About Andrew Nash
I taught political philosophy at University of Stellenbosch (1977–86), philosophy at University of Western Cape (1987–2000) and history of political thought at University of Cape Town (2006–2015). I was editorial director of Monthly Review Press in New York from 2000 until 2006.
I’ve been involved in collective efforts to develop Marxist ideas in various publications, organizations and initiatives, mostly in Cape Town, since the late 1970s. I’m the author of The Dialectical Tradition in South Africa (Routledge, 2009), more than twenty academic articles and book chapters, mainly on the history of South African political thought, and many topical pieces.
In the last few years, I’ve been educating myself on the climate and ecological crisis, and responses to it, including the re-emerging field of philosophy of nature. I’ve come to believe that the whole field of philosophy has to be rethought in response to this deepening crisis, and I hope to contribute modestly to that process here.
About the Blog
My initial reason for starting this blog was to make accessible a four-part essay on the philosopher Johan Degenaar (1926-2015), which I began around May 2020. I wanted the essay to be easily accessible, mainly to other former students of Degenaar.
When I began this essay, I wanted to clarify what it was like to be in conversation with Degenaar, and how that experience formed an essential part of our education. I wanted to make the contrast with the commodified and competitive form higher education has taken in recent decades. I also see Degenaar’s art of dialogue as exemplifying a mode of political and intellectual life where relations within higher education in some ways resemble those within a family or similar community—held together by questions and arguments, commitment and shared risk—rather than relations between commodities.
My encounter with Degenaar—and the Department of Political Philosophy at Stellenbosch, until its demise at the end of 1986—was my first experience of such political and intellectual community, but not the last. I experienced something similar in the very different context of UWC, especially in the tumultuous years until 1994, and in the UWC Marxist Theory Seminar, from 1988 to 1995. The earliest essays posted on this blog were presented at MTS in those years.
Further essays posted here were written while I was at Monthly Review Press in New York, a context which forced me to think more globally. Like Degenaar at Stellenbosch, and like UWC as an apartheid-created institution, Monthly Review was formed by exclusion. Paul Sweezy (1910-2004) founded the journal in 1949, with Leo Huberman (1903-68), after Sweezy was refused tenure at Harvard University on political grounds and Huberman banned from involvement in worker education. The removal of Ellen Meiksins Wood (1942-2016) as editor of Monthly Review, around the time of my appointment at MR Press, reversed this pattern, but the context of MR remained formative for me.
More recent essays posted here, from the years I was teaching at the University of Cape Town, were written to publicize solidarity campaigns with Palestine and with the victims of the Marikana massacre of 2012, to reflect on activist teaching and other engagement with a new generation of working-class activists, and to clarify global developments in the field of philosophy.
There are now twenty-five essays posted on this blog (counting the four parts of my Degenaar essay as separate essays), written over the past thirty-three years. Only a handful have been published previously. It seems to me that these essays share a commitment to dialectical modes of thought, and several of them take dialectic as an important point of focus. I set out my understanding of dialectic in the essay “Ways of Contradiction.”
My hope is that these essays—and others to follow—help to retrieve ways of analysis and points of focus which will be needed in the already-deepening crisis resulting from growing climate and ecological crisis. I see my essay on Degenaar, for example, as retrieving a mode of teaching that may be part of a future beyond the bureaucratized individualism of the present. It is not for me to say whether, or how far, these essays, and others that will follow, clarify our changing context. Posting them here—and further essays I hope to post at roughly monthly or six-weekly intervals—is a way for me to find out!
There is space for readers to comment on each essay posted on this blog. I hope that the Comments section of this blog will also provide a forum for collective discussion of issues that may not be adequately debated elsewhere.
To leave a comment, you need to log into the site, at the bottom of any essay. Login generates a username, which then appears at the bottom of the essay page. Login should also ensure that you will be notified by email of new posts to the site.
You then click or hover your mouse over the words Write a comment, and just begin typing the comment there. You do not need to wait for a comment box to appear; you simply type on the page, and then click on the Publish button, once you’re ready to post the comment. Once your comment has been posted, you can edit or delete it, by going to the vertical row of dots on the right-hand margin of the comment space.
If you want to read comments, you should fill in your email address to receive notifications of new posts. This function will not, however, notify you of comments you have posted.
Comments will be moderated to exclude spam, advertising, abusive language, and long screeds with little relation to the essay concerned or the blog. I will do my best to respond to comments, questions and counter-arguments in the comments section.
It may be helpful to take account of the date that the essay was written—usually indicated in the first endnote of each essay—before commenting.
Cape Town, 11 January 2021