Critical Steps towards a Creative Public Sphere for an Actually Existing American Democracy Open Access

James, Vera Denise (2008)

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Starting with the democratic practice of neighborhood community building, in this work I argue that the public as the space of politics must also involve a space for the public creation of forms of life and not just the public as problem-solving entity, the check and balance of existing political forms or a sphere of political contest. This claim is supported by interrogating the importance of the concepts of space and place in political theory and the relationship of these terms to our considerations of social justice. I consider the positive function the ideal of a public sphere can play in a political theory that seeks to create new possibilities for political subjectivity while keeping in mind the often overlooked concept of place. Using diverse resources from contemporary American political and social philosophy, feminism and theories of geography, I argue that most political theory with currency in our classrooms and academic debates has not met the challenge of democracy and the public sphere because of the tendency to separate notions of freedom from notions of equality. Beginning as a critique and diagnosis of our current political situation, both philosophically and practically, in the end several suggestions are made concerning possible sites of change.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction: The Ways and Means Towards a Creative Public Sphere

II. Chapter One: Paradigmatic Claims and Democratic Practices

I. The Demand for a Creative Public Sphere

II. Rights, Redistribution and Recognition: The Order of Political Claims

A. Liberalism vs. Communitarianism

B. Redistribution vs. Recognition

III. Community Based Democracy: Cases, Principles, Action Steps

A. Empowered Participatory Governance

B. Community Building: The Case of DSNI

IV. Visionary Pragmatism and Critical Social Theory

III. Chapter Two: Framing the Problem: John Dewey and the Public

I. Distinguishing the Public

II. Dewey's Diagnosis

III. In-roads to Understanding Political Subjectivity

IV. Recovering the Local: The Potential and the Problems

IV. Chapter Three: The Promise and The Unforgivable: A Critique of the Use and Usefulness Hannah Arendt's Public Sphere and Political Subjectivity

I. Philosophical Comments

II. Arendt's Promise and My Unwillingness to Forgive

III. The Limits of Political Action and Identity in Arendt Are Its Foundations

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