Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

In Defence of the Political: The Crisis of Democracy and the Return of the People from the Perspective of Foucault and Rancière

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

In Defence of the Political: The Crisis of Democracy and the Return of the People from the Perspective of Foucault and Rancière

Article excerpt

Abstract: Taking as his point of departure the London Tottenham riots, a product of a mob lacking political consciousness and postulates, the author strives to identify the fundamental deadlock (aporia) confronting western parliamentary democracy. Nowadays, collective phenomena are analyzed within a moral-economic framework which reduces the perspective on society to a sum of individuals. This contradiction is responsible for the reductionism which is leading the latest theories of social and political philosophy to the conclusion that we have reached "the end of politics" and are venturing into the "postpolitical era." According to this author, rather than describing the essence of the problem, these terms are merely skimming the discursive problem. If, as Foucault would have it, discourse is always a specific practice, the aforementioned reductionism can also be approached as a political strategy. Therefore, in order to grasp the "political" as a feature of the situation in which the people are participants, rather than in substantial terms, the author discusses the theory of development of the modern political subject within the framework of Michel Foucault's liberal "government" paradigm and Jacques Rancière's theory of democracy as a proper political element. Drawing upon these two thinkers, he sketches the genealogy of contemporary liberal democracy, stigmatized by the increasing rift between the people's political activity and the managerial class's apolitical reproduction.

Keywords: democracy, Foucault, people, politics, the political, Rancière.

Sooner or later a new generation arrives that tries to reinvest certain words with meaning, certain hopes linked to those words, but in different contexts and with differing, indeed aleatory, forms of transmission.

Jacques Rancière, Democracies Against Democracy (2011: 81)

Factum Loquendi Politica

"Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today" lamented Tony Judt (2010: 1), the British historian and social thinker, in his last book and his intellectual and political testament. Judt despaired about both the wellsprings of community life, which Europe had felt for decades to be her greatest achievement and contribution to the development of free societies, and about the foundations of future political existence which, in the face of increasing social and economic problems in Europe herself and in the wider western world, had not seemed so fragile and self-destructive for along time. Social and cultural unrest in developed western countries (pauperization of the young generation as it enters the labour market or deepening ethnic animosities), the global financial crisis and, above all, the increasing mistrust of political leaders and institutions, and the consequent reluctance to vote, all lead us to question the very roots of political ideas believed until only recently to be our undisputable beacons.

The basic problem facing European societies today is the crisis of parliamentary democracy, increasingly criticized from various sides of the political and intellectual arena for its ineffectiveness and superficiality, but most of all for the alienation of the elites and the resulting disconnection between the "will of the people" and the "government," between the legitimacy of public institutions and the trust which is testimony to the maturity and cohesion of a particular democratic structure. Although it would seem that western democracies are a completed work, many thinkers, respresenting radical post-structuralist tradition (Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière or Slavoj Zizek), critical leftist ideas (Tony Judt, Pierre Rosanvallon. Wolfgang Streeck), or even liberal (John Gray) or post-conservative (Jesse Norman) thought, are now treating them sceptically, viewing them as a relatively meaningless collection of slogans which continue to be voiced by politicians who remain oblivious to these critiques.

Could it be that Rousseau was right when he exposed the ineffectiveness of representative government as executor of the common will? …

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