Egalitarianism as a revolt against nature and other essays
essays revolt nature against Egalitarianism ..
I retort that the question is wrongly put. The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them. The constant will of all the members of the State is the general will; by virtue of it they are citizens and free. When in the popular assembly a law is proposed, what the people is asked is not exactly whether it approves or rejects the proposal, but whether it is in conformity with the general will, which is their will. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion on that point; and the general will is found by counting votes. When therefore the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will; and it is in that case that I should not have been free."(The Social Contract, Book II, Chapter 2, "Voting")
The "totalitarian" catch here is the short-circuit between constative and performative: by reading the voting procedure not as a performative act of decision, but as a constative, as the act of expressing the opinion on (of guessing )what is the general will (which is thus substantialized into something that PRE-EXISTS voting), he avoids the deadlock of the rights of those who remain in the minority (they should obey the decision of the majority, because in the result of voting, they learn what the general will really is). In other words, those who remain in the minority are not simply a minority: in learning the result of the vote (which run against their individual vote), they do not simply learn that they are a minority - what they learn is that they were MISTAKEN about what is the general will.
The parallel between this substantialization of the general will and the religious notion of Predestination cannot but strike the eye: in the case of Predestination, fate is also substantialized into a decision that precedes the process, so that the stake of individuals' activities is not to performatively constitute their fate, but to discover (or guess) one's pre-existing fate. What is obfuscated in both cases is the dialectical reversal of contingency into necessity, i.e., the way the outcome of a contingent process is the appearance of necessity: things retroactively "will have been" necessary." This reversal was described by Jean-Pierre Dupuy:
Egalitarianism as a revolt against nature and other …
This strange coupling of democracy and dictatorship is grounded in the tension that pertains to the very notion of democracy. What Chantal Mouffe calls the "democratic paradox" almost symmetrically inverts the fundamental paradox of the authoritarian Fascism: if the wager of (institutionalized) democracy is to integrate the antagonistic struggle itself into the institutional/differential space, transforming it into regulated agonism, Fascism proceeds in the opposite direction. While Fascism, in its mode of activity, brings the antagonistic logic to its extreme (talking about the "struggle to death" between itself and its enemies, and always maintaining - if not realizing - a minimum of an extra-institutional threat of violence, of a "direct pressure of the people" by-passing the complex legal-institutional channels), it posits as its political goal precisely the opposite, an extremely ordered hierarchic social