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Opinions of Thursday, 12 June 2014

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Dr. Kofi Dompere On Kwame Nkrumah’s Scientific Thinking 2

It is generally believed Kwame Nkrumah gave the neology of “neo-colonialism” to the world. In fact, the word and the holistic concept behind it first emerged in the 1963 exordium of the Organization of African States Charter, a concept he theoretically expatiated on in his influential 1965 “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” a beautiful yet critical text deemed controversial by the West, particularly America. Since then, Noam Chomsky, MIT’s world-famous cognitive scientist, linguist, logician, prolific writer, and philosopher, the late Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the world’s 20th-Century’s prominent philosophers, the late Edward W. Said, Columbia University author of “Orientalism” and “Culture and Imperialism,’ and several others have expanded upon it.

Today, “neocolonialism” is a universal body of language, a universal system of thought highly critical of the excesses of capitalist exploitation and imperialism. Thus, it is no coincidence that the scientific and philosophical relevancy of Nkrumah’s innovational congregation of ideas to today’s social, economic, and political portmanteaux of problems would underwrite his intrinsic magnetic appeal to transnational scholars, scientists, researchers, philosophers, historians, logicians, and policy makers. His analytic alignment with the scientific method in his philosophical disposition is even more appealing to the human mind. Yet the methodical denseness of Nkrumah’s intellectual ideas is not a digestible eatage for the feeble-minded. Many eminent scholars from around the world have alluded to this fact, a position whose eloquent clarity would soon be established.

On the other hand, closely shadowing Dr. Kofi Kissi Dompere, an American intellectual behemoth whose multidisciplinary approach to Nkrumah, his transformative ideas, uniquely constitutes, however one looks at it, the missing link between Nkrumah’s sophisticated philosophical understanding of human and race relations, society, development economics, humanism, political economy, de-colonization, industrialization, on the one hand, and the intellectual depth of Nkrumah’s scientific thinking, on the other hand, this, through critical appraisal of “Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization,” does not evitably lighten the backbreaking exegetical weight one usually encounters when trying to unknot the philosophical convolution that accrues with an intellectual acquaintance of “Consciencism,” either.

Further, according to Dr. Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, one of the world’s finest Nkrumah scholars and a world authority on Pan-Africanism, among others, it took Dr. Dompere, an eminent mathematician, economist, historian, cultural theorist, and philosopher, ten years to fully appreciate as well as to puzzle out the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific power of “Consciencism.” In essence, leafage of study groups have been erected around the Iroko Tree of Nkrumah’s scholarly works, however, for many, “Consciencism,” principally, has proven to be a tough nut to crack. In this connection, Dr. Botwe-Asamoah, like his closest friend and colleague Dr. Dompere, had himself cautiously acknowledged the book’s internal structural formidability, multi-conceptual layering, and multiple interpretations it lends itself to.

Quite unsurprisingly, Profs. Botwe-Asamoah and Dompere are not alone in their critical construal of “Consciencism.” In effect, Dr. John H. McClendon, an America philosopher, has written extensively about the discursive misunderstandings associated with and the interpretive ambivalence generally expressed towards “Consciencism.” We quote him at length: “A tremendous amount of confusion persists over the philosophical nature of ‘Consciencism.’ The level of abstraction and the intensive investigation into history of Western philosophy…leaves some readers puzzled and bewildered. More substantially, the nature of Nkrumah’s arguments, claims and theses are rather complicated and intricate…For others, at best, it is a complex philosophical work that displays Nkrumah’s erudition, philosophical profundity and intellectual adroitness (See Prof. McClendon’s “Nkrumah’s Consciencism as Philosophical Text: Matters of Confusion,” “Journal of African Philosophy,” 2003, Issue 3; see also Jack O’Dell’s “Kwame Nkrumah and the African Conscience”).

Dr. McClendon adds: “I have encountered, in my own discussions with a broad range of people over the course of thirty years, a wide spectrum in the comprehension of and reaction to the book. I discovered there are different levels of understanding extending from almost complete ignorance, as to the nature of the text, to serious study circles that digested the book page by page. I have met and taught students who claimed they were Nkrumahists, yet had failed to read “Consciencism.” Prof. McClendon then concludes: “This, I think, is most lamentable in light of the fact that arguably ‘Consciencism’ constitutes the philosophical core of Nkrumahism.” As a matter of principle, both Profs. Dompere and Botwe-Asamoah hold similar opinions, just as Lang T.K.A. Nubour, author of “The Mind of Kwame Nkrumah: Manual for the Study of Consciencism.”

But, Lang T.K.A. Nubour, for his part, has strongly warned readers’ against falling for the revisionist renditions of the original text published in 1964, thus writing: “The danger is that some people, who have not read the book or failed to read it entirely, are taking in the revisionist’s stuff…It is for this reason that reading an original text from a secondary source without the consideration of the original text itself is not only injurious to the academic or intellectual health of the victim but also portrays that victim as one big bundle of laziness…” Interestingly, quite apart from these necessary and notable reservations, Prof. McClendon skillfully engages Beninois philosopher Paulin Hountondji, putatively, on matters related to inter-textual “problems” occasioned by Nkrumah’s revision of the original text in 1970, with his rigorous critique of Hountondji being reduced to a simple matter of interpretation, context, glossing over of essential facts, as Hountondji makes discursive transitions between the original text and its revised version.

