H.F. Verwoerd: Foundational aspects of his thought


This article is an attempt to highlight the foundations of the thought of the influential South African leader, H.F. Verwoerd, as implicitly contained in his published writings. Verwoerd has been characterised as the “architect of apartheid", but this is an exaggeration, since he found the basic principles of apartheid ready-made when he emerged as a leader. From Western tradition Verwoerd inherited a particular respect for rationality, which in his case became a stringent application of the principle of one people ("volk"), one state; conceiving of a people in organic terms reminiscent of the republicanism of Rousseau. In his views on development he appears to have been aligned to the dualistic theories of development, which accorded welt with the separation o f races. This view was complemented by a belief in inevitable progress reminiscent of 18th and I9th century Western tradition, which blinded him to the suffering his belief in apartheid as progress was causing. Education was also conceived of as serving the needs of the ethnic group; a totalitarian approach embedded in the idea of an organic unity of the people.

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