Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Book Review

How to understand Black American politics

TITLE: Invisible Politics: Black Political Behaviour.
AUTHOR: Hannes Walton Jr.
PUBLISHER: Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1985; pp366.
REVIEWER: A. B. Assensoh

Professor Hanes Walton's book, Invisible Politics: Black Political Behaviour, is the inaugural work in the series of the Afro- American Society being periodically published by the State University of New York (SUNY) Press. Basically, it is a unique multi-dimensional analysis of black political behaviour in particular and, in general, an overview of traditional behavioral approach to politics. To achieve the prime objectives of the treatise, the author has sufficiently utilized empirical data gathered from a national survey which was specifically commissioned for the book, various case studies, participant observations and interviews, statistical inferences and an overall aggregate data. Judging the superior contents of Dr Walton's book solely on their merit, it is no exaggeration to conclude that his meticulous analysis of the black political spectrum and the overview of the traditional behavioral political approach have met a great success and distinction.

The work is sub-divided into eleven chapters together with a very useful appendix, detailed notes and an index. In a form of an introduction, Dr Walton has used Chapter 1 to enlighten his non- specialist readers on the proper role of the political behavioralist and, in a nutshell, what political behavioralism generally stands for. In the author's opinion, it is much more than a mere statistical and socio-psychological technique.

Instead, Dr Walton succinctly defines political behavioralism as "a specific philosophy about the good life and summum bonum (the highest life)". Additionally, the author has drawn on empirical data to conclude that, in political thought, philosophers "have sought the summum bonum by restructuring political institutions or political society by reshaping man's political nature."

However, with political behavioralists, the author explains further that a political man is found to be reshaped in the image of the political good so that the good life may follow. Subsequently, in Dr Walton's judgement, failure by any person to understand "this basic thesis is a failure to understand the works of the political behavioralists."

In the quest for what the author sees as the "Inner Man", he unequivocally underscores the fact that political behavioralism has placed man at the centre of the political universe. He, therefore, adds: "In the political behavioralist world, as concentric as the Copernican cosmos, all political things revolve round political man" Subsequently, Dr Walton displays his vast knowledge in the field of political behavioralism by lifting a quote from Heinz Eulau, who contends that behavioralism is unequivocal in its choice of the individual as the empirical unit analysis.

To confirm Eulau's premise, the author draws the attention of his readers to no less than six works in the field of behavioralism, including Eulau's 1969 work on the tension between ancient and modern ways in the study of politics.

Certainly, the comprehensiveness of Invisible Politics: Black Political Behaviour, coupled with the author's brilliant analysis, compels SUNY series in Afro-American Society editors John Howard and Robert C. Smith to vouch that the book "will define the terms of theory and research in black politics for a long time to come". In many respects, both editors were on target with their contention if the beautiful analysis of the work and the empirical evidence relied upon by the author are placed in their proper perspectives.

Dr Walton is the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Political Science at Savannah State College in Georgia. The uniqueness of his 366-page treatise also rests on the fact that he has unselfishly paid appropriate tributes to various black political giants in the field of political science. Out of the many political scientists, who have had an impact on the formative years of the author's career, Professor Samuel DuBois Cook, President of Dillard University in New Orleans, Lousiana, Professors Robert Brisbane and Arthur Banks, both of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, stand out tall and great.

In the author's preface, Dr Walton, inter alia, stated unambiguously about President Cook: "I began my graduate work in political science under a brilliant black political scientist, Professor Samuel DuBois Cook. In his methodology course, he addressed one of the crucial problems raging around this movement: the fact-value conflict." In their own individual ways, Dr Cook and the others have distinguished themselves like their former student, Professor Hanes Walton.

Film Review

Mazimbu-Behind the Liberation Movement

On Monday March 3, 1986, a Channel Four documentary goes behind the lines of South Africa's main liberation move- ment, The African National Congress, in its large college complex at Mazimbu in Tanzania. There has been considerable discussion of the ANC's guerilla activi- ties, but this film presents an exclusive account of the other activities of the ANC (whose best-known leaders are Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo) in planning for the future and counteracting the inequalities of Bantu education: sustain- ing exiles, educating them and their children in preparation for their eventual return to a liberated South Africa.

The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO), established at Mazimbu in 1977 on land given by the Tanzanian government, is now an impressive small town, housing some 2.000 South Africans in exile, most of them children, and many of those children orphaned or separated from their parents. It was named after a young ANC guerilla, hanged in South Africa and was created to cater for the needs of the grow- ing numbers of children and young people who have fled what they experience as South African police violence, since 1976. The ANC felt that not all these youngsters could or should be sent to guerilla camps.

Director Toni Strasburg, her husband cameraman Ivan Strasburg and sound recordist Judy Freeman were given freedom to live at the complex and film any of the activities taking place. Their film looks at the policies behind Mazimbu and what it hopes to achieve. It contains inter- views with workers, both ANC and foreign volunteers. Students recently arrived from South Africa relate their experiences and explain how they came to make the choice of coming to Mazimbu once they contacted the ANC. They discuss their difficulties in adjusting to life there, and their plans for the future.

Toni and Ivan Strasburg are both South African exiles.

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