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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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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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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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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.

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Christopher J. Allsobrook

Abstract

This critique of the theory of freedom and power, which Lawrence Hamilton advances in Freedom is Power (2014), maintains that Hamilton’s appeal to a genealogy of needs - (established in his earlier work, The Political Philosophy of Needs (2003)) to distinguish power from domination – is inconsistent with the theory of power he advocates. His account of needs is no less vulnerable than that of rivals to the problem of power he identifies. I advance a rights recognition theory, which is compatible with this theory of power and I argue that it helps to provide support for the distinction, which Hamilton wants to make, between power and domination, which one cannot obtain from his theory of needs.

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Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

What does it mean to be free? How is freedom related to power? How does the concept of freedom shape our conceptions of democracy? Lawrence Hamilton’s book entitled Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation offers an alternative conceptualization of freedom to the republican and liberal traditions. Hamilton delineates his framework of analysis starting from a realpolitik approach, with Machiavellian and Foucaultian inspiration: first, by conceiving politics via the lens of conflict instead of consensus; second, by conceiving freedom in terms of power (relations). In this paper we offer an overview of Hamilton’s argument, exploring the steps that lead us to a reconceptualise freedom in terms of power, needs and interests and to rethink the significance, meanings and practices of political representation in a democratic context.

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’Tis but a Habit in an Unconsolidated Democracy

Habitual Voting, Political Alienation and Spectatorship

Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

Abstract

The electoral process can be considered as one basic component of a democracy and for this reason one way to evaluate the progress of a democratisation project is by looking at the development of this civic practice in terms of both quantity (voter turnout) and quality (voters’ preferences). Focusing on the former, specifically the impact of political alienation on electoral participation as voter turnout this article will look at the challenges to democratisation posed by electoral politics. From the case of electoral participation in the Philippines, I ask the question: What is the relationship between political alienation and voter turnout in the context of the latter enjoying relatively high and sustained rates? Through a synthesis between the notions of political spectatorship, habitual voting and the learning approach towards analysing voter behaviour, I argue that electoral participation is a disempowered mode of participation resulting from the interdependence of sustained spectatorship and habitual voting.