Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hatred of Democracy by Jacques Ranciere

The ‘government of anybody and everybody’ is bound to attract the hatred of all those who are entitled to govern men by their birth, wealth or science. Today it is bound to attract this hatred more radically than ever, since the social power of wealth no longer tolerates any restrictions on its limitless growth, and each day its mechanisms become more closely articulated to those of State action. The pseudo-European Constitution testifies to this. State power and the power of wealth tendentially unite in a sole expert management of monetary and population flows. Together they combine their efforts to reduce the spaces of politics. But reducing these spaces, effacing the intolerable and indispensable foundation of the political in the ‘government of anybody and everybody’, means opening up another battlefield. It means witnessing the resurgence of a new radicalized figure of the power of birth and kinship. No longer the power of former monarchists and aristocrats, but that of the peoples of God.

This power may openly assert itself in the terror practiced by a radical Islam against Democracy identified with States of oligarchic law. It may also bolster the oligarchic State at war with this terror in the name of a democracy assimilated, by American evangelists, to the liberty of fathers obeying the commandments of the Bible and armed for the protection of their property. In France, it can be invoked against democratic perversion to safeguard the principle of kinship, a principle that some leave in an indeterminate generality, but others unceremoniously identify with the law of the people instructed by Moses in the word of God.

Destruction of democracy in the name of the Quran;  bellicose expansion of democracy identified with the implementation of the Decalogue; hatred of democracy assimilated to the murder of the divine pastor – all these contemporary figure have at least one merit. Through the hatred they manifest against democracy, and in its name, and through amalgamations to which they subject its notion, they oblige us to rediscover the singular power that is specific to it.

Democracy is neither a form of government that enables oligarchies to rule in the name of the people, nor is it a form of society that governs the power of commodities. It is the action that constantly wrests the monopoly of public life from oligarchic governments, and the omnipotence over lives from the power of wealth. It is the power that, today more than ever, has to struggle against the confusion of these powers, rolled into one and the same law of domination. Rediscovering the singularity of democracy means also being aware of its solitude. Demands for democracy were for a long time carried or concealed by the idea of a new society, the elements of which were allegedly being formed in the very heart of contemporary society. That is what ‘socialism’ designated: a vision of history according to which the capitalist forms of production and exchange constituted the material conditions for an egalitarian society and its worldwide expansion. It is this vision that even today sustains the hope of a communism or a democracy of the multitude: the notion that the increasingly immaterial forms of capitalist production concentrated in the universe of communication are, from this moment on, to have formed a nomadic population of ‘producers’ of a new type; to have constituted a collective intelligence, a collective power of thought, affects and movements of bodies that is liable to explode apart the barriers of the Empire. Understanding what democracy means is to renounce this faith.

The collective intelligence produced by a system of domination is only ever the intelligence of that system. Unequal society does not carry any equal society in its womb. Rather, egalitarian society is only ever the set of egalitarian relations that are traced here and now through singular and precarious acts. Democracy is as bare in its relation to the power of wealth as it is to the power of kinship that today comes to assist and to rival it. It is not based on any nature of things nor guaranteed by any institutional form. It is not born along by any historical necessity and does not bear any. It is only entrusted to the constancy of its specific acts. This can provoke fear, and so hatred, among those who are used to exercising the magisterium of thought. But among those who know how to share with anybody and everybody the equal power of intelligence, it can conversely inspire courage, and hence joy.

1 comment:

  1. [Note 50] The word ‘liberalism’ lends itself today to all sorts of confusions. The European left use it in order to avoid the taboo word of capitalism. The European right use it to designate a vision of the world where the free market and democracy go hand-in-hand. The American evangelical right, for whom a liberal is a leftist destroyer of religion, family and society, reminds us opportunely that these two things are quite different. The weight of a ‘communist’ China in a free market and in the financing of American debt, advantageously combining as it does the advantages of liberty and those of its absence, testifies to this in another manner. The French term liberalisme can refer both to political liberalism and to economic neoliberalism.