The significance of the Haitian Revolution for the practice of contemporary theory.
Philosopher Peter Hallward claims, “If the French Revolution stands as the great political event of modern times the Haitian Revolution must figure at the most decisive sequence of that event” (Hallward, 2004:2). From a historical perspective, it is important that one recognises the significance of this event. The Haitian Revolution was a struggle for self-determination against colonial imperialism and slavery but it was also so much more than that as it was a struggle for the liberation of the African mind too. The Haitian Revolution influenced thinkers such as Peter Hallward and Alain ...view middle of the document...
The practice of theory as a process has to do with how theory moves and is produced, is accepted as truth and passed on; or rejected as a falsehood. The Aristotelian concept of praxis can be used as a starting point for understanding this process. Praxis is the process by which theory is actualised into existence; how it is manifested into the empirical world. Theory exists as a system of ideas. Subjective agency propagates these ideas. Theory subsequently spread and is consumed by many individuals who in turn scrutinise it in terms of its validity. If an individual believes that a theory may reveal a truth, they can accept it and may choose to pass it on to other individuals. This is the basic cognitive-mechanical process of how ideas spread. The awareness derived from this acceptance of a theory as revealing a truth will inevitably lead to resulting understanding influencing subjective perceptions, decisions and actions so much so that through this process theory can be actualised into an event as a result of it very own existence, “the existence of an in-existent” (Alain Bordiou, 2006: 286).
The event being emergent in nature, then needs to be made sense of and can subsequently be theorised about and so the cycle of theoretical genesis and the subsequent actions resulting continue into infinity as even a falsehood can reveal a truth. Theory can also affect other theories directly through the academy without becoming an event. This can happen through the process of academic debate and the application of reason therein. When one speaks of the practice of contemporary theory, one is speaking to the above-mentioned processes in a contemporary context. This is to say that the theorists responsible are usually alive and the theory is still hotly being debated in terms of its validity.
What is important to note about the practice of theory is that it is not an isolated process. Theoretical practice and especially the practice of contemporary theory more so occurs against the backdrop of the historical. The historical can thus be seen as a constraint that shapes and controls the flow of theoretical discourses and theoretical discourses subsequently shape theories being produced. Of course this happens retrospectively usually which is why history is far more effective at shaping contemporary theoretical discourses as opposed to those of classical theory being during produced at the time of the event.
I agree to an extent with Peter Hallward’s claim regarding the significance of the Haitian Revolution (2004). The Haitian Revolution should be considered an extremely significant event if considered a sequence of the French Revolution, however I believe Hallward makes an ontological error his statement. Is it not in Haiti where the three principles of the French Revolution were universally affirmed, namely liberty, equality and fraternity? Surely it would be more appropriate to consider the French Revolution a sequence of the Haitian Revolution.