Quote of the week

Universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll is one of the foundational values of our entire constitutional order. The achievement of the franchise has historically been important both for the acquisition of the rights of full and effective citizenship by all South Africans regardless of race, and for the accomplishment of an all-embracing nationhood. The universality of the franchise is important not only for nationhood and democracy. The vote of each and every citizen is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts. In a country of great disparities of wealth and power it declares that whoever we are, whether rich or poor, exalted or disgraced, we all belong to the same democratic South African nation; that our destinies are intertwined in a single interactive polity.

Justice Albie Sachs
August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others (CCT8/99) [1999] ZACC 3
18 November 2010

While I was in jail in Pretoria for two decades in consequence of my pursuit of the Marxist ideal, one of my fellow inmates, serving a mere seven years, had spent some time in the Sorbonne reading for an MA in politics. He had sat at the feet of Louis Althusser (LRB, 17 December 1992), and expressed his admiration for the maestro by running seminars on the thought of Althusser for us. Marxists are not merely concerned with a delineation of Communist society – an ideal which seems somewhat further away now since my release. In fact, Marx himself was rather coy about a detailed description of Communism for fear of being regarded as a utopian. Marxists also present a critique of capitalism in much greater detail. A part of this is the analysis of the state, which was particularly the concern of Lenin. In prison, we discussed Althusser’s notions of ideology and ideological state apparatuses. According to him, these serve to bolster the capitalist state, and he lists the family among other institutions as an ideological state apparatus. Thus, if one is opposed to capitalism, one can contribute to its downfall by undermining ideological state apparatuses. Therefore it might seem logical to destroy that foundation of capitalism, the family, by strangling one’s wife. My comrade was not impressed when I put this to him after we heard of Althusser’s action. He continued in his respect for Althusser’s erudition and incision by imitating his style to some effect, although not in spouse-strangling. In deciding whether Althusser was motivated by lunacy or logic, it would have helped if he could have strangled some children as well, but it seems that none came to hand. – David Kitson on Jeremy Cronin (Althusser strangled his wife.)

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