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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

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HOFMEYR, Benda. Loyal resistance: Dated or topical? NP van Wyk Louw in conversation with Foucault. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.2, pp.322-335. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this essay, I argue that NP van Wyk Louw's 1939 concept of "loyal resistance", although a construct mobilised in the name of Afrikaner nationalism, retains critical significance for our time if read through the lens of Michel Foucault's notion of "transgression". Both "loyal resistance" and "transgression" announce a field of fruitful tension which promises the possibility of empowered action even in a time of utter impotence. Now is a time of power movements that engulf the globe and of corrupt local machinations of power. I contend that even at this historical juncture and in this "strange place", it is possible to live "highly" if one lives in the spirit of continuous resistance. Louw's own time was a time of conflicting tensions. In the 1920s and 1930s he fought for the consolidation and ennoblement of Afrikaans (during this time his volume of essays, Lojale verset, ["loyal resistance"] was written); the 1950s were a period of political self-complacency, and the 1960s a seemingly unassailable hegemony. Lojale verset, like Liberale nasionalisme ("liberal nationalism"), is an expression of Louw's central concern with the question of the continued existence of the Afrikaner people and is therefore inherently Afrikaner-centric. He was unequivocally an apartheid intellectual. In his time, Afrikaner identity was still in the making and Afrikaner nationalism not yet fully established. The 1930s were a time of unrest, white poverty and painful memories of defeat in the Anglo-Boer War. His thought is coloured by a political vacillation between, on the one hand, an unambivalent loyalty to his people and the unwavering belief in the separation of the races and, on the other hand, his resolve to tell the truth to the powers-that-be, his standing up for those wronged by the state and, on occasion, his defending segments of the broader black population. He was constantly caught in the double bind of "loyal" and "resistance". Against this backdrop, I attempt to place his notion of "loyal resistance" in critical dialogue with Foucault's understanding of the Bataillian concept of "transgression" - a concept that likewise derives its critical force from the field of tension between limit and violation or taboo and transgression. Both thinkers' primary and undisputed source of inspiration was Nietzsche. Despite their divergent historical situatedness, both were critical of critique, and both embraced the promise of the Aufklärung, as conceived by Kant, as a "critical ontology of ourselves". Both rejected self-complacency in favour of self-overcoming. I therefore contend that the two thinkers can justifiably be brought into dialogue without resorting to selective and misleading reading strategies. For Foucault, transgression is inherently about resistance to stifling limits imposed by power structures without exceeding those limits. To exceed limits would be to end existence, existence that is in itself finite. Transgression is therefore an admission that defiance would be impossible without a measure of loyalty to that which one resists. His entire intellectual, political and ethical project is devoted to finding ways in which the limits to which individuals are subjected can be resisted; to transform critique levelled in the form of an inevitable limitation into a practical critique that takes the form of a possible transgression. Louw and Foucault find common ground in the undeniably Nietzschean belief in the empowering force of dangerous, destructive thought or critique; "thought of the limit" that saves humanity from perhaps the greatest danger to spiritual life - the snare of self-complacency and self-assured intolerance. According to Louw, "great critique" of this kind is a condemnation of one's own complicity in the sins of one's people, it is an atonement and a cleansing. Both Louw and Foucault held the conviction that although the individual is an intrinsic part of his or her own community and history, he or she has the ability to change his or her mode of belonging to that community and history. A critical ontology is therefore an analysis of the limits of one's being, not in the sense of an essential, unchanging being, but contingent, multiple and fluid ways of being human subjects. It entails a limit attitude or a historico-critical attitude that is experimental, local and specific. If we therefore reconsider "loyal resistance" from the perspective of "transgression", it appears that resistance is indubitably connected to loyalty, perhaps even impossible without it.

Keywords : loyal resistance; transgression; NP van Wyk Louw; Foucault; Afrikaner people; Afrikaans; language; language community; resistance; South Africa; identity; cultural pursuit; national critique; Nietzsche; Afrikaner-centric; double bind; literature; fatherland; nationalism; morality; limit; normalisation; protest; thought of the limit".

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