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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


VAN MARLE, Karin. Thought as condition for a healthy society. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.4, pp.541-555. ISSN 2224-7912.

The aim of my contribution is to reflect tentatively on a few values or ideals that I think could contribute to a healthy society in conjunction with a post-1994 jurisprudence. I focus on three ideals, or values, namely transformation, equality and interdependence. Each of these concepts could be interpreted in many ways and enfolds a multiplicity of meanings. I attempt to be faithful to the indeterminacy of these concepts and the impossibility to capture anyone of them in a reification of meaning that excludes other meaning. Temporary and tentative meanings, however, are considered. My starting point for the reflection of these concepts comes from events and narratives that played out in Pretoria/Tshwane from 2010 to 2012 around the eviction of 700 families from an apartment building complex named SchubartPark. The main inspiration to reflect on a healthy society against the background of SchubartPark is a series of photos taken by photographer Herman Verwey, entitled"Post-apocalyptic SchubartPark". The Schubart Park apartment complex stands in the tradition of modernity, and in particular modern instrumental rationality that brought about, as argued by Henri Lefebvre, a shift from inhabitance to habitat. This shift, that brought about an alienation between the state and its citizens, is well demonstrated by the events that occurred and illustrated by the Verwey photos. Following Hannah Arendt, thinking - the ability to think in each situation what the best possible reaction might be - is the only condition that I support. Arendt, each and every time when she was approached to provide a general solution or to formulate general standards, refused to give an answer. She was of the view that each situation, each problem should be thought through anew and that specific answers could be given only to specific questions. I start with stories of Schubart Park as background, after which I consider transformaton, equality and interdependence. I conclude by turning to Arendt, thinking and the Schubart Park photos. My main argument concerning transformation is that no easy solutions can be offered. I subscribe to the Deleuzian notion of becoming minor and argue that this notion should be coupled with transformation. A complex and ethical engagement with equaity is similar to transformation in the sense that both of these approaches show an awareness of the complexities that we are confronted with, and are tentative and reflective. I recall notions of "gnostic time", the "haunting presence of ruined time" and of "a justice to come" and relate them to Arendt's insistence on thinking. The photos of Schubart Park, although they portray a ruined society and the absence of transformation, equality and an openness towards interdependence, also beckon reflection and thought and the possibility of a justice to come.

Keywords : thinking; Arendt; transformation; equality; interdependence; general jurisprudence; time.

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