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Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing

Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics”

Marilyn Fischer

Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing

Marilyn Fischer

264 pages | 7 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226631325 Published July 2019
E-book $10.00 to $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226631462 Published July 2019

In Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing, Marilyn Fischer advances the bold and original claim that Addams’s reasoning in her first book, Democracy and Social Ethics, is thoroughly evolutionary. While Democracy and Social Ethics, a foundational text of classical American pragmatism, is praised for advancing a sensitive and sophisticated method of ethical deliberation, Fischer is the first to explore its intellectual roots.
Examining essays Addams wrote in the 1890s and showing how they were revised for Democracy and Social Ethics, Fischer draws from philosophy, history, literature, rhetoric, and more to uncover the array of social evolutionary thought Addams engaged with in her texts—from British socialist writings on the evolution of democracy to British and German anthropological accounts of the evolution of morality. By excavating Addams’s evolutionary reasoning and rhetorical strategies, Fischer reveals the depth, subtlety, and richness of Addams’s thought.

List of Illustrations
1 An Evolving Democracy
2 An Evolutionary Method of Ethical Deliberation
3 From Feudalism to Association
4 The City’s Moral Geology
5 Educating Immigrants
6 Science and the Social Settlement
7 Constructing Democracy and Social Ethics
Review Quotes
Louise W. Knight, author of Jane Addams: Spirit in Action
"Prominent Progressive Era social activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams was also an intellectual of the first order. In this groundbreaking book, Marilyn Fischer probes deeply Addams's contributions to a central debate of her day: What implications did Darwin’s theory of evolution have for social theory? Fischer deftly traces the influence of contemporary debates on the development of Addams’s original social evolutionary theory. As Fischer brilliantly argues, in 1902, Adams presented that theory to the world in her first book, Democracy and Social Ethics."
Trevor Pearce, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
"Fischer's beautifully written book is a model of scholarship, offering an unparalleled view into the scientific and literary contexts of Addams’s early work. In demonstrating that Democracy and Social Ethics must be read against the background of evolutionary theories of social change, Fischer has fundamentally transformed our understanding of this book and its inception."
Cathy Moran Hajo, director, The Jane Addams Papers Project
"Marilyn Fischer serves as a time-traveling tour guide who takes us on a journey that reveals the genesis and meaning behind Jane Addams’s first monograph. Fischer’s detective work, tracking Addams’ allusions, paraphrases, and quotes, reveals her connection to the wider world of social evolutionary theory and helps us better understand and appreciate the work as a historical text. Her erudite study of Addams’s prose and its connection to other theorists of the time help us decode the lost meanings of Addams’s work. You’ll never read Democracy and Social Ethics the same way again."
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