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Class versus Nation

A History of Richard Turner’s Eclipse and Resurgence

Ian Macqueen

Abstract

This article explores the eclipse and resurgence of the influence and ideas of Richard Turner in South Africa between 1968 and today. The article does this by first exploring Turner’s historical context more closely. It provides an overview of the contributing factors to Turner’s eclipse, namely: government repression, generational differences and strategic disagreements within the New Left. Andrew Nash’s (1999) argument that the eclipse of Turner and the New Left was due in part to their failure to recognise the salience of nationalism is explored, but placed in historical context of these other important factors. The article points, however, to the concurrence of a resurgence of interest in Turner’s work with a broader crisis in the nationalist project in contemporary South Africa (Hart 2013), a development which seems to strengthen the view that the New Left’s fortunes lie on the convex of the ambiguous project of nationalism in South Africa.

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Editorial

Raphael de Kadt

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Imagining Utopia in an Unfree World

Rick Turner on Morality, Inequality and Existentialism

Mary Ryan

Abstract

This article employs Rick Turner’s Eye of the Needle, ‘What Is Political Philosophy?’, and ‘Black Consciousness and White Liberals’ as examples in the evolution of his existential attempts to proclaim and cultivate societal reform. Specific attention is paid to his interactions with moral ideology, intellectual inspirations like Sartre and Biko, and his dual ability to function utilising pragmatism alongside imagination. Ultimately, Turner’s philosophy remains salient today, given the political challenges arising in societies around the world, urging citizens to take a fresh look at his civic demands.

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Let’s Talk about Rick Turner

Peter Hudson

Abstract

This article discusses aspects of Rick Turner’s life and thought based on the author’s relationship with Turner in the 1970s. It weaves together an apercu into Turner as a person with a reflection on where Turner stood in the intellectual milieu of South African in the 1970s. His basic orientation in philosophy was a commitment to the self-transcending subject of Sartre, and this is discussed in relation to The Eye of the Needle, psychoanalysis and the Althusserian repudiation of the subject, which had by then reached the South African left.

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The Nemesis of the Suburbs

Richard Turner and South African Liberalism

Steven Friedman

Abstract

Richard Turner’s contribution to thinking on race in South Africa is often undervalued. As influential as his thinking on economic and social alternatives was, a close reading of his work in context suggests that his core concern was a critique of white liberalism, and that this was itself a means to a wider analysis of whiteness in a racially stratified society. An analysis of contemporary South Africa suggests that his critique remains an important resource in our attempt to discuss current realities. Acknowledging the centrality of racial domination in Turner’s thought highlights the continued salience of his understanding of South African social reality.

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Rick Turner as … Theologian?

Anthony Egan

Abstract

This article proposes that Rick Turner needs to be considered as a theologian as well as a philosopher. It examines the sources behind his ‘religious’ writings, notably The Eye of the Needle, to understand the theological world view he had imbibed before he wrote it. It then looks at how he framed the book theologically and how theology informs the whole text. In light of this, its similarity with roughly contemporary works of liberation theology, and the way it anticipated currents within the subsequent church engagement in the anti-apartheid struggle, the proposal is made that he should be called a South African theologian.

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Rick Turner, Participatory Democracy and Workers’ Control

Alex Lichtenstein

Abstract

This article considers the contribution of radical South African philosopher Rick Turner to theories of ‘workers’ control’. Turner’s philosophical work, especially his book, The Eye of the Needle (1972), posited the work-place as a fundamental site of ‘participatory democracy’ and a space for the potential radical transformation of South African society. During the early 1970s, Turner’s philosophical writings, teaching at the University of Natal, and political activism in Durban helped galvanise a cohort of radical white students who joined in support of protesting black workers in the 1973 Durban mass strikes. The confluence of Turner’s ideas about workers’ control, the students’ activism, and the collective action of the black working class gave South Africa’s labour movement a radically democratic, shop-floor orientation that deserves a revival in the new South Africa.

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The Weight of Absence

Rick Turner and the End of the Durban Moment

Billy Keniston

Abstract

Many key participants in the ‘emerging Trade Union movement’ were once influenced heavily by Turner. Nonetheless, as they moved into the unions, most adopted a mechanistic version of Marxism, and rejected Turner’s idealistic, anti-authoritarian Socialism. There are two different ways to interpret the significance of the ‘Durban Moment’. In one telling, there is a linear progression between the social movements in the 1970s through to the foment of the 1980s, and the end of apartheid in 1994. The other interpretation seeks to understand the unique qualities of the political developments of the early 1970s in counter-balance to the opposition politics that came before and after. The ultimate erasure of Rick Turner’s politics is to claim that they have been assimilated into movements that developed after his death. As long as we believe that Rick Turner’s vision was embraced by those who came after him, we will remain within a cul-de-sac.

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Apartheid of Thought

The Power Dynamics of Knowledge Production in Political Thought

Camilla Boisen and Matthew C. Murray

Abstract

In engaging with Lawrence Hamilton’s Freedom Is Power and its position in the lexicon of academic production from the Global South, this paper explores how Hamilton’s claim about institutions utilising idealised concepts that can have counterproductive social effects is also broadly observable in knowledge production itself. This paper draws in broad and brief terms how representation of ideas has been an issue at the heart of political thought historically before discussing how ideas from the South and other under-represented areas now serve to counter not just a hegemony of power but of ideas themselves. This is a necessary extension of the theory to consider, in order to have its desired effect as ideas are perquisites to actions. The paper also challenges the reader with their role in idealising the production of knowledge and the underlying social pressures and political power relations that shape the ideas that motivate ‘real’ political structures and institutions.

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Ideas, Powers and Politics

Lawrence Hamilton

Abstract

I make two main points in response to the two great articles on my book Freedom is Power: Liberty Through Political Representation (FIP) published in this issue of Theoria. First, I assess the power of ideas, especially vis-à-vis the important imperative to decolonise knowledge production, taking on board much of Boisen and Murray’s arguments while qualifying their tendency to overstate the case for the power of ideas. I then comment on Allsobrook’s criticism of my attempt in FIP to marry Foucault’s view of power with my genealogical account of needs. I take on board his main concern and then argue – all too briefly – that his alternative ‘rights recognition thesis’ fails to escape his own critique of my needs-based view of freedom as power aimed at overcoming domination.