This two-part webinar series is a collaboration between the PDD group and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Nairobi. Western and African scholars will engage in a dialogue about the state of liberal democracy and democratic reform.
A growing branch of democratic theory and practice diagnoses that liberal democracy is in crisis. Nevertheless, academics are divided with regards to the roots of, and the potential cure for, this crisis: Should we do our best to ‘rescue’ liberal democracy and its underlying normative and organisational principles, or is it time to search for alternative ways of ‘doing democracy’?
At present, strategies for reinvigorating democracy through participatory and deliberative processes (‘democratic innovations’) are a major subject of debate among western scholars, who focus primarily on the situation of the Global North. Citizen participation in Africa has often been implemented and studied as part of western-led development projects, under the neoliberal rhetoric of good governance (World Bank, 1992). This line of research has mostly sidelined issues of white privilege and structural racism entrenched in western liberal democracies, and also limited engagement with critical race theory. However, a growing number of African political philosophers and political scientists are taking critical stances towards practices of liberal democracy from the perspective of their own cultural and political contexts, and are engaged in the quest for alternative ways of ‘doing democracy’.
Nevertheless, so far there have been few attempts at bringing the perspectives and research endeavours of Western and African political theorists into a dialogue. This situation is surprising, particularly in the light of the ambition of Western deliberative and participatory democracy scholars to expand the scope and reach of democracy towards greater social inclusion and social justice.
Consequently, in this webinar series, we will engage in this much needed dialogue between African and Western democracy scholars, with particular focus on democratic reform which moves beyond the “western gaze”. We will address critical perspectives on contemporary liberal democracy (webinar 1) and viewpoints on alternative ways of ‘doing democracy’ (webinar 2). Subsequently, we shall invite all webinar participants to engage in lively debates and exchanges with a view to enriching the presentations, as well as to strike out in new, innovative directions.