Jane Addams’ Social Vision: Revisiting the Gospel of Individualism and Solidarity

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Abstract

Designated an early pragmatist, Jane Addams has significantly inspired contemporary pragmatist research. However, Addams also consistently articulated ideas harking to primordial Christianity and sought inspiration in the social gospel of her time. This article explores how Addams’ writing resonated with key tenets of social gospel theology, which imbued her texts with an overarching vision of humanity’s progressive history. It is suggested that Addams’ vision of a major transition in industrial society, one involving a BChristian renaissance^ and individuals’ transformation into Bsocialized selves^, constitutes a political eschatology. Of particular interest is how Addams conceived the relationship between the individual and society, inventing the term Bnew social ethics^ to reconcile the difficult balance between individual autonomy and social solidarity. The article suggests some ways in which Addams’
writings relate to contemporary issues such as individualism, neo-conservatism, and militarism. Her social thought constitutes a thus far under-examined source of sociological critique in regard to such issues of public concern.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American Sociologist
Volume49
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)218–241
Number of pages24
ISSN0003-1232
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Published online: 17. January 2018

Keywords

  • Jane Addams
  • Social gospel
  • Individualism
  • Solidarity
  • Political eschatology

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