Academia constantly professes to be unbiased and neutral, allowing students to come to their own conclusions, yet all rational individuals would see this as false. It is extremely hard for individuals to lecture without bias, even when it is important to do so. To mitigate these inherent biases, a good course is meant to provide source material from a variety of reputable thinkers from different backgrounds. This alleviates bias and allows us to see the world from different angles, so as to find better alternatives, or learn to defend our current positions.

Unfortunately, Political Theory at UCT is not following this guideline. A poignant indication of this is the content page of the course reader, a quick glance at which reveals that the creator very much has an ideological agenda in teaching the course. Most readings are by left-wing thinkers – mostly Marxist – and the few non-Left-wingers are propped up as strawmen to intellectually attack, or because even the course creator realised that no Politics course can be complete without Machiavelli.

This is very irresponsible, for it turns an uncertain and undogmatic course such as politics into a pseudo-science where one has to listen to and profess certain ideologies to prosper. This is not the foundation of a good humanities subject, or any academic subject for that matter!

To show the propensity to leftism within the course, I have listed the authors of each reading. Some readings are by the same author, and I have listed them as such. I have written the professed or heavily-implied ideology of each author below.

  • Leo Struass – Conservative (Used as a Strawman)
  • Wendy Brown – Feminist
  • CLR James (x2) – Pan-Africanist/Marxist
  • Kant – Classical Republican (Used as a Strawman)
  • Seme – African Nationalism
  • Machiavelli – Unaligned
  • Marx and Engels – Marxist
  • Fanon – Marxist

Pie Chart of UCT political theory

It does not take the provided pie-charts to see the glaring domination by left-wing thinkers in the course. It is by no means balanced, such as in previous years. While bias can be forgiven in a personal capacity, it can by no means be forgiven when teaching a course such as this.

It may be the opinion of the course creator that right-wing thinkers are not worth teaching, but they do not have the privilege of translating that to the course itself.

What is also particularly damning is the lack of liberal thinkers. Liberalism is one of the most influential ideologies in human history, and any course on political theory that does not possess a single liberal theorist is either highly incompetent or devastatingly biased. The losers are the students who will not be allowed to learn the great works of Mill, Locke, or Hayek. I would even settle for Rawls.

What this course has provided is a list of (often violent) left-wing thinkers in line with the decolonisation rhetoric that dominates the protest movements.

It is fine to learn about these thinkers. No course should be without Marx. But it is extremely intellectually irresponsible to have a course that does not possess strong opposition to these thinkers.

This is not meant to be a class of left-wing doctrine. It is meant to be a course to teach students about political theory in general. That does not only mean the revolutionary rhetoric of Marx, but so too the Capitalism, Liberalism, Conservatism and other theories that were just as important, if not more so, to the intellectual development of politics.

Nicholas Woode-Smith is co-founder of the Rational Standard and its Technical and Marketing Director. He is a student at the University of Cape Town, with majors in Politics, Philosophy and Economic History. He is the youngest council member of the Institute of Race Relations in history and the Regional Director of Southern Africa for African Students For Liberty. He also writes science fiction – prominently, the Warpmancer and Cape Zero series.