Thinking Freedom in Africa

Toward a theory of emancipatory politics
Author(s):
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Dimensions and Pages: 244x170mm, 674 pages
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-86814-866-0; 978-1-86814-867-7 (North and South America, China); ) 978-1-86814-868-4 (Rest of world)
  • PDF EAN: 978-1-86814-869-1
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): R500.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): $45.00

Thinking Freedom in Africa is one of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award winners, awarded by the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

Thinking Freedom in Africa is a genuine political treatise: nuanced, erudite, creative, committed, and, through admission of contingency in the face of necessity and fidelity to the value of commitment, attuned to reality. Breaking the idols of European exceptionalism and presumed universality, Michael Neocosmos offers a premise of fresh air: all human beings think, and, though an extraordinary journey through more than a thousand years of reflection from the Afro-Arabic world of Ibn Kaldun to the Haitian revolutionary one of Zamba Boukman Dutty and the European one of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci to the anti-Colonial struggles, in which Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Steve Bantu Biko loom large, to recent reflections from Alain Badiou, Sylvain Lazarus, and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, liberation is a political matter of which thinking, we should remember, is a fundamental element of action.  Surveying the moribund present of Africa, and by extension the global condition, the theorist’s task is clear—to make an emancipatory future thinkable.  No less than a classic of political thought is born: a book to be read and re-read, and in so doing, learn and, as the author hopes, imaginatively, to think.

——Lewis R. Gordon, author of What Fanon Said and Existentia Africana

Previous ways of conceiving the universal emancipation of humanity have in practice ended in failure. Marxism, anti-colonial nationalism and neo-liberalism all understand the achievement of universal emancipation through a form of state politics. Marxism, which had encapsulated the idea of freedom for most of the twentieth century, was found wanting when it came to thinking emancipation because social interests and identities were understood as simply reflected in political subjectivity which could only lead to statist authoritarianism. Neo-liberalism and anti-colonial nationalism have also both assumed that freedom is realisable through the state, and have been equally authoritarian in their relations to those they have excluded on the African continent and elsewhere.

Thinking Freedom in Africa then conceives emancipatory politics beginning from the axiom that ‘people think’. In other words, the idea that anyone is capable of engaging in a collective thought-practice which exceeds social place, interests and identities and which thus begins to think a politics of universal humanity. Using the work of thinkers such as Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Sylvain Lazarus, Frantz Fanon and many others, along with the inventive thought of people themselves in their experiences of struggle, the author proceeds to analyse how Africans themselves – with agency of their own – have thought emancipation during various historical political sequences and to show how emancipation may be thought today in a manner appropriate to twenty-first century conditions and concerns.

CONTENTS
Foreword by Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba
Preface
Acknowledgements
General Introduction: Politics is thought, thought is real, people think
Part One
Understanding Subjective Political Sequences –
From African History to African Historical Sequences
Theoretical Introduction: understanding historical political sequences
Chapter 1 From Saint Domingue to Haiti and the Politics of Equality: The Human Freedom Mode of Politics and its Afterlives     1791 – 1796 – 1804 – 1960
Chapter 2 Are Those-who-do-not-count Capable of Reason? On the limits of historical thought
Chapter 3 The National Liberation Struggle Mode of Politics in Africa 1945 – 1975
Chapter 4 South Africa and the People’s Power Mode of Politics 1984 – 1986
Chapter 5 From Emancipatory Nationalism to National Chauvinism in South Africa: 1973 – 2013
Chapter 6 Rethinking Militancy and Popular Politics
Conclusion to Part One: Understanding Fidelity to the South African Emancipatory Event: the Treatment Action Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo
Part Two
Opening up the Thought of Politics in Africa Today –
Exceeding the Limits of Sociology beyond Representation
Theoretical Introduction: social representation, modes of rule and political prescriptions
Chapter 7 Marxism and the Politics of Representation: the ‘agrarian question’ and the limits of political economy
Chapter 8 Thinking beyond Representation, Acting beyond Representation: understanding worker subjectivities in South Africa today
Chapter 9 Renaming the State in Africa today
Chapter 10 State Domains of Politics and Systemic Violence in Africa today
Chapter 11 Rethinking the Domain of Civil Society and its Politics
Chapter 12 Rethinking the Domain of Traditional Society and its Politics
Conclusion to Part Two: Toward a Politics of Solidarity
General Conclusion: Constituting the Domain of Freedom: thinking politics at a distance from the state
Bibliography
Index

Professor Michael Neocosmos is the Director of Unit of the Humanities, Rhodes University (UHURU) and is an NRF-rated researcher. He is the author of From Foreign Natives to Native Foreigners: Explaining Xenophobia in South Africa (2006).

Thinking Freedom in Africa is a genuine political treatise: nuanced, erudite, creative, committed, and, through admission of contingency in the face of necessity and fidelity to the value of commitment, attuned to reality. Breaking the idols of European exceptionalism and presumed universality, Michael Neocosmos offers a premise of fresh air: all human beings think, and, though an extraordinary journey through more than a thousand years of reflection from the Afro-Arabic world of Ibn Kaldun to the Haitian revolutionary one of Zamba Boukman Dutty and the European one of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci to the anti-Colonial struggles, in which Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Steve Bantu Biko loom large, to recent reflections from Alain Badiou, Sylvain Lazarus, and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, liberation is a political matter of which thinking, we should remember, is a fundamental element of action.  Surveying the moribund present of Africa, and by extension the global condition, the theorist’s task is clear—to make an emancipatory future thinkable.  No less than a classic of political thought is born: a book to be read and re-read, and in so doing, learn and, as the author hopes, imaginatively, to think.

——Lewis R. Gordon, author of What Fanon Said and Existentia Africana

The book is … a real event in the knowing and thinking of the politics of emancipation through the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation – liberty, equality, freedom, independence and dignity.

— Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, Congolese activist and philosopher

Thinking Freedom in Africa represents the greatest accomplishment in the rethinking of emancipatory politics influenced by contemporary philosophers such as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière.

— Bruno Bosteels, author of Badiou and Politics

Firoze Manji, Founder of Pambazuka News and publisher of Daraja Press, commented: “This exceptional book finally reasserts the struggle for EMANCIPATION and a universal humanity as being central to an understanding of the history of Africa as well as the essential basis for constructing a future based on humanity, equality and justice. Michael is to be congratulated for reestablishing African people’s contribution to humanity, something that has long been occluded by both Africans and Africanists.”

One of the referee reports to the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Awards Committee stated: “… given that the global division of academic labour continues to assume that Africans will, as Lewis Gordon notes, provide experience to be theorized by the West, the fact that this book thinks from Africa, via an engagement with popular struggles in Africa and in conversation with a genuinely international body of theory, there is something heretical, and genuinely politically significant, about this project.”

President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, Neil Roberts agrees:  “The concept and phenomenology of freedom are subjects of heated ongoing debates.  Michael Neocosmos’s brilliant tome brings this discourse, bringing it to bear on contemporary South Africa.  Neocosmos’s methodology distinguishes itself through integrating two bodies of literature: Africana political theory and Euro-French philosophy.  The unique descriptions of Steve Biko, Achille Mbembe, Amilcar Cabral, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Sylvain Lazarus, along with many others, are exquisite, as are the contextual forays into the Haitian Revolution, the Land and Freedom Army in Kenya, and 1980s South Africa.  The result most certainly facilitates actualization of the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s motto to shift the geography of reason.”

 

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