In its curriculum for a revolutionary political consciousness, sensibility, and moral imagination, the O.R. Tambo School of Leadership should focus its unflinching gaze on the neoliberal capitalist democracy we live in, and guide the ANC to comprehend its full meaning. Drawing on ample evidence around the world, it should explore the inherent violence of capitalism and globalization, and should poise itself to set a new agenda for our thinking about public service as a function of revolutionary morality
A country’s political and economic system influences its public service. In turn its public service thrives on public opinion. This leads one to conclude that only truly democratic societies offer an environment that is conducive for practicing efficient and effective public services.
Evidence suggests that in societies whose political system do not value public opinion, public service is not responsive and tends to be one-way and propagandistic in nature. What complicates analysis is that democracy comes in many forms as is evident in the fact that almost each of the parties in parliament (and different factions) claim to be a democracy. These parties (and the factions) are able to make this claim because they have their own definition of what democracy is or should be (MacIntyre, 1967).
In what ways is our Bill of Rights linked to the level of public service development? How does our democracy regulate and enforce public discipline and integrity among its elected representatives and officials? Any loopholes? An important question this, because the tone and temper of public service are influenced by the political and economic environment, and they are a means to building relationships between government and citizens. Also between government and organizations as well as citizens. A political system, socioeconomic development and public service are closely interrelated. And they have direct influence on the extent of activism because only democratic societies tolerate activism of any sort (Altschull, 1984; Žižek, 2009; Zuern, 2011; Hofstede, 2001).
- Beyond Neoliberal Capitalism: Challenges of Systemic Violence
Neoliberal capitalism is at the heart of systemic violence in South Africa and around the world. Revolutionary morality – Batho Pele – should be at the heart of the renewal process. How is it that neoliberal capitalism, one of the major value systems of Western civilization, has so often through the ages – even until today – been a motivation for one of the most oppressive of political, social, and economic systems?
It is because of the very nature of neoliberal capitalism: individual rights, competition, and personal gain are explanations of the ultimate meaning of politics and economics, of power. It attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation of the entirety of human relations. Consequently, neoliberal capitalism pretends to be absolute, unlimited. However, in the last hundred and so years, we South Africans have become increasingly aware of the limits of its claims. We need to continue to be in dialogue with others of different ethical persuasions to learn from each other. Then our understanding of the ultimate meaning of political, social, and economic relations will expand and deepen, and hence also will be our ability for solidarity, social cohesion, nation building, and regional integration.
Thus, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with science and technology as its handmaidens, revolutionary morality needs to become more and more part of the solution. To this end, the O.R. Tambo School of Leadership should foster dialogue and collaborative decision processes. First in the ‘broad church’ and then in all the publics within and beyond political borders, in all the ethical systems and ideologies of the world. Precisely because of the trans territorial nature of the struggle. In its epistemology and pedagogy, the O.R. Tambo School of Leadership should foster teaching, learning, writing, reading, speaking, and listening as acts of mutual recognition, articulations of the desire for mutual understanding, fellow feeling, and belonging (Gasché, 1998).
In its curriculum for a revolutionary political consciousness, sensibility, and moral imagination, the O.R. Tambo School of Leadership should focus its unflinching gaze on the neoliberal capitalist democracy we live in, and guide the ANC to comprehend its full meaning. Drawing on ample evidence around the world, it should explore the inherent violence of capitalism and globalization, and should poise itself to set a new agenda for our thinking about public service as a function of revolutionary morality (Žižek, 2009; Merleau-Ponty, 1969).
Revolutionary morality succinctly brings its claims to issues – political, social, economic – at the heart of fundamental change: a clash with neoliberal capitalism that is in many ways emblematic of the larger historic struggles between Western and ubuntu traditions across the continent (Luthuli, 1962; Mandela, 10 May 1994; Biko, 1978; Nabudere, 2011; Mudimbe, 1988).
