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Title:Culture and civilization in South Africa: some questions about the 'African Renaissance'
Author:Wright, LaurenceISNI
Periodical:The English Academy Review
Geographic term:South Africa
Abstract:After a discussion of the conceptual distinction between 'culture' and 'civilization' and the conclusion that both culture and civilization are part and parcel of Thabo Mbeki's 'African Renaissance', the present author addresses the question of how to reconcile the return to cultural sources with the drive to modernity. From the perspective of David Wilkinson's scheme of twelve civilizations (1995) which are sequentially incorporated into one and, according to which, we are now at the tail end of the Western Phase of Central Civilization, entering the Global Phase of Central Civilization, the uniqueness of South African culture, both modern and traditional, is at risk. The author quotes Paul Ricoeur (1965) who argues that only a living culture, at once faithful to its origin and ready for creativity on the levels of art, literature, philosophy and spirituality, is capable of sustaining the encounter with other cultures. Unless we create a South African 'way of life' that is really 'us', Mbeki's African Renaissance may turn out to be no more than the uncertain triumph of Central Civilization. Perhaps that, in the end, is what he is asking us to face up to, and do something about. Bibliogr., notes, ref.