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Classics in the Modern WorldA Democratic Turn?$
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Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.001.0001

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A Democratic Turn in the Reception of the Roman–Dutch Law of Treason in South Africa?

A Democratic Turn in the Reception of the Roman–Dutch Law of Treason in South Africa?

(p.47) 4 A Democratic Turn in the Reception of the Roman–Dutch Law of Treason in South Africa?
Classics in the Modern World

John Hilton

Oxford University Press

Treason trials have had a long and spectacular history in South African law. They have exposed the underlying violence of the political process, first investigated by Walter Benjamin (1921) and Carl Schmitt (1932), and have revealed the fragility of this young African state. At the same time Jacques Derrida’s 1982 essay ‘Laws of Reflection’ (tr. 1987, 2008), which analyses Nelson Mandela’s ‘inflexible logic of reflection’ in respect of his admiration for the universality of the law during his trial in 1956, raises the possibility of a ‘democratic turn’ in the reception of the Roman law of treason in that country. This chapter investigates how particular cases, especially the prosecution of those involved in the Jameson Raid, the suppression of the leaders of the Miners’ Strike of 1922, the case of treason brought against critics of King George V, and the use of the Roman law of maiestas in the dying years of the apartheid government, have influenced political theory and the way in which this law is now perceived in the twenty-first century.

Keywords:   treason, Roman law, South Africa, political theory, apartheid

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