This recollection of facts provides some useful background to Dr. Dompere’s essential work on Nkrumah vis-à-vis “Consciencism,” perhaps Nkrumah’s magnum opus, a book we propose to be read in tandem with “Africa Must Unite” and “Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism.” What is more, Nkrumah, a strategic planner, tactician, and experienced organizer, who was closely intimate with the political economy of Africa, colonialism, history, realized a crucial need for a redemptive philosophy to get Africa out of her messy colonial Gordian knot, to guide as well as to pave the way for her development and growth, hence his conceptualization of “Consciencism.” Progressive thinkers and national leaders the world over utilize strategic planning, which is hardly a hallmark of research prioritization in the national development of Africa today, especially, as part of their national formulae for positive growth, development, and industrialization, with excellent examples of strategic planning being Nkrumah’s Five- and Seven-Year Development Plans.

Technically, these are precisely what give birth to and sustains industrial economies. Besides, “strategic planning” is a running function of other concomitant variables, including, but not limited to, deep knowledge of political economy, international politics and finance, critical thinking, project management, forecasting, operations research/management science (science of decision making), economics (behavior economics), humanism, race and human relations, infrastructurization and maintenance science, international law, implementation research, environmental consciousness, group cognition/group dynamics, communication science; as well as of strong educational and institutional structures; availability of efficient public services; institutional probity, transparency, accountability, and the like. However, a close reading of “Consciencism” demonstrably gives credence to implicit anticipation of these equational variables for national development.

Importantly, the “theory of multiple intelligences,” mathematics, science, operations management, technology, information technology/industrialization, engineering, with a strong liberal arts/humanities foundation, are at the heart of strategic management. Technically, no modern nation-state should expect to develop, to grow, by harnessing these innovative ideas outside the immediate geopolitical context of healthy nationalism, patriotism, or citizenship. In consequence, the visionary Nkrumah, in hindsight, favored these creative ideas then vigorously pursued a progressive national development model based primarily on these revolutionary ideas. Yet, this bold assertion, again, arguably, cannot be sufficiently construed outside the analytic purview of Nkrumah’s “categorical conversion,” an exegetical stylemark of “Consciencism,” which Dr. Dompere exhaustively explores in his scientific and mathematical appraisal of Nkrumahism.

In simple terms, the theoretical construct “categorical conversion” points to a conceptual framework of situational assessment where one system of idea or concept emerges from another. An immediate example is when consciousness emerges from comatoseness or vegetativeness. More generally, the concept seems to connect the spatial-cultural dots in an otherwise epistemological lineation, a view caught between Kwame Nkrumah, a formidable intellectual whose analytic depths Dr. Dompere exegetically captures in his exploratory lucubration on Nkrumah, on the one hand, and what ancient Nilotic Africans saw essentially as The Scarab Beetle in Kemetian (Ancient Egyptian) cosmology, on the other hand, in accounting for a system of dominant practices and beliefs in respect of the philosophical particularity of Kemetian cultural polity.

The Scarab Beetle cosmologically symbolized “rebirth,” a cultural concept somewhat similar to “categorical conversion” in logic (mathematics) and philosophy. On the basis of analytic simplicity, however, we may subject “categorical conversion” to another system of definitional reductionism, an explanatory formula whose operational properties can be liked to “relation,” “function,” or “mapping” in mathematics, or to Le Chatellier’s Principle, ergodicity, Markov chains, entropy-driven phase transitions, thermodynamics (statistical mechanics), Brownian motion, time series, regression analysis, Fourier transform, etc, all of which may be remotely, if contextually, applicable to Dr. Dompere’s scholarly approach to the study of Nkrumah. Interestingly still, the concept may be likened to chaos theory as novelistically described by Dr. Michael Crichton in his science fiction “Jurassic Park.” Thus, “categorical conversion” may conveniently take the place of psychological, developmental, and national “rebirth” or “renaissance” subject to a preset of well-defined conditionalities, which may preferably fall under a system of cultural, philosophical, social, ethical, political, and economic covariates.

Then again, as noted elsewhere, Nkrumah’s “Consciencism” provides a rich philosophical guidepost to Africa’s development, given the historical context of centuries-old cultural, spiritual, and political foreignization of “traditional” Africa by Islamic and Euro-Christian influences. Fundamentally, among other noble objectives, Nkrumah philosophically designed his “Consciencism” to mediate a compromise among these influences in the service of Africa’s positive development. Notably, this groundbreaking concept will eventually come to define political scientist Ali Mazrui’s controversial book-movie “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” with its serialized television coverage mutually produced by the Nigerian Television Authority, the BBC, and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Ali Mazrui’s “The Africans” took inspiration from Edward W. Blyden’s “Chrsitianity, Islam, and the Negro Race” as well.

Namely, Kwame Nkrumah’s “Consciencism” demonstrates a rapacious capacity for “universal” applicability as Wole Soyinka’s “The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness,” Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” Albert Memmi’s “The Colonizer and the Colonized,” Aimé Césaire’s “Discourse on Colonialism,” Edward Said’s “Orientalism” and “Culture and Imperialism.”

We shall return…