Agonistic Democracy and Education

Alexander Tarek Kardjian Elnabli, Fordham University


In this dissertation I articulate the affinities between the agonistic political philosophy of William Connolly and the educational philosophy of John Dewey in order to develop terms for a philosophy of education for agonistic democracy. I argue both that Dewey offers a needed and appropriate educational philosophical framework for Connolly’s agonistic political theory and that Connolly’s work on agonism provides valuable terms for reconstructing Dewey’s educational philosophy. My argument turns initially upon a critique of what I call the “secular ideal” in the liberal political philosophical tradition, motivating both a turn to Connolly’s agonistic political thought and the important role that the concept of “faith” plays in his understanding of political conflict which avoids the anti-pluralizing tendency of “antagonism” born from secularist and non-secularist dogmatisms. I demonstrate that Dewey’s work similarly affirms a central role for a concept of faith that challenges interpretations of his political and, thus, educational work as retaining a problematic secular ideal. I argue, further, that despite skepticism from both political and educational philosophers with an interest in agonism that Dewey’s work reflects the secularist and liberal political theories they reject, Dewey’s concepts of “inquiry” and “educative growth” contain deep and broad theoretical development of the ever-present role of conflict in political life. This dissertation challenges readers of Dewey’s work who fail sufficiently to appreciate and attend to the persistent place of conflict in his work and its potential for serving what Connolly calls democratic “pluralization.” Ultimately, I argue that a reconstruction of Dewey’s concept of growth in more explicitly agonistic terms allows for an articulation of educative conflict in formal education that is not developed in Dewey’s own educational writings but may serve a philosophy of education for pluralistic democracies.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Education philosophy

Recommended Citation

Elnabli, Alexander Tarek Kardjian, "Agonistic Democracy and Education" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27958587.