Paperback editions featuring the cover of 'Uniting Mississippi.'

Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South (Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi, 2015)

Governor William Winter.With a foreword by the Honorable Governor William F. Winter. Governor Winter is known especially for education reforms, as well as for progress in racial reconciliation. The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation was named in honor of his legacy and to continue the vital efforts that he and others have led.

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Uniting Mississippi applies a new, philosophically informed theory of democratic leadership to Mississippi’s challenges. Governor William F. Winter has written a foreword for the book, supporting its proposals.

A section of the artwork for 'Uniting Mississippi,' featuring members of the University of Mississippi community gathered for a 2012 candlelight vigil in Oxford, MS.

The book begins with an examination of Mississippi’s apparent Catch-22, namely the difficulty of addressing problems of poverty without fixing issues in education first, and vice versa. These difficulties can be overcome if we look at their common roots, argues Eric Thomas Weber, and if we practice virtuous democratic leadership. Since the approach to addressing poverty has for so long been unsuccessful, Weber reframes the problem. The challenges of educational failure reveal the extent to which there is a caste system of schooling. Certain groups of people are trapped in schools that are underfunded and failing. The ideals of democracy reject hierarchies of citizenship, and thus, the author contends, these ideals are truly tested in Mississippi. Weber offers theories of effective leadership in general and of democratic leadership in particular to show how Mississippi’s challenges could be addressed with the guidance of common values.

High resolution image of the cover of 'Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South.'The book draws on insights from classical and contemporary philosophical outlooks on leadership, which highlight four key social virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. Within this framework, the author approaches Mississippi’s problems of poverty and educational frustration in a novel way that is applicable in and beyond the rural South. Weber brings to bear each of the virtues of democratic leadership on particular problems, with some overarching lessons and values to advance. The author’s editorial essays are included in the appendix as examples of engaging in public inquiry for the sake of democratic leadership.


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“The words ‘philosophy’ and ‘practical’ are rarely used together. Using the challenged state of Mississippi as an example, Professor Weber offers clear guidance on how inspired democratic leadership can bring about needed change. There are pearls of wisdom here for both the scholar and the aspiring leader.”
— Daniel W. Jones, MD, professor of physiology and medicine, former dean of the School of Medicine, and former chancellor at the University of Mississippi

“I am often in conversation with groups and individuals around the state who are working hard to improve the lives of Mississippians. Some of the greatest needs in that work are an understanding of our history, the need for a common language to describe where we are in that history, and the creation of a community of practice that shares best practices and ideas. Dr. Weber’s book is an excellent start for supporting this crucial work.”
Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi

“This book is the beginning of a desperately needed conversation in Mississippi about the future of the state. It addresses an issue that nearly everyone is aware of–the need for high quality education for Mississippians–with an understanding that it must precede rather than flow from economic growth. Anyone interested in education policy in Mississippi should read and consider the case for education in this book.”
Robert Mellen, Jr., assistant professor and undergraduate coordinator at Mississippi State University


Headshot of Bill Minor.Reviews

“Book Shows Way Out of Catch-22.”
Bill MinorThe Clarion Ledger, October 15, 2015.

Weber moved here eight years ago to teach at the University of Mississippi. Trained in philosophy, he teaches public policy and has mined thinkers ancient and contemporary — particularly Plato and John Dewey — to develop his definition of good leadership. ‘Judicious yet courageous guidance,’ he puts it, a definition from which he draws four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, unity and justice. Those are big words, almost fuzzy in their scope. What leader, after all, wouldn’t want some wisdom? But, chapter by chapter, Weber describes the public policies that should emerge from such virtuous beginnings, and the contrast between theory and practice reveals a shortage of each virtue in our local politics.”
Boyce UpholtThe Clarion Ledger, December 20, 2015.

Photo of the paperback and hardback editions of 'Democracy and Leadership.'

Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013 hdbk, 2015 pbk)

The cover art and back cover of 'Democracy and Leadership.'Democracy and Leadership presents a theory of democratic leadership drawing on insights from Plato’s Republic, while abandoning his authoritarianism in favor of John Dewey’s democratic thought. The book continues the democratic turn for the study of leadership beyond the incorporation of democratic values into old-fashioned views about leading. The completed democratic turn leaves behind the traditional focus on a class of special people. Instead, leadership is understood as a process of judicious yet courageous guidance, infused with democratic values and open to all people.

