themusic says that "Pragmatism, for all its intellectual history, is used today to justify much that is conservative or reactionary ideology."

Well, I'd modify that slightly: I'd say that the word "pragmatism" is invoked to justify conservative or reactionary ideology, but it's mostly just rhetoric. The problem is that "pragmatism" is misunderstood to signify not "whatever works", but rather "that which conservative/reactionary ideologues tend to advocate", or more specifically "that which at first glance seems kinda mean and heartless and self-centered".

Circular reasoning, anyone?

Sure, sometimes being mean and heartless and self-centered is "what works", but is it wise define it as "what works", to declare as an axiom that this is "what works"?

Problem number two is that "idealism" has been defined, just as blindly and axiomatically, to signify "that which liberal and/or left-wing ideologues tend to advocate". IMHO it'd be a lot clearer to define "idealism" as "that which is impractical or unrealistic, with a side-order of reductionism".

Well, if there's anything more reductive, impractical and unrealistic than a blind faith in "rational self-interest" 1, I've yet to see it. The same goes for most other free market theology (not to mention all other forms of political and religious theology); it's just one long list of simple sure-fire solutions to staggeringly complex problems. They disregard the complexities of human nature almost as blithely as Marx did. Yeah, sure, the unseen hand is going to fix the environment, put an end to the business cycle (?!), make everybody rich, and end war in our time2 3.


1 "Man is a rationalizing animal", as they say; I'll believe the "self-interest" part, but when you start claiming that people are rational often enough for it to be statistically significant, I'll just have to ask you to put down the bong. Even if it were common (which is arguable; see plonk plonk above), hell, even if it were universal, only a glassy-eyed idealist of the first water would assume that it would necessarily "save the world" or anything like that.

2 All extravagant snake oil claims guaranteed genuine, no foolin'.

3 s/unseen hand/government/g and then back again at 8-10Hz until it starts to blur, for those who are missing the point. The point is that the two sets of claims are identical.

plonk plonk: You were doing fine about rational self-interest until you hit that gaping non sequitur at the end. Why would it "save the world"? How? The fact that you like self-interest and that "rationality" has positive connotations? Are you familiar with "the tragedy of the commons"? No, the only thing that keeps us going is irrational self-interest, the conviction that we should do the right thing just because it's the damn right thing to do, even when we can be certain that the wrong thing will never come back to bite us. It's called "civilization". What's left of it.