Organizational renewal, grounded in revolutionary morality, is crucial. It has been the point since the establishment of the ANC in 1912. Eurocentric political, social, and economic forms and practices we face now mostly grew out of the global flow and penetration of Eurocentric desire and interests – reducing Africa into a career for Westerners which developed quite consciously about the time of the Enlightenment in Britain and Europe. Modified by a very clear and articulated recognition that Africans in time would be hard to suppress by force (Mudimbe, 1988). So they had to try to control our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs or direct us somehow (Young, 2001).
- The Feminist Turn
Many of the major modes of political thought over the colonial and postcolonial years as a whole are structured – indeed, fractured – by a chronic if not endemic crisis of patriarchal definition. It is argued that an understanding of revolutionary morality will be not merely incomplete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not incorporate a critical analysis of feminism; and we must assume that the appropriate place for that critical analysis is from the relatively decentred perspective of gender justice (Spivak, 1998; Butler, 2004; Sedgwick, 2018; Carpenter, 2017; Qunta, 2016).
Over the years, the political struggle has spread and deepened the long crisis of patriarchal gender definition dramatically and often violently. The internal incoherence and the contradiction of the institutional perspective on the subject inherited from the architects of neoliberal capitalism. Both the power relations between the genders and the relations of nationalism, post colonialism and liberation have been in highly visible crisis. An assumption underlying this perspective is that gender relations have the potential of revealing the tension at the core of politics in South Africa.
In our policy and strategy deliberations, we must refuse to identify the political, social, and economic experience with the male experience. As feminist scholarship shows, feminist social scientists in South Africa challenge several areas of patriarchal ideology and epistemology on the grounds that they fail to take seriously women’s interests, indentities, and issuers. They don’t recognise women’s ways of being, thinking and doing as valuable as those of men. Because feminist intellectuals such as Spivak, Butler and Sedgwick reject all forms of ontological definition, they stress the ways in which individuals interpenetrate each other, in which the mind, body, and spirit constitute each other.
Because neoliberal capitalism associates rationality with ‘masculinity’ and ‘emotionality’ with ‘femininity’, neoliberal epistemologists have often concluded that women are less human than men. For this reason, feminist scholars argue that reason and emotion are symbiotically related, coequal sources of knowledge. They also argue, and rightly so, that Cartesian knowledge, for all its certainty and clarity, is very limited. Women, just like men, want to know more than that they exist. Than that they just found themselves here; they want to know what other women – and men- are thinking and feeling (Meyiwa 2018, 2015, 2013, 2011; Sithole, 2016, 2013, 2006).
As part of the political education and resocialization program, the O.R. Tambo School of Leadership should focus on the political institutions and social practices that perpetuate women’s subordination and abuse. Revolutionary morality must explain why women continue to be violated and suppressed, twenty-five years since the democratic transition, in ways that men are not and suggest morally desirable and politically feasible ways to give women the same justice and freedom that men have (Weeks, 1980). But gender relations, particularly in the intersection between the private and the public domains, can be tricky.
The revolutionary renewal task, organizational and personal, is to go beyond the horizon drawn by neoliberal categorical imperatives – ‘one of us’, ‘not one of us’, true, false, European and others, knowledge, ignorance, developed, underdeveloped, centre, periphery, far, near, wealthy, poor, male, female, straight, gay and lesbian, albino, civilized, citizen, etcetera.
The return of the ‘people’ to revolutionary ethical space can be seen as a major contribution to the expansion of political, social, and economic horizons, because it helps to present neoliberal categories for what they are: contingent and particular forms of constructing antagonistic differences as an ultimate core from which the nature of power and hegemony can be explained. Revolutionary morality’s widening of horizons is a precondition for thinking the forms of our revolutionary engagement in the era of globalized capitalism. It is necessary to reconceptualise the rationale and justification for ‘people’s’ demands, the political economic logic of their articulation and desire, and the nature of the equivalences among the struggles on the ground. This effort – which is necessarily collaborative and deliberative – is the urgent task ahead. For this, we need to cultivate a revolutionary sensibility, imagination, and political will.
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