March 15, 2022
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March 15, 2022
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v2.1 Reference

Deliberative Agency

A Study in Modern African Political Philosophy

Public deliberation, highly valued by many African societies, becomes the cornerstone of a new system of African political philosophy in this brilliant, highly original study. In Deliberative Agency, philosopher Uchenna Okeja offers a way to construct a new political center by building it around the ubiquitous African practice of public deliberation, a widely accepted means to resolve legal matters, reconcile feuding groups, and reestablish harmony.

In cities, hometown associations and voluntary organizations carry out the task of fostering deliberation among African groups for different reasons. In some instances, the deliberation aims to settle disputes. In others, the aim is to decide the best action to take to address unfortunate incidents such as death.

Through a measured, comparative analysis, Deliberative Agency argues that the best way to reimagine and harness the idea of public deliberation, based on current experiences in Africa, is to see it as performance of agency. Building a new political center around the practice places agency at the core of a new political life in Africa.

About the Author

Uchenna Okeja is a professor of philosophy at Rhodes University and research associate at Nelson Mandela University. He is the co-editor of the journal Philosophical Papers.


"The philosophical significance of Okeja's study of political failure should not be underestimated. Empirical analyses of political failure in Africa treat it as contingent; by contrast, Okeja diagnoses it as an existential condition for modern Africans. In responding to this existential crisis, Okeja issues a plea for a new departure in African philosophical thinking: from the retrieval of traditional values towards the creative exercise of the philosophical imagination that takes the post-independent experience of political failure as its baseline. This is a courageous book whose message, though bleak, is indispensable to the future of modern African political thought and practice."—Katrin Flikschuh, Professor of Modern Political Theory, London School of Economics, UK.

"Okeja formulates an original political theory for the Africa of today that promotes alternatives designed to ground institutions of government on values and procedures that will reunite past and present as well as governing and governed in a meaningful manner."—Barry Hallen, author of Reading Wiredu

"Deliberative Agency elaborates and complicates the value of public deliberation in African societies and state and its significance and attraction for addressing the political challenges of the contemporary era. Uchenna Okeja provides us with a persuasive account of the conditions for developing a political philosophy that reimagines public political culture in the continent"—Wale Adebanwi, Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

"In Deliberative Agency, political philosopher Uchenna Okeja has provided us with a deeply innovative work that does not take off on some essentialist path but restores and instills analytical vitality and rigor into African conceptual categories. The study of African political failure has been the subject of an extensive scholarly literature. Contemporary African citizens struggle to make meaning of their daily experiences and to find agency in contexts marked by political inertia and corruption. Since "people experience themselves as a continuum," and their past is imperative to an understanding of their present and futures, Okeja has embarked on a process of conceptual creativity and produced "deliberative agency" as an account of contemporary African political philosophy that helps overcome the challenge posed by political failure. This is a highly erudite and original work."—Emmanuel Akyeampong, Ellen Gurney Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

"The Arab spring starting in Tunisia as a promise of democracy and ending as a popular embrace of the rule of one man is emblematic of what is called in this book political failure on the African continent. But Deliberative Agency: A Study in Modern African Political Philosophy is not an exercise in afro-pessimism. It is a call for afro-responsibility. The responsibility to re-think and re-invent African conceptual creativity in political philosophy from a future-oriented perspective. Uchenna Okeja's work leads on that path."—Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University

"Throughout Deliberative Agency, Okeja excels at both rigorous description and analysis. The case for a uniquely African remedy to political problems, a remedy that involves articulating and hearing the voices of all members of society, makes this book both challenging and inspiring."—M. W. Westmoreland, Ocean County College, Choice
Indiana University Press
World Philosophies

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234 Pages
$80.00 USD
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