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The Method of Democracy

John Dewey's Theory of Collective Intelligence


David Ridley

In this book, David Ridley argues that John Dewey’s theory of collective intelligence provides a unique critical social theory that speaks directly to the present moment. Escaping some of the dead ends of Frankfurt School critical theory, whilst also representing a continuity of the Marxist ‘philosophy of praxis’ tradition, the book reconstructs Dewey’s ‘method of democracy’ to reveal a forgotten alternative to both left-wing pessimism and neoliberal populism. Since the 2007-8 Financial Crisis, neoliberal governments, for example in the UK, have turned to higher education to kick-start a stagnating economy. Marketisation has turned English universities into multi-national corporations and students into consumers. Academics now have no choice, Ridley insists, but to join with the public in the political struggle against ‘third wave neoliberalism’. In the final part of the book, Ridley applies Dewey’s theory of collective intelligence to the reconstruction of UK higher education, concluding with a vision of radical democracy supported by ‘socially useful’ universities and a democratic academic and sociological profession.

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