Paris Hilton Starts Jail Time and other news…

Well, I know it must be important that Paris starts jail time, but I’m more caught up in less topical news: like, what’s happening to the reputation of democracy since the United States’ war in Iraq.

My cabbie yesterday morning, a philosopher named Chris from Ghana who drives a cab for a living, noted that not too long ago Africans looked up to American democracy, but now they don’t. He said this in exasperation after hearing a news report about “democratization” in Africa.

Democratization generally involves importing ballot boxes. But democracy happens prior to any ballot boxes. It happens in public spaces where people of different temperaments come together to talk.  Ballot boxes, as my friend Randa Slim notes, can exacerbate conflict in divided communities.  What such communities need are public spaces for building relationships.  Relationships don’t happen in private polling booths.

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Categorized as democracy

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.