Knowledge must have greater goal and purpose

Stellenbosch- The Department of Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch celebrated 40 years of political thought and leadership today.

The department hosted a special lecture to commemorate Politikon’s 40th year of existence. Politikon is one of South Africa’s leading political science journals.  

Peter Vyle, one of the current editors of Politikon, was the keynote speaker at the event. Vyle’s address focused on how specialist knowledge in the field of political science can be used to change South Africa and said political science knowledge contributed to the democratic transformation of South Africa.   

Vyle spoke candidly about the state of South African politics and referred to the “one party dominant system of South Africa as the elephant in the room”. He continued to say that the sociology of politics in South Africa has become more about 24/7 entertainment than about the critical evaluation of issues.

Vyle lashed out at political science scholars that treat politics as a form of “gossip” instead of using their knowledge to change South Africa, “post-colonial thinking has seeped into South African politics but only marginally”. “The discourse of politics in South Africa has further changed because it has revolved more around economics… Politicians have become economist and the line has blurred between the two worlds.”

According to Vyle it is important for political scientists in the country to reimagine their field, “politics in South Africa has become very unreflective in what it is, what its purpose is and what it is trying to do”.

Vyle argued that the issue of ‘voice’ is crucial in the development and survival of political science and said the feminist voice in political science is not strong enough in South Africa and should be given greater attention to.

According to Bob Mattes, a political science lecturer at the University of Cape Town, the most prominent question that political scientist in South Africa can answer is; what the prospect of democracy and development in South Africa is.

“It is essential for scholars to do systematic research on why the voter turnout at national elections has declined as well as the reason why many South Africans view democracy as being instrumental and not intrinsic.”

Mattes stated it is important that a strong tradition of quantitative systematic research should be developed among political science scholars in South Africa to give greater insight into South Africa’s national identity and “how people interact and relate to institutional change”.

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