- The topic and the question setting of the work
The object of my study is Rancière’s political theory and his concept of equality and I want to see how (dis)similar it is from the anarchist’s equality. So, in order to understand it better, I will analyse equality’s relationship with liberty or freedom in each case: first, how they are broadly understood; then, how Rancière understands them and, finally, how anarchists use them.
However, I do not want my paper to be only academic. Of course it is an academic paper but it attempts to go beyond academicist discussions whether Rancière is anarchist or in which sense in that case. With this paper I want to use Rancière’s concepts to describe or understand some phenomena of the contemporary world and society. Therefore, I will use practical examples to illustrate his ideas, i.e. whether the referendum about the rights of the Russian population in Latvia is political or not according to him.
On this account, in the end of the paper I will have an especial chapter where I will attempt to use Rancière’s concept to identify and understand some phenomena from our contemporary society. Besides, “the experiment” will be with a group who label themselves as anarchist —anonymous— and I will try to prove that Rancière’s ideas match when it comes to understanding and defending them as political subjects.
In the last term, the question that is laying through all my paper is “why rancière” and what we can do with him — his ideas. In my opinion, Rancière’s importance stems from his radicalism concerning the pillars of liberalism, which can be identified as “liberté, egalité et fraternité”. He works in the first two concept, especially equality, and he gives it a twist that makes shake liberalism itself.
As I mentioned before, I do not want to get lost in philosophical arguments that at some point loose the connection with the real world. In this times where there is so much in debate in the political area and with the revolutionary (or resistance) movements around the world, I see necessary to bring philosophy back to the discussion about facts and events and to stand in a position to defend (or criticise) them. And that will be my contribution: to bring back Rancière’s equality and the way he understands politics in order to defend a worldwide movement that the authorities, the police (in Rancière’s terms), criminalise and call them terrorist.
2. Methodological issues: the philosophical approach of the work
My method will be to read Rancière’s main works and some secondary sources, especially regarding the debate whether he is anarchist or not. I am planning to explain with my own words as much as possible but it will be necessary to quote some of the passages where Rancière puts his ideas in an unsurpassable way. I will attempt to reduce the quotations of the secondary sources and explain them in my own way instead of that.
Since Rancière’s style can be interpreted as circular, I am aware of the necessity of repeating the same ideas time and again with different words. He’s thought is not linear in the sense of having some axioms and reaching a conclusion out of them, but on the contrary, everything is linked with everything (as a systemic thought) and in the beginning it is hard to grasp the meaning. However, the more we understand the concepts, the easier becomes to understand the relationship between them and vice-versa.
Concerning anarchism, I will read secondary sources and try to grasp the essence of the anarchist thoughts. Then, I will compare the two thinkings and see how much Rancière fits in anarchism and in which way.
In my last chapter I will first give arguments proving that Anonymous is anarchist and then I will use Rancière’s concept to understand and defend their cause.
3. The central goals of the work
My central goal is to do “politics” in both senses of the term: in the normal one and Rancière’s way.
According to the French author politics is the interruption of the given order, in the sense of the division of the perceptible: what we see, say and think. So, a political act is what changes our perception, what breaks it and brings the invisible to the sphere of visibility, what was noise to a speech with a meaning regarding justice and what was not unthinkable to the area of plausible. In this sense, I want to alter the partition of the sensible of the reader, not only with theoretical arguments, but also with practical examples.
In doing this, I will also attempt to politics in the normal sense. By identifying Anonymous as an anarchist group who acts as political subject, demos, I am defending them from institutional attack that try to criminalise them. In short, Rancière’s thinking tries to give a way out to any close system by means of the breaking it through political actions. That is, in my opinion, what the group Anonymous is doing and that is why they are so important.
Going back to one of the first questions of my paper, concerning Rancière’s anarchism, the conclusion I am expecting is that he is anarchist stricto sensu as himself puts it (Bowman and Stamp, p.238). What makes him anarchist is the denial of any arkhè as a foundation of the social. As consequence, there is no principle for the ruler to exercise the power, there is no legitimation to command over others.
