Padkos: John Holloway in Pietermaritzburg on 9 October 2012

Wednesday 12 September 2012

John Holloway: coming to PMB!

John Holloway, without question one of the world’s leading thinkers of emancipatory politics, will be in ‘Maritzburg next month! CLP will host John for a Padkos discussion, and there will be a public lecture, co-hosted with the Paulo Freire Project of the Centre for Adult Education! It’ll all be happening on the local university campus on the 9th October – block the time off NOW. (Note that for those on our Padkos list based in Durban, and who absolutely cannot make the real Padkos event, an additional seminar is also being arranged on Wednesday by Richard Ballard on the Durban Campus of UKZN.)

For contemporary thinking of a left politics, Holloway really is a significant figure globally. In the life and thought of CLP’s work though, Holloway’s real appeal is that his leftism is so very different from traditions of the left that are authoritarian and vanguardist. Holloway’s break with what S’bu Zikode of the South African shack-dweller movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, might call a ‘regressive left’ is fundamental and refreshing. Holloway’s work is refreshing in the sense that it engenders hope – something new is affirmed to be ‘on the table’ of left politics. It is also refreshing in clarifying that there are indeed different kinds of left politics and thinking, and we can choose among them – the clarification of choice is itself empowering. But the break from traditions of authoritarian and vanguardist leftism is fundamental too, in at least 2 senses: first, in its praxis – especially from the publication of his seminal “Change the world without taking power” – because it flows from learning an emancipatory politics in the actual thinking of the actual struggle of the Zapatista movement of Chiapas, Mexico. And secondly, in restoring the properly human in any conception of the communist idea worth struggling for, Holloway’s work breaks fundamentally with other leftisms .

Holloway is in South Africa visiting the Department of Sociology at Rhodes University. Good friends there have generously involved CLP in ensuring that many more interested people can benefit from his time here. Rhodes describe him as “undoubtedly one of the great contemporary thinkers on social emancipation. In this regard, he has been strongly influenced by the practices of the Zapatistas in Mexico. John Holloway (born 1947) is a lawyer, Marxist-oriented sociologist and philosopher, whose work is closely associated with the Zapatista movement in Mexico, his home since 1991. It has also been taken up by some intellectuals associated with the piqueteros in Argentina; Abahlali baseMjondolo movement in South Africa and the Anti-Globalization Movement in Europe and North America. He is currently a teacher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla. … His 2002 book, Change the World Without Taking Power, (which you can access on-line here) has been the subject of much debate in Marxist, anarchist and anti-capitalist circles, and contends that the possibility of revolution resides not in the seizure of state apparatuses, but in day-to-day acts of abject refusal of capitalist society – so-called anti-power, or ‘the scream’ as he puts it repeatedly. Holloway’s thesis has been analysed by thinkers like Tariq Ali and Slavoj Zizek. Holloway is considered by supporters and critics to be broadly Autonomist in outlook, and his work is often compared and contrasted with that of figures such as Antonio Negri. His most recent book is Crack Capitalism(2010).”

Rhodes University-based Richard Pithouse, described last week by COSATU’s Zwelinzima Vavi as “one of our most progressive academics”, has written the introductory booklet on John Holloway that we share with you in this edition of Padkos.

There’s more writing from Holloway himself to look forward to in the next edition of Padkos, and we’ll also give the final details regarding time and venue for the Padkos event and the public lecture. In the meantime, enjoy the brief introduction in the booklet attached, and we look forward to your being part of the Padkos discussion on the 9th of October.


An Introduction to John Holloway