Visionary Pragmatism

Radical and Ecological Democracy in Neoliberal Times

Visionary Pragmatism

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: March 2016

Author: Romand Coles

Environmental Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy

As neoliberal capitalism destroys democracy, commonwealth, and planetary ecology, the need for radically rethinking and generating transformative responses to these catastrophes is greater than ever. Given that, Romand Coles presents an invigorating new mode of scholarship and political practice he calls "visionary pragmatism." Coles explores the profound interrelationships among everyday micropractices of grassroots politics and pedagogy, institutional transformation, and political protest through polyfocal lenses of political and social theory, neuroscience research, complex systems theory, and narratives of his cutting-edge action research. Visionary Pragmatism offers a theory of revolutionary cooptation that, in part, selectively employs practices and strategies of the dominant order to radically alter the coordinates of power and possibility. Underscoring the potential, vitality, and power of emerging democratic practices to change the world, Visionary Pragmatism's simultaneous theoretical rigor and grounding in actual political and ecological practices provokes and inspires new ways of cocreating knowledge and action in dark times. 


"The extraordinary importance of this exhilarating book lies in demonstrating that, at a time when electoral democracy seems thoroughly corrupt . . . , extreme, high or abstract political theory can inspire and in turn be inspired by extreme, concrete grassroots political activism. . . . Coles has presented a remarkable theory and practice of radical democratic activism based on recent developments in brain science and dynamic systems theory and on his own experience." — Eugene W. Holland, Theory & Event

"The importance of Coles' intervention lies in its broad approach to analysing metanarratives, as well as sceptical voices raised in a holistic manner, rather than detaching these from those theoretical and practice-based conflicts." — Sanil Malikappurath Neelakandan, Capital & Class

"In Visionary Pragmatism, Romand Coles deftly weaves neuroscience and physics together with palpable accounts of grassroots activism to develop one of the most original, subtle, and actionable theories of radical democracy in neoliberal times. This charges our present political moment with an all-too-rare sense of abundant and ubiquitous democratic possibility, but also calls the role of the academic therein starkly to account." — Emily Beausoleil, Journal of Politics

"Coles wagers that stringent, molecular-level concentration on the affectively differentiated physicality of ordinary, participatory democratic encounters can restimulate radical imagination and commitment. His uniquely capacious gambit weaves together a range of political investments that theorists too often seem to feel compelled to choose between, highlighting either the fleeting moment of natality, the subtle subversions effected by counterhegemonic cultural noise, or the grind of organizing in the trenches. Coles, unlike others, wants (us) to have all this—and more. . . . [T]he text itself enacts a compelling form of dramatization through Coles’s daring authorial style." — Paul Apostolidis, Democratic Theory

"Visionary Pragmatism opens new doors to walk through as we listen, experiment, and forge critical assemblages out of the debris of neoliberal hegemony. . . . This book is replete with wisdom and experimental ideas. The pluralised, critical 'we' forming today across classes, faiths, regions, and genders can be enlivened by the spiritual inspirations it offers." — William E. Connolly, Democratic Theory

"Romand Coles’s Visionary Pragmatism is an extraordinary work: brilliant and subtle, fiercely passionate and carefully argued, it is by turns apocalyptic and reassuring, romantic and deromanticizing, vertiginous and profoundly grounding. Coles contends that our world will not survive the depredations of neoliberalism unless we cultivate a radical democratic habitus grounded in resonant receptivity. . . . His argument is vital, exhilarating, and persuasive." — Jade Schiff, Democratic Theory

“[Visionary Pragmatism] is a deeply personal work. As a reader, I came away with a clear sense of—and respect for—Coles’s struggle to orient his own life and career in a way that is consistent with his convictions about what political theory can be, and with the need to ground his theorizing in forms of activism and everyday life that will both nourish and inform it.” — John M. Meyer, Perspectives on Politics

"Visionary Pragmatism is wonderfully expansive in its potential for retheorizing the very activity of political theory in an effort to make it receptive and perhaps even reconciled to the activity of political activism." — Ani Chen, William James Studies

“Coles's Visionary Pragmatism ought to be on the reading list for ecologically-oriented academics from every discipline as well as political activists and anyone who wishes to begin cultivating the sorts of ‘game-transformative practices’ that will allow us to rethink, resist, and reshape the dominant order.” — Tess Varner, Environmental Philosophy

"It is rare that one has the opportunity to read a book that is inspiring, yet carefully argued; that covers difficult theory and articulates innovative new lines of inquiry, yet in a manner that is accessible and engaging; above all, a book that gives parity of esteem and treatment to the development of theoretical arguments and the treatment of political practice, showing how serious engagement with local practice may enrich theory. Visionary Pragmatism is such a book." — Aletta J. Norval, author of Aversive Democracy: Inheritance and Originality in the Democratic Tradition

"Romand Coles has long been a voice of creativity, engagement, and hope in radical democratic politics—one uniquely receptive to the concerns, critiques, and practices of social movements and activists. The focus here is the crucial and fertile intersection and integration of theory, practice, and environment in the development of a 'radical democratic habitus.' Coles demonstrates the incredible power and potential of creative political praxis in response to democratic deficits, ecological detachment, and their combined impacts on everyday life. This is powerful, engaging, and necessary writing."  — David Schlosberg, Professor of Environmental Politics and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Romand Coles is Frances B. McAllister Endowed Chair and Director for the Program for Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University and Research Professor at the Institute for Social Justice at Australian Catholic University. He is the author of several books, including Beyond Gated Politics: Reflections for the Possibility of Democracy and Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian (with Stanley Hauerwas).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction: Theorizing from and Traveling toward a Radical Democratic Habitas  1

1. The Neuropolitical Habitus of Resonant Receptive Democracy  31

2. From Mega-circulatory Power to Polyface Flows  71

3. System Dynamics and a Radical Politics of Transformative Co-optation  115

4. Shock Democracy and Wormhole Hope in Catastrophic Times  161

Epilogue  193

Notes  197

Bibliography  211

Index  219
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6064-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6049-0
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