The "Lippmann-Dewey Debate" and the Invention of Walter Lippmann as an Anti-Democrat 1985-1996

Michael Schudson


The “Lippmann-Dewey Debate” became widely discussed in the 1980s and 1990s in U.S. media and communication studies, in large part through the influence of James Carey. While Carey’s initial writing on the Lippmann-Dewey exchange was insightful, by 1987, his characterization of the exchange seriously misreads Lippmann, and misdirects a decade of discussion. Comparing Carey’s remarks about Lippmann, and similar remarks from other leading scholars influenced by Carey’s reading, with what Lippmann actually said, reveals that Lippmann’s elitism did not make him anti-democratic but, instead, a subtle thinker concerned with how to integrate expertise into a functioning democracy. This article speculates why Carey misinterpreted Lippmann’s work, and concludes with what remains relevant in Carey’s argument.

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