STAY OUT OF POLITICS"": A Philosopher Views South Africa by Ronald Aronson

STAY OUT OF POLITICS"": A Philosopher Views South Africa

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For some writers, these are perilous times; books written a few months ago seem on publication out of date or irrelevant. Aronson's account of his visit to South Africa, while not irrelevant, is affected--particularly in its analysis and conclusions--by the great changes that have recently taken place in both Europe and South Africa. Asked to give a series of lectures in South Africa in 1987, Aronson (Humanities/Wayne State Univ.) accepted the invitation only when he was assured that is so doing he would be helping the antiapartheid struggle. Although advised by the South African Consular official to ""stay out of politics,"" Aronson found that impossible to do, for South Africans of all color and opinion talked politics. As he travelled around the country lecturing on Sartre, the Holocaust and its application to South Africa, and the ""Fetishization of Progress,"" he came to appreciate the suffering apartheid had inflicted, as well as the complexity of the situation. He was also intellectually stimulated by his recognition that the philosophical questions he was posing were real and urgent, not some hypothetical exercise--for the first time he was really able to apply philosophy. Aronson's conclusions tend to reflect the academic and activist men and women he spent time with, and to neglect the history that has created the present situation--failing, for example, to quite explain the peculiar development of that white tribe, the Afrikaaners. Aronson did come back, however, with a great affection of the country, and a belief that the majority must prevail. Aronson's experiences offer interesting insights into current academic thinking, and his affection for the people he met is touching. But there is something ultimately irritating about his constant emphasis on his own impeccable political credentials and high-mindedness, and it detracts from some of the good things he has to say.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0226028038
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press