When reason is not enough for social cohesion: rethinking the place of emotion and art in politics


  • Adeolu Oluwaseyi Oyekan Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth




reason, art, empathy, emotion


Reason has often been defended as critical for the prudent harmonisation of competing interests, security and social cohesion in organised societies. Human rationality however, now appears inadequate to cope with the spate of conflicts and dysfunction in many societies, postcolonial Africa inclusive. Thus, imaginative approaches to fostering social cohesion are required. In this paper, I argue that the dichotomy that elevates reason (equated with logic) and derides emotion (equated with irrationality) is not only misplaced, but also unhelpful. I defend art as a valuable vehicle for creating the dialogic space that fosters empathy, make politics affective and promote social cohesion. I conclude by advocating a complementary integration of reason and emotion, with particular focus on empathy, as a remedy to dysfunctional, antagonistic politics, especially in societies confronted by the complexities of diversity.


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