Paul D. Schumaker

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Political Science
Professor Emeritus
Primary office:

Political Theory, Public Policy, Community Politics





“Obama’s Pluralism.” This article argues that while the President is indeed a liberal, his tepid commitment to liberal policy goals is better explained by his deeper commitments to the political principles and philosophical assumptions of a “new pluralism” than by critical interpretations that he is a post-partisan” compromiser and/or a pragmatist who lacks commitment to any public philosophy. Under review.

Principled Pluralism: A consensual public philosophy for an era of polarization. I am currently working on a book-length manuscript that provides a comprehensive account of the widely accepted ideals and beliefs that seem forgotten in the highly conflictive politics that characterizes current America. This analysis provides insights into a major issue in contemporary political theory: What are the contents of “the overlapping consensus” that John Rawls argued is essential for political stability in a polity characterized by competing comprehensive moral doctrines and ideologies? I draw from academic work in political theory and political philosophy, political commentators on both sides of our ideological divide, and public opinion surveys to describe and analyze the political principles and philosophical assumptions of our most basic public philosophy. I seek to provide an account of our overlapping consensus, which I the public philosophy of principled pluralism, that is: comprehensive (encompassing a broad array of political and philosophical concerns), thin (at a level of abstraction high enough to incorporate alternative “ideological” formulations), precise (not so vague as be without meaning and practical guidance), and publicly accessible (avoiding terminology that gains scholarly praise but at the expense of appealing to “common sense”). Given these concerns, I banish scholarly arguments and disputes to the preface, endnotes, and appendices of the book. The body of the book details our common political sensibilities and appeals to our common sense (or, put a bit more scholarly, our consensual social understandings).

In Praise of Progressive Pluralism. William Connolly insightfully argues that pluralists need a bicameral orientation. First is their commitment to the consensual ideals that is the focus of Principled Pluralism above. But to energize our political involvements, we also need a more “partisan” set of specific commitments. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls provided the most well-known partisan philosophy (egalitarian liberalism) and provided the analytical tools for defending such a philosophy. Rawls TJ has its strengths and limitations, prompting me to develop an alternative left-of-center partisan philosophy, which I call Progressive Pluralism, that is as much civil communitarian as it is liberal. I use three modes of normative analysis to argue that progressive pluralism is superior to the most prominent right-of-center perspective, neoliberal, as a public philosophy for addressing contemporary concerns such as growing inequalities of wealth, global warming, and moral permissiveness As I learn more from my other projects on “pluralism,” I hope to strengthen and complete this project.

Ethics in Urban Policy Making: A New Pluralist Perspective. A book-length manuscript that collects, edits, and condenses various published and unpublished papers that I have written (or co-written) in the past two decades on the themes in the proposed title. My motivation is to capitalize on my recent article on these themes that was awarded the “best publication” in the journal of the Urban Affairs Association in 2013 and to elaborate on some of the claims made in that paper. I argue that “orthodox pluralism” – a long-standing and still important theoretical perspective on community politics that focuses on group activity and the dispersion of power resources among many groups – should be replaced (or at last augmented) by “principled pluralism.” I bring evidence from two major studies – both drawing from extensive interviews with elected officials in 12 cities – to show that the policies of local communities are less influenced by group activity than by individual and collective ideals about the common good and justice.

Selected Publications

Schumaker, P. (2017). John Rawls, Barack Obama, and the Pluralist Political Consensus. American Political Thought.

Schumaker, P. (2013). Group involvements in city politics and pluralist theory. Urban Affairs Review , 49(2), 254-281.

Schumaker, P., & Kelly, M. (2013). The public assistance policies of cities and the justice concerns of elected officials: The centrality of the floors principle in addressing urban poverty. Policy Studies Journal, 41(1), 70-96.

Schumaker, P. (Ed.). (2010). The Political Theory Reader (P. Schumaker, Ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.

Schumaker, P. (2008). From Ideologies to Public Philosophies: An Introduction to Political Theory, Blackwell Publishing.

Schumaker, P. & Loomis, B. (Eds.). (2002). Choosing our President: The Electoral College and Beyond (P. Schumaker & B. Loomis, Eds.). Chatham House.

Schumaker, P., Kiel, D., & Heilke, T. (Eds.). (1997). Ideological Voices: An Anthology in Modern Political Ideas (P. Schumaker, D. Kiel, & T. Heilke, Eds.). McGraw-Hill.

Schumaker, P., Kiel, D., & Heilke, T. (1996). Great Ideas and Grand Schemes: Political Ideologies in the 19th and 20th Centuries, McGraw-Hill.

Schumaker, P. (1991). Critical Pluralism, Democratic Performance, and Community Power, University Press of Kansas.

Schumaker, P., Getter, R., & Clark, T. (1983). Policy Responsiveness and Fiscal Strain in 51 American Communities: A Manual for Studying City Politics Using the NORC Permanent Community Sample, American Political Science Association.

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