The book proceeds in three parts, beginning with definitions and an understanding of the nature of leadership in general and of democratic leadership in particular. Then, Part II examines four challenges for a democratic theory of leadership. Finally, in Part III, the book tests the theory of democratic leadership in addressing problems of poverty, educational frustration, and racial divides, particularly aggravated in Mississippi.

Read Chapter 1, excerpted from the book.

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“This book will certainly re-orient the field of leadership studies, but its impact will extend beyond that field. By connecting leadership with broader issues about participatory democracy, Weber will find grateful readers across political theory. He strikes a tone of optimistic practicality that especially rings true for pragmatic generation Xers and civic-minded Millennials. This book and its author are positioned as precisely that sort of new public voice capable of leading the next generations as they rise into political power and leadership themselves.”
Dr. John Robert Shook, University at Buffalo, New York

“From Plato through today’s college students, Eric Weber’s Democracy and Leadership carefully examines the pedagogy of leadership development. Because the book is so rich in content and style, you can add Weber’s name to a select list of noted Southern scholars and writers.”
Dean James L. “Skip” Rutherford, The Clinton School of Public Service, The University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR

“This superbly researched and written book defines more clearly than anything that I have read in recent years the elements that are essential for a democratic political system to fulfill its proper mission. Coming as it does in a time of diminished public decision-making capability, particularly at the national governmental level, this volume points the way out of our current malaise. It should be read by every citizen who wants to see our system work as well as it is capable of. As a former governor of Mississippi, I can attest to the value of the wise and pragmatic counsel which it contains.”
The Honorable William Winter, Governor of Mississippi from 1972-1976 and from 1980-1984, the “Education Governor.”

Cover for 'Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy.'

Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy (London, U.K.: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011)

Cover for 'Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy.'The goal of this book is to present an experimentalist approach to the problems of ethics in public policy grounded on John Dewey’s philosophy. Leaders in public policy face some unique challenges regarding the framing of problems, policy prioritization or agenda setting, as well as challenges of addressing the concerns of citizens who hold to conflicting religious and moral doctrines. This book is intended for students and leaders in public policy and for philosophers interested in how leaders in public matters can fuse the many important moral considerations that must be addressed in public settings concerning policy.

Read Chapter 1, excerpted from the book.

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Description of the book on Continuum’s Web site:

“In Morality, Leadership and Public Policy, Eric Weber argues for an experimentalist approach to moral theory in addressing practical problems in public policy. The experimentalist approach begins moral inquiry by examining public problems and then makes use of the tools of philosophy and intelligent inquiry to alleviate them.

Part I surveys the uses of practical philosophy and answers criticisms – including religious challenges – of the approach, presenting a number of areas in which philosophers’ intellectual efforts can prove valuable for resolving public conflicts.

Part II presents a new approach to experimentalism in moral theory, based on the insights of John Dewey’s pragmatism. Focusing on the elements of good public inquiry and the experimentalist attitude, Weber discusses ways of thinking about the effective construction and reconstruction of particular problems, including practical problems of public policy prioritization.

Finally, in Part III the book examines real-world examples in which the experimentalist approach to ethics proves useful, including instances of “bandwidth theft” and the controversies surrounding activist judges in the US Supreme Court.”



“I cannot urge strongly enough the consideration of this ingenious, well-written study for inclusion  in the policy curriculum. We seldom have a book that is both original and practical, and this work is both.  We have a major problem in the world today, a shortfall in ethical understanding that is producing dire consequences for every level of government.  We need to spark interest in the ethical dimensions of policy studies, and Professor Weber has provided us with both the spark and the tinder.  I will make good use of his study, and hope others will too.”
Dr. Paul Rich, President, Policy Studies Organization, Washington, D.C., USA

“Eric Weber has written a much needed book.  Many commentators lament the prevalence of ideological rigidity in American politics.  At the same time, defenders of ideological rigidity often defend rigidity as a consequence of a genuinely “ethical” approach to the great issues of public policy.  They often equate compromise with ethical weakness.  In Morality, Leadership and Public Policy: On Experimentalism in Ethics, Weber convincingly refutes any notion that ethical leadership need be dogmatic by appealing to the most genuinely American of philosophical traditions.  Weber’s book shows great sensitivity to both the complexity of public policy formation and to the subtleties of philosophical ethics.  His book deserves to be read by both policy makers and philosophers.”
Dr. David Schrader, Executive Director, The American Philosophical Association, Newark, Delaware, USA

