New Essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books

On the occasion of Jürgen Habermas’s 90th birthday, the Los Angeles Review of Books published a section of articles commemorating the occasion. I’ve got a piece there, “The Public Sphere in Dark Times.” Here’s snippet:

To my mind, the big question hovering over Trump’s presidency is whether a democratic public sphere can check the power of an authoritarian president and his administration or, conversely, whether an authoritarian administration dismissive of fundamental principles of justice can turn the entire country into a fascist state. So far it seems that, yes, this administration can cause great suffering and hardship, it can reverse decades of progress on environmental and social justice issues; but it seems that it cannot, under current conditions, muzzle public opinion or its power. These current conditions include a free press, spaces for public opinion to form and be shared, strong habits of public expression and contestation, and means for those who have been silenced or marginalized to enter the public fray.

Even in dark times, I am an optimist. Other pieces in LARB’s “Habermas Dossier” include pieces by Martin Jay, Maria Pia Lara, Matthew Specter, Matthias Fritsch, Martin Woessner, and Eduardo Mendieta.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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