n Stellenbosch Law Review - De-politicising poverty : Arendt in South Africa

Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1016-4359


The article argues against the significant structuring effect of the distinction between the political and the social as it informs theories of constitutionalism, and with specific reference to South Africa. The distinction underlies the constitutional separation of political from socio-economic constitutionalism and concerns directly the "social question", or, in other words, the question of poverty. The article traces the distinction back to the theory of Hannah Arendt that has been so extraordinarily influential to the conceptualisation of "the political" today. It argues that the distinction political / social is not incidental but instead constitutive of the way in which Arendt offers a phenomenology of the political, on the back, as it were, of the exclusion of the social. The article argues that the leverage that this separation offers to the political imaginary comes at a crucial cost, because it diminishes the power of social and economic rights to offer political redress to the continuing devastating effects of poverty in South Africa, and across the countries of the South.

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