n Journal for Contemporary History - The value of ideal theory in the freedom charter disobedience

Volume 40, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



The following article responds to a realist critique of ideal theory in the "official" liberal democratic account of civil disobedience classically offered by John Rawls. The shortcomings the critical theorist, Robin Celikates (2014:236), identifies in Rawls's account follow, "at least, in part, from treating ideal theory as an independent starting point and working towards a definition of this decidedly non-ideal political practice from there". The research aims, firstly, to identify and to explain a significant weakness in "new realist" political theory, and, secondly, to offer direction from our recent historical past to contemporary struggles for social justice in South Africa today, which suffer from such weakness in practice. The Freedom Charter is identified as the embodiment of a set of ethical ideals which exceeds but which may complement Tully's approach... Mainstream historical sources are used, firstly, to identify a serious shortcoming with a dominant approach in political theory, and, secondly, to identify a significant factor that frustrates the effectiveness of "service delivery" protests today.

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