Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Decolonising Political Philosophy in Africa

19 Aug 2018 at 05:34hrs | Views
It is the argument of the present piece that in the history of the world Africans have and still can produce, independent of Europe and America, political and economic ideas that can save the world. For this argument to be justiciable, some backgrounding is due.

The philosophical field of idealism feeds on the strong belief that all what we see and experience of the world is appearance and exists in the perception of our senses and not in concrete reality. The idealists are that tribe of philosophers, therefore, that is sceptical of the reality of matter and things; they take seriously the power of illusions that trick our perceptions and senses.

The realists are those philosophers that believe that what we see and experience and which our senses perceive is reality and it is therefore true.

The appearance of things and their reality, the truth and the falsehood of matter, have occupied the energy of western philosophers for centuries. Many great philosophers spent their entire lives and philosophical missions battling to prove the falsehood or truthfulness of this and that idea.

Greater, better and much more relevant philosophers however, have spent their productive years investigating and articulating how certain ideas lead to certain actions and shape the world in what way for better or for worse. Such philosophers have investigated and articulated themselves on power, justice and liberation, and not wasted time on such important but outlandish subjects as the question of whether there is life or not after death.

Such philosophers have also been categorised and called existentialists because they invest their philosophical energies and passions in understanding and elaborating on the existence of people, their life conditions and experiences in a changing world.

Instead of joining what Linda Martin Alcoff has called "civil wars" of Western philosophy, the existentialists and philosophers of liberation in the Global South have no time for luxuries. Philosophers of liberation battle the problem of slavish and colonial domination that visited peoples of the South.

They delve into how racial, gender, class, ethnic and national differences led into dominations and exploitations of one by the other. Such titanic philosophical figures as Aime Cesaire, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon and Cheik Anta Diop were invested in the colonial and racial problem that weighed down on the black people of Africa in their historical contact and relations with whites and the western world.

Other philosophers have come up to investigate and articulate on gender and sex oppression and domination, on the rights and justice for people with disabilities, minority rights and social justice for marginalised groups and individuals.

Clearly, the vocation of the philosophy of liberation and the mission of the philosophers of liberation are much too weighty for the kind of school boy silliness that most western philosophers have occupied themselves with. In their naiveté and playground simplicity that is also accompanied by blinding racism, some western philosophers have gone as far as to argue that there is no philosophy or are there philosophers outside the West.

They have ignorantly and mistakenly took western philosophy, which is one philosophy of one province of the world, to be the definition of philosophy itself.  This bigotry of Eurocentrism has prevented these provincial philosophers from learning from philosophies and philosophers of Latin America, Asia and Africa that have produced some powerful ideas that can solve the core problems of humanity in the planet.

Most problems that African polities and economies face today originate from mistaken and evil ideas from Europe and America that Africans have practised and implemented as unquestionable wisdom. For African politics and economics to find its own feet and achieve prosperity some Euro-American ideas that are in force and in practice in the continent should be decolonised.

The Coloniality of Eurocentric Political Philosophy
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were right on that the ruling ideas of any day tend to be the ideas of the ruling class. For the reason that the West has dominated the world politically and economically since slavish and colonial conquest, most western ideas have been taken to be the norm in the Global South, even if the ideas are pure wind and canned nonsense.

Political and economic weight of the West gives ideological stamina even to the nonsense in western ideas. Neoliberal democracy with its representative parliamentarism has been accepted and practised in Africa as unquestionable wisdom. A close look shows that representative democracy is a myth as elected politicians do not actually get to truly represent the populations that elected them.

In reality representation has frequently become misrepresentation and its model of democracy been the cause for conflicts, divisions and wars in Africa. African communalist and consultative politics have, without being engaged, tried and tested, been discarded as primitive and old fashioned.

Scholars and politicians, except in Asia, have not courageously experimented with how African consultative political villagism could be translated into parliaments and council chambers. The easy and also lazy path has been to simply imitate and parrot what is done by the conquerors in Europe and America, all to catastrophic ends.

Capitalism as an economic system that was conceptualised by such philosophers as John Locke and Adam Smith in different western historical and geographical contexts has, after the end of the Cold War, been accepted as the only economic system that works. Yet capitalism has led to evil inequalities in the world where one percent of the world's population owns property and consumes goods and services for the rest all of humanity.  In the world, the same people that hold economic power tend to be the same that monopolise political power.

Exemplified in Donald Trump politicians in the New World Order are tycoons that have become richer than their countries and continents, to protect their ill-gotten money they seek political power and to gain and keep political power they also hoard money. In that way the evil politics of greed and inequalities have become the model of politics that have been normalised and naturalised the world over.

Western democracy and capitalism have combined to make the whole world a violent and unequal place. African traditional modes of navigating and negotiating power, sharing resources and keeping peace have been rejected for the evil political and economic ideas that the conquerors have taught us.

In the Global South, precious farm lands, mineral resources and other God-given means of life are now prevalently owned by local politicians, business tycoons, and multi-national corporations at the dear expense of the poor multitudes. These evil inequalities lead to political unrest and civil wars in the Global South which western politicians and political scientists blame on lack of democracy and poor implementation of capitalism.

In actuality western democracy and capitalism, with their monopolisation of political power and money in the hands of a few politicians and business tycoons, are the cause of poverty and war in the South. In that way, western democracy and capitalism represent the coloniality of power, knowledge and being in the Global South. The world over capitalism and democracy are now enforced using the military might of NATO and financial muscle of the USA and allies.

Huge donor money is spent in the world media and academy to sponsor thinkers and their ideas that advance capitalism and democracy as holy ideas.

The two ideas and systems are presented with so much physical and persuasive force such that to challenge them is made to sound like true insanity and idealism. Whenever democracy and capitalism fail in any country the country is blamed for failing to implement them and the ideas are not critiqued or problematised as bad ideas.

Is another World Possible?
Ideas begin as perceptions that are constructed by human senses. Perceptions can circulate for some time as simple opinions.

From perceptions they grow into concepts which are ideas that can be tried and tested, can fail or succeed. Once concepts become practicable, they have been tried but have still not confirmed they are called theories that continue to be tried and tested.

When theories have been tried and tested and have achieved some power as usable models of practicing economics or politics they become what the philosophers call paradigms.

Paradigms have forceful currency and purchase in the marketplace of ideas. Capitalism and western democracy are powerful paradigms that have been so marketed with much military might and propaganda in the media and the world academy that they have become commonsensical, convincing and compelling at the same time.

Western democracy is however, not the only form of democracy in the world, that is the rule of the people by the people is not a uniquely western idea; there are many other democracies in ancient Africa, Asia and Latin America. Capitalism is not the only economic system under the sun but there are many economic models that have not been given a chance to grow into world economic paradigms.

African political and economic ideas, because they are not given much support and epistemic privilege, most of them die as opinions and theories.

African political and economic philosophies by Africans are not received with much currency and purchase in Africa because intellectuals and politicians are mainly colonial subjects that lack confidence in themselves and in Africa. Some Asian countries, however, have given so much import to their languages, cultures and ideas to the extent that their ideas have grown from perceptions to serious political and economic paradigms.

China, for instance, has managed to domesticate capitalism and give it a strong neo-Confucian face and actuality. In Africa Rwanda has managed to employ some local Gicaca principles of reconciliation and healing to overcome the bitter legacy of a biblical genocide and cultivate economic development and prosperity that have become, not perfect, but still a wonder of the whole world.  Philosophers of liberation frequently speak of a world in which other worlds are possible.

The western world is not the only world and western political and economic paradigms are not the only ones under the sun. Africa and the Global South are able to produce and present powerful political and economic paradigms that can save humanity from the evil political and economic tyranny of the Euro-American Empire.

For the avoidance of intellectual fundamentalism, it is important to note that there are a great many western philosophers in the past and in the present that have questioned Eurocentrism and projected decoloniality in its philosophy of liberation expression. In 1754 Jean-Jacques Rousseau condemned the origins of inequality in the West as evil and recommended the idea of the social contract as a rule of sharing power, resources and responsibility within and among nations.

A just exchange of political ideas between African and Western philosophers can produce economic and political philosophies that can rescue the planet and humanity from the present economic and political nihilism that has turned the whole world into a crime scene and made the whole of humanity evidence of the power of evil and victory of the Devil on earth.

Through the decolonial concepts of pluriversity and transmodernity the philosophy of liberation encourages the decolonisation of political philosophy in the Global South through a just exchange of ideas that respects the thinking of the people of the South and their experiences of Euro-American modernity thus far.

Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena is a founding member of Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN). He writes from Sunnyside, Pretoria in South Africa:

Source - zimpapers
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.