What kind of politics is needed in Africa?

Professor Harry Boyte speaks to Idasa about what kind of politics is needed in Africa. Here he suggests that globally, there is an enormous need for a different kind of politics. In the discussion, he examines two main streams of current dominant politics. The first is “mass politics” where citizens are “customers” of government, reflective of the marketisation of the world. He suggests this is a very thin approach to the human person and creates more “angry shoppers” than engaged citizens. The second approach is one of “sentimental citizenship” which involves models of voluntarism and service – in an of themselves not bad ideas, but as languages of change, they mask the important issues. Prof Boyte then goes on to speak about a public work approach to democracy, which encourages working practically across differences (age, rank, status, ethnicity, religion, partisanship) to accomplish community goals. Examples of this kind of approach can be found in deeply rooted African traditions of community work, where people have the space to organise themselves, innovate and develop their talents. A public work approach is different from the dominant models of politics, and speaks much more to deep democratisation. Professor Boyte goes on to talk about how this approach can be applied to other scenarios such as business or education. Finally, he talks about how to view the success of the recent world cup in South Africa within a framework of citizenship and democracy.


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