“If there was ever any doubt that philosophy belongs in the real world–in the realm of legislatures and leadership–Weber’s book lays it to rest.  By a marvelously rich development of the pragmatic experimental method, the author shows how philosophy can make central contributions to dealing with some of our most vexing moral problems.  Lucid thinking and accessible style make the book’s lasting insights unmistakable.  A must-read for both philosophers and community leaders.”
Dr. John Lachs, Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA


Cover of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.Review in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy

Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy is written in an engaging manner. So filled is it with clear and powerfully compelling ideas and suggestions that one cannot read the book without finding oneself examining one’s habitual ways of approaching difficulties and seeking new possibilities for meaningful collaboration with others in fashioning public policy. Although Weber writes explicitly for philosophers, his work can also be read with benefit by nonphilosophers who are concerned with the moral dimensions of public policy and leadership.”
Dr. Royce Jones, Capps Professor of Humanities Emeritus, Illinois College, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy

Cover of 'Rawls, Dewey, and Constructivism.'

Rawls, Dewey, and Constructivism (London, U.K.: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010)

Cover of 'Rawls, Dewey, and Constructivism.'Description from the Publisher

“In Rawls, Dewey and Constructivism, Eric Weber examines and critiques John Rawls’ epistemology and the unresolved tension – inherited from Kant – between Representationalism and Constructivism in Rawls’ work. Weber argues that, despite Rawls’ claims to be a constructivist, his unexplored Kantian influences cause several problems. In particular, Weber criticises Rawls’ failure to explain the origins of conceptions of justice, his understanding of “persons” and his revival of Social Contract Theory. Drawing on the work of John Dewey to resolve these problems, the book argues for a rigorously constructivist approach to the concept of justice and explores the practical implications of such an approach for Education.”

Read Chapter 1, excerpted from the book.

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“Eric Weber provides a well considered and carefully crafted analysis of the work of John Rawls from a Pragmatist perspective. Chapter six alone, ‘Dewey and Rawls on Education,’ is worth the price of admission.”
Larry A. Hickman, Center for Dewey Studies, Southern Illinois University, USA

“Eric Thomas Weber’s comparative study identifies a deep Kantian tension between constructivism and representationalism in Rawls. His well informed, very clear and persuasive critique of Rawls highlights the many resources of Dewey’s constructivism and constructivist epistemology for democratic political philosophy.”
Tom Rockmore, Duquesne University, USA



Photo of the Web site for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.“Eric Thomas Weber’s excellent book raises a constructivist challenge against Rawls’s constructivism…Weber’s Deweyan critique of Rawls’s constructivist conception of justice points to the difficulty in grasping Kantian constructivism. In Rawls’s writings, the reference to Kantian constructivism is so vague as to be essentially meaningless. That is one of the implications of this very useful book.”
— Tom Rockmore, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Weber’s Rawls, Dewey and Constructivism provides a welcome addition to the Rawls literature by offering a Deweyan critique of,and alternative to, Rawlsian constructivism… In the contemporary political and economic climate, Weber’s call for strengthening the American tradition of public, humanistic education is refreshing.”
— Nicholas Tampio, H-Net Reviews: Humanities and Social Sciences Online
Cover of the Review of Metaphysics.“The insight Weber brings to his readers is that Dewey beat Rawls to the punch, and by grounding so much of his political philosophy in his philosophy of education, itself the product of a pervasive influence of evolutionary naturalism, Dewey’s practical philosophy is much more practical than Rawls’s… Weber is at his best when assessing tensions internal to Rawls’s version of constructivism, tensions that Weber thinks Deweyan constructivism, by means of his theory of education, avoids.”
— Seth Vannatta, The Review of Metaphysics

“Weber’s critique is … robust[,] judicious and collegial throughout… Weber has delivered a powerful [case].”
— Richard Cotter, Political Studies Review

Image of the cover of the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.“Weber explores how tensions between constructivism and representationalism in Rawls’ basic concepts of The Original Position and of Reflective Equilibrium bear on standards of objectivity in Rawls’ political philosophy. In response to such perceived tensions, and inspired by Dewey’s notion of inquiry, Weber sketches a more thorough-going constructivist notion of objectivity… Weber rightly stresses [that] Dewey’s ethics focuses on the moral development and educability of the self, not on freedom as ‘antecedent to moral situations … [and] to moral experience’.”
— Torjus Midtgarden, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society