376.


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