PADKOS NO 34
It’s all happening at CLP on Thursday, 28th March, before the Easter long weekend.
Be there by 11:30am when Richard Pithouse will share and discuss his analysis of the state we’re in at this time in South Africa. For this serving of Padkos, we’re attaching Richard’s January 2013 piece titled “The Riotous Underbelly of the New Normal” (SACSIS). Richard’s a regular Padkos contributor and one of this country’s leading political thinkers. He currently teaches politics at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
At 2pm, after a light lunch together, Richard will introduce a screening of the extraordinary documentary, Searching for Sugarman, about the phenomenon that was, and is, singer-song-writer, Sixto Rodriguez and his mysteriously powerful connection with South Africa. Searching for Sugarman has recently added an Oscar for Best Documentary to an astounding list of accolades.
In Richard Pithouse’ article we cut early and incisively to the heart of the state project in South Africa whose “basic logic – crony capitalism greased with corruption, wrapped in an escalating conflation of both the nation and the state with the ruling party and defended with growing authoritarianism – can work well enough for capital”.
That it does not work well enough for the people is evident in the scale, spread, character and content of popular protest across the country. Here Pithouse is particularly helpful, avoiding the easy appeal of crass broad brush-strokes and offering analytic distinctions instead. Thus, at the moment, riots are more commonly “immediate riots” with little emancipatory traction and as such, they are distinct from “historical riots … that occupy a central space, forge direct connections between people from different areas and carry a clear and compelling demand onto the national stage”.
In the face of massive popular protest, the response of the state too is not necessarily predetermined. Pithouse argues that it faces a “fairly standard set of choices” from reformism to various modes of co-option and redirection to violent repression.
Finally Richard insists we therefore think very carefully about “the character of popular protest in South Africa” – again carefully noting that it includes the horrors of vigilantism, homophobia, xenophobia and the like. But popular protest also expresses the rational and the just and the true of our situation. This is all too easily lost in discussions about our context because “elites have frequently presented popular dissent as a priori irrational, violent, consequent to malevolent conspiracy and even monstrous with little regard to the actual realities of the particular events in question. Contemporary South Africa is no exception”.
If you haven’t already, RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Cindy at (033) 2644 380.
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