Bert Olivier

The (ir-)rational market versus democracy

The e-tolling debacle concentrates, in microcosmic format, the tension — if not the opposition — between the market and democracy, even if many regard the “free market” as the zenith of democracy. Or, to put it differently, this tension — which is always there — establishes the economic domain and the political in a specific…

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Disenchanted youth of the world: Tomorrow’s hope

The youth of the world are disenchanted — disenchanted by the older generation’s politics as well as their economics, by their ideologies and their religions and by their inability to halt ecological destruction. And they are the ones who will replace the current leaders of the world. What are the chances that they might just…

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How humans ‘produce’ space

Space is one of the most intimately experienced, and probably least reflected-on phenomena of the human life-world. Like time, it is presupposed in everything we do, although – living, as we do, in an era of what Lyotard and others call “accelerated” time, and therefore constantly being aware of time – we are probably less…

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Is cinema fundamentally conceptual or perceptual?

Looking for different ways in which the human body has been thematised in film makes for interesting research. I was reminded of this recently when acting as examiner for a dissertation written by a master’s student, Martin Rossouw of UFS, in which (among other films) he analysed Charles Chaplin’s 1936 classic, Modern Times. Rossouw demonstrated…

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Economic injustice against the people

The growing divide between rich and poor in South Africa reveals the fault lines of a much broader divide – in fact, a global divide – between what one may describe as “the people” and the anonymous world of money (even if this world is often hidden behind identifiable agents, such as politicians). This was…

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Going after ‘extreme oil’ is extremely irresponsible

The emerging information on the quest for what is referred to as “extreme oil” is worrying in the extreme. And it is very bad news for other creatures on the planet, especially those who live in the oceans, judging by the information clip sent to me by the Care2 petition site, to which I subscribe…

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Is Plato’s cave still (virtually) with us?

Every philosophical initiate knows Plato’s allegory of the cave. As some commentators have remarked, it is probably the first imagining of what we know as the film theatre. In Book 7 of The Republic, Socrates tells the parable of a community of people who live in a cave, with their necks shackled in such a…

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Beyond protecting the environment: Ensuring life support

Several recent reports on a variety of things have made me return to an important book by Thomas Princen, Treading Softly – on which I have written here before. The news items that caught my eye covered different, but related topics. Two of them focused on court cases involving big oil companies – Chevron and…

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Foucault on the functioning of discourse in society

If Foucault and other poststructuralist thinkers are right (and I believe they are), one is never outside of countervailing power relations in society, which means that, ineluctably, one is always enmeshed in multilayered, overlapping grids of discourses that function in an ambivalent manner to enable, and simultaneously control, direct, disseminate and domesticate human action and…

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The sciences and the nature of the university

A philosophical friend responded to my previous post as follows: “I have now had a good look at your piece on the need for a social theory within which research should be located in all the sciences. I am very interested in the question of the relationship of the various disciplines/sciences because I think answering…

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