However, the way to understand the relationship between equality and liberty will differ, since for Rancière first comes equality and hence liberty, but for the anarchists is the other way around.
Since it is hermeneutics, the conclusion will be open to debate, according to other author’s understanding.
4. Contents of the work
Introduction: (5 pages)
-The importance of his political thoughts.
-Characteristics of his writing: circular and everything is related to everything.
-1st Chapter: Rancière and Equality
-1.1. Rancière’s political thoughts: an overview. (12 pages)
-1.2. Equality is prior to Liberty (8 pages)
-2nd Chapter: Anarchism and Equality
-2.1. Anarchism: the most important characteristics. (12 pages)
-2.2. Liberty is prior to Equality (8 pages)
-3rd Chapter: Is Rancière anarchist? How much or in which sense? (10 pages)
-4th Chapter: Instrumentalizing Rancière’s concepts: can we use them to perceive/explain real events in another way?
4.1. A practical case (5 pages)
Conclusions (5 pages)
5. Listing the central sources of the work and validating their choice
Hatred of Democracy (2007)
On the shores of Politics (1995)
The Emancipated Spectator (2009)
The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991)
Reading Rancière (2011)
Jacques Rancière. History, Politics, Aesthetics. (2011)
The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière (2008).
Anarchism and Moral Philosophy (2010)
Introduction to Anarchism (2007)
Nomos and Narrative (1983)
About Anonymous: internet sources
I will analyse equality’s relationship with liberty or freedom in each case:
I think it might be worth considering to make a distinction between liberty and freedom. That “or” kind of suggests there isn’t one in your thesis. To me liberty is a social/political concept and freedom an individual one (for example freedom as autonomy against the natural slavery to one’s own desires in Aristotelian sense).
However, I do not want my paper to be only academic:
Kudos to you for this – at least if we understand un-academia the same way namely that it shouldn’t require a university degree to be able to understand a thesis work. This is how academia should redeem itself from the self-created status as the nobility (and save themselves from extinction when people realise how useless most of academic work really is). And practical examples is truly the way to do this…
He works in the first two concept, especially equality, and he gives it a twist that makes shake liberalism itself:
A mere shake is not enough. Liberalism needs a swift kick in the ass and shot in the head (read my comment to the degrowth -thesis plan).
And that will be my contribution: to bring back Rancière’s equality and the way he understands politics in order to defend a worldwide movement that the authorities, the police (in Rancière’s terms), criminalise and call them terrorist.
I think Ranciere’s concept of “the police” is interesting. Especially how the ones with means to police others use propaganda like the term “terrorist” and paint all contradicting views as unbearable and something which must be destroyed. This can only work in a highly dualistic system to which rationalism gives it support (the law of contradiction). A nice popular example of this “ressentimental” politics is Paul Verhoeven’s Starship troopers (though this might be to popular to refer in your thesis – well, you can take a break from writing and working, Maia… I got the DVD if you want to lend it).
ABOUT EQUALITY: as far as I understand, Ranciere is talking about the equality of the beginning. It is very important to separate this from the equality of final results which is running headlong to Christianity. If you want a point of comparison, there is always MacIntyre trying to revive God in Dependent Rational Animals (which you should be familiar with already). In the end there is no freedom if equality of final results gets a dominating status. Absolute equality and absolute freedom contradict each other.
My method will be to read Rancière’s main works and some secondary sources, especially regarding the debate whether he is anarchist or not:
A CRUCIAL DISTINCTION: anarchism vs naive anarchism. I think it is pretty clear that most people cannot get along or even survive without the support of society behind them. So, just trying to get rid of laws is very naive. Instead trying to educate and raise people into individuals who every year need less and less laws to govern their interaction is a fine and noble dream. I think even Aristotle had it when he said that friendship is better than justice since friends have no need for justice but just people still need friends (Nicomachean ethics).
