Notes on People’s Politics in Jacques Rancière
This paper suggests a philosophical re-reading of popular communication and the role of People in western democratic systems. Rancière’s anti-elitist notion of democracy helps to reframe the discussion of the People as a key-concept of our political systems: it is not defined by an en-or decoding instance or a notion of identity, but by a particular mode of conflict-making, as an action of «a part that has no part». Drawing from heterogeneous material (especially, La Mésentente and other political works), it is argued that the problem of the People arises when a functional system has to represent something that transgresses the system’s universality as an equality instance against ordinary decision-making. That which the system has to exclude to become a political system re-emerges as a ‘part that has no part’, thus pointing at a universality that is, on the one hand, an opportunity for a further universalization and, on the other, a threat to the very universality of the political system. The ‘People’ thus acquires a hybrid position by articulating these two dimensions: Rancière has explored the consequences of the equality’s presumption — that everyone is immediately and equally capable of thought. Against those who argue that only the appropriately educated or privileged are authorized to think and speak, Rancière’s most fundamental assumption is that everyone thinks. Everyone shares equal powers of speech and thought, and this «equality is not a goal to be attained but a point of departure, a supposition to be maintained in all circumstances».