Ilana Mercer’s, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, is an unusual book. Yet it is unusual in the best sense of the word.
At once autobiographical and political; philosophical, historical, and practical; controversial and commonsensical, Cannibal succeeds in weaving into a seamless whole a number of distinct modes of thought. This is no mean feat. In fact, its author richly deserves to be congratulated for scoring an achievement of the highest order, for in the hands of less adept thinkers, this ensemble of voices would have fast degenerated into a cacophony. By the grace of Mercer’s pen, in stark contrast, it is transformed into a symphony.
Mercer (pictured) is a former resident of South Africa. She is intimately familiar with her native homeland in both its apartheid and post-apartheid manifestations. Yet it is precisely because she is all too well aware of the latter that she is now one of its legions of emigrants.
It would be a mistake, however, to conclude from Mercer’s flight from South Africa to the United States that she had ever been any sort of champion of apartheid. Not only has she never supported these (or, for that matter, any) racially themed institutional arrangements, Mercer’s “paleo-libertarianism” — a variant of the classical liberal tradition — positively precludes any such sympathy with its affirmation of “natural rights” and “individualism.”
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