AFRICAN COMMUNALISM: A PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS

Author: Nwafor Ikechukwu Matthew
Department: Philosophy
Affiliation: Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka

It is a common factor among many an African writer to associate Africanness with communalism implying that what makes one a bonafide African is one’s communalistic life pattern. This view often purports that communalism is peculiar to the African people in exclusion of others. But the view of Aristotle that man is a social being with that of John Donne that “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” points to the indubitable fact that man is naturally a communitarian being who seeks relationship and interaction with others both of his species and beyond. Man cannot but be in relationship because this constitutes his nature. If it is the case that all men are naturally endowed with the longing to be with, and relate with the other, the common ensuing question would be: why should only a particular collection of human beings be associated with what is the attribute of all? Why should communalism be so used in relation to Africans that it becomes definitive of them to the exclusion of all others? Would this position not be tantamount to concluding that only Africans are the real human beings since we had already seen that communalism is a notion that is of the essence of all human persons? The more acceptable fact that is crystal clear is that communalism is an experience that has versions hence the idea of Chinese communalism, Indian communalism, European communalism, our chief concerned African communalism and so on. What this fact indicates is that communalism cannot be of the essence of a special people with the exception of the others. A much better construal of communalism in relation to the Africans should be that which presents the experience as lived in a much fuller way by them. This cannot be taken to mean that communalism is essentially African in the same manner as to imply the extrication of other races from this albeit general human reality. African communalism is of degree (high degree) and not of essence. The high degree is because of the way communalism is deep-rooted in African culture following the African circumstances and environment that gave it a fertile ground. This research uses the method of philosophical analysis to investigate the true nature of the concept of African communalism. It maintains that though communalism is deep-rooted in the traditional African way of life, it is not an African “thing”. It is merely the African further step in improving on what is natural in all human persons. Because of this, it is not sufficient to define an African person whose personhood should be determined fundamentally by those natural factors like geographical location and hereditary. African communalism only complements them the same way nurture complements nature in the definition of a person. The work therefore advocates an integration of only the relevant aspects of this African traditional way of life to the modern African pattern of living.

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