I will attempt to reduce the quotations of the secondary sources and explain them in my own way instead of that:
This resembles my idea(l) of brave new methodology: not trying to prove oneself by listing how many respected thinkers agree, but giving room for one’s own explanation. Of course there is a good reason to refer to some work in the history of philosophy i.e. not inventing the wheel all over again… or trying to write an academic thesis wit a private language (private languages existed widely only in the 70’s because people dropped so much acid while having wild unprotected sex – their communication was in the international language of love…)
In my last chapter I will first give arguments proving that Anonymous is anarchist and then I will use Rancière’s concept to understand and defend their cause:
I think “proving” is already stepping into the side of rationalism i.e. ideology. Furthermore, there is a change Anonymous and their cause is good only in a dualistic system – the lesser “evil”. Like MacIntyre said in After Virtue: Marxist are Weberian when they strive for power and especially so when they get some. I don’t want to see what happens when Anonymous gets strong enough to fight Weberian bureaucracy on a plain battlefield… Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Still, in current world there is no question that the capitalistic market economy is the biggest evil (even if I don’t believe in evil in the first place… Go, Nietzsche, go…)
According to the French author politics is the interruption of the given order, in the sense of the division of the perceptible: what we see, say and think:
I think politics/post-politics distinction is in place here. Zizek uses it in Politics, idiot but I think he says it is an older idea. Basically he says that post politics is just managing the conflicts of different interest groups under a widely accepted paradigm. So, there is no way to question the paradigm itself (i.e. rationalism, liberalism, capitalism/economy). Real politics considers always also possibilities which are impossible in the current paradigm. I think it is fair to say that the current liberal-capitalistic market economy is way overdue for a Kuhnian revolution… Power to the people (but only to those who are willing to learn about what they are deciding on and willing to put some effort in it – instead of those who merely manage to live under the wings of others for 18 years).
In short, Rancière’s thinking tries to give a way out to any close system by means of the breaking it through political actions:
I think some ideas on deliberative democracy could be in order here (your words are needed here Maia, not mine=)
What makes him anarchist is the denial of any arkhè as a foundation of the social:
I MUST DISAGREE, because there is one arkhe and that is the material foundation/animal needs that unite every single human being. From this we can deduct some intuitively undeniable values:
1) As long as there are people who cannot accumulate enough means to survive, others cannot have right to commodities and luxury.
2) No free rides: everyone must do their part according to their ability and then receive resources according to their needs (and then some).
3) A good human life requires more than mere subsistence – not much but some more. The right to this should also override the right to commodities and luxuries (even if one is able to accumulate the capital for indulging oneself).
4) The question how much we can use the scarce resources including pollution is a hard fact. Of course we need to interact with our planet and seek these limits empirically. Still, once these estimations are set, then the political question is a question of merit – who deserves what (naturally after the previous clauses are met). Finally, we should aim for a world population which is sustainable and still allows the cultural evolution i.e. more means than mere subsistence.
I think this is kind of Marxism complemented with an existential and environmental principle (sustainability). These are also the main principles of my future PhD. paper… so, feel free to use but kudos belongs to me (unless someone already made these statements together).
As consequence, there is no principle for the ruler to exercise the power, there is no legitimation to command over others:
There should be no ruler over the informed citizen (i.e. those willing to learn and put in the necessary effort to understand different perspectives and views). I think a stable word community might be possible with this kind of limited democracy where the power is still within the reach of everyone (once again, my PhD…. MY, MY, MY, MINE… Distribute freely but keep away from my fame and fortune=).
What is the factual background of the Ranciere’s concept of anarchism? As far as I know each case of “anarchism” is quite different from another… Is it possible to talk about “anarchism” in general at all?
Could anybody help me with some biography? I would like to read about philosophy of recognition and also about the discussion about what the political means.
I will answer the questions about anarchism when I get to that chapter…