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Dis-Embedded Discourse: Challenge for Civic Education
Philosophy of Education (1997)
  • Dilafruz R. Williams, Portland State University

In her critique of deliberative democratic theory, Stacy Smith raises an important question: How do we reconcile a social condition of radical plurality with an ideal of consensus? For our deliberations of questions like this one, she invites us to consider Benhabib’s concept of the “concrete other” which encourages recognition of “each and every rational being as an individual with a concrete history, identity, and affective-emotional constitution.” Smith aptly reminds us that these “concrete aspects of individual identity encourage attention to one’s status within salient groups” allowing differences “and the complex social relations in which they are embedded, to become manifest within the discourse procedure.” It is by now clear as C. Douglas Limmus argues in Radical Democracy that the ideals of democracy are impossible to attain at the level of the modern nation-state. For, the celebration of Benhabib’s “concrete other” is impossible at the national, international, or global scale in which people disappear, reduced to “masses,” “classes,” or “we, the people.” Despite Dewey’s hope for regenerating the ragged individual3 through national and international organizations, the average voter casting her or his vote at the ballot box fails to achieve the concrete identity needed to enjoy Smith’s “radical plurality.” The plurality and the consensus needed for radical democracy are possible only at the local level, on a scale small enough to be human.

  • Service learning,
  • Critical thinking,
  • Education -- Philosophy,
  • Democracy
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
Published by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Citation Information
Dilafruz R. Williams. "Dis-Embedded Discourse: Challenge for Civic Education" Philosophy of Education Vol. 2007 (1997)
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