a reflection on critical pluralism, pragmatism, & politics
my take on critical pluralism is that it is a form of scholarly pragmatism, in the following sense:
Pragmatism could be a shortcut around doing “due diligence” if it becomes a habit to satisfice, and avoid doing deep analysis and comparisons between perspectives , solutions, methods. there are some situations where we can do better than satisfice; without the due diligence of “critical pluralism” we might prematurely avoid deep theoretical waters for immediate satisfaction of action that seemed ok at the time.
the “critical” element is the willingness to thoroughly examine each time. the “pluralism” is the willingness to cast a wide net for alternatives.
I am uncomfortable with lazy pragmatism which says “been there, done that, and good enough is good enough”, despite the fact that it quite often is
an uncritical attitude will cause you to miss the moments when something more is available
On politics: i think a great practical primer is Perry Smith’s “Assignment Pentagon“. He makes the case for a professional, ethical, moral attitude towards navigating the political bureaucracy that is the Pentagon
Many find their first assignment there off-putting; and from the outside it looks like Hesse‘s glass bead game with meaningless ritual and insider politics playing games with the defense of the nation.
Smith takes the time to explain how the game IS played, WHY it is played, HOW it came to be that way, and what an ethical professional approach would look like.
In the Pentagon, officers are usually appointed as as an action officer, which means to be an effective advocate of the program you have been assigned. You are faced with competing values all the time: to your nation, to your service, to your boss, to your subordinates, to your program, to your sense of duty; and you are immersed in a sea of grey and murky waters
He describes a values-based framework that allows you to play the game honorably and selflessly; this is an increasingly important issue as the size of the military-industrial complex grows and the purpose of military force is examined. Action officers are called upon to exercise judgment in defense of the nation and to do the right thing as they see it.
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