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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter contributes to the rectification of a specific deficiency in political theory, namely, its lack of engagement with African political thought. It does this by exploring two metaphors for the public sphere in African philosophy: palaver and consensus. Specifically, it examines the different attempts to reconstruct these concepts to make explicit their possible contributions to political theory. As this analysis reveals, palaver and consensus are central to political legitimation, adjudication of conflicts, and general social interaction in African political thought. In contrast to views that argue both concepts designate an African form of democracy, this chapter proposes that they are better understood as metaphors for the public sphere, that is, as spaces for the enactment of a social drama where words become both a medium for the articulation of perspectives and the strategy for arresting the destructive potentials of anger. The chapter contends that the sort of public sphere embodied by palaver and consensus presents important challenges that should be taken seriously by normative political theory.

Keywords: palaver, consensus, metaphor, public sphere, anger, deliberation, African philosophy, African political thought, political legitimation

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