Degenaar Part One: Apprentice Philosopher

There is an ancient Chinese story of a young man who approaches his father, a master burglar, and asks to become his apprentice. The son wishes to be taught the art of burglary, before his father’s skills deteriorate with advancing age. The master burglar agrees, and that very night father and son set out together to commit burglary


They go to a wealthy area, and decide which house to burgle. Later that night, they gain entry to the house and look around.The father notices a large wooden chest in a prominent place in the main room, and asks his son to look inside it. As his son leans forward to look inside, the father suddenly forces him into the chest. He then bolts the chest from the outside, and begins to shout at the top of his voice, waking up the sleeping household. The father then makes his escape, leaving his son behind, locked in the chest


Some hours later, just before daybreak, the apprentice burglar returns home, angry, demanding to know what his father thought he was doing, and why he had put his son in such danger... READ MORE

Ways of Contradiction

An Introduction to the Practice of Dialectic

In dialectical thought, definitions are often a problem. Definitions imply that terms have a single, stable meaning. Dialectical thought focuses on change, including changes in the meaning of the terms we use and the instability that makes such change possible.


At the same time, preliminary definitions are clearly helpful for anyone encountering the field of dialectic forthe first time. Even for those familiar with the field, definitions indicate how terms are to be understood in a specific text. So, I begin with a few basic definitions, and a warning that they serve as no more than starting points, or as points of orientation in a landscape that changes as we travel through it.


First, a dialectical process is a process characterized by the movement of contradictions... READ MORE

Remembering Peter Hudson

I met Peter Hudson in 1986, at a conference at the University of Natal in Durban. We knew of each other by then, although we had not met. What brought us together over a number of years was the question of publication of the philosophical writings of Rick Turner, produced during the years of his banning from 1973 until his assassination in 1978. That context surely informs the sense of Peter’s life and work that I’ll convey here.


Although I knew Peter for many years, I should say that we did not spend much of that time in each other’s company. This was partly a matter of geography: he spent his adult years in Johannesburg (mostly), Durban and Paris; I spent mine in Cape Town (mostly), Stellenbosch and New York. Perhaps neither us had the gift of sociability in the right measure. But every encounter with Peter was invigorating. I valued his friendship highly, and I mourn his loss... READ MORE

Political Consciousness from Soweto to Marikana

Report on a Four-Day Activist Course in 2015


Since the day we first saw images of the police shooting down Marikana mineworkers in August 2012, it seemed to many on the South African left—and I include myself among them—that the Marikana massacre had changed everything in post-apartheid South Africa

The liberation credentials of the African National Congress and its allied organizations had withstood compromise, disappointment and betrayal over the decades before Marikana. But the idea of the ANC as the essential representative of black working-class aspirations in South Africa had endured, despite challenges. After 1994, the ANC came to represent the idea that the post-apartheid order negotiated in the early 1990s would provide a better, more hopeful future for the black working-class majority.... READ MORE

One Year After the Marikana Massacre

On 16 August 2012 a tactical response unit of the South African police shot and killed 34 striking workers and seriously wounded at least 78 others, who were part of a peaceful gathering on public land near the town of Marikana in North West Province.

The strike began a week before, when rock drill operators elected representatives to negotiate with management of Lonmin mine, the third-largest platinum mine in the world. Workers no longer trusted their union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), to negotiate on their behalf. They demanded that management should talk to them. Management insisted it would only talk to NUM.


Many of us have seen television images, showing workers apparently charging at the police as the police approach the mountain on which the strikers were gathered... READ MORE