A peaceful revenge: achieving structural and agential transformation in a South African context using cognitive justice and emancipatory social learning

Journal of Critical Realism 17 (5):492-513 (2018)
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Abstract

ABSTRACTThis is an account of the emancipatory struggle that faces agents who seek to change the oppressive social structures associated with neo-liberalism. We begin by ‘digging amongst the bones’ of the calls for resistance that have been declared dead or assimilated/co-opted by neoliberal theorists. This leads us to unearth, then utilize, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness and Shiv Visvanathan's ideas; which are examples of Roy Bhaskar’s transformative dialectic. We argue, using examples, that cognitive justice – a concept common to each of our chosen theorists – is vital in enabling emancipatory social learning. By embracing cognitive justice, the agents gained confidence, which led to their increased ability to champion community and non-academic knowledge. It also uncovered structural tensions – attendant in neoliberalism – around privilege. By articulating these tensions, the participants were able to ‘come closer together’. Such processes, initiated by ensuring cognitive justice, are possible steps in achieving universal solidarity; which is likely to be a necessary step along the path of achieving emancipation.

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Leigh Price
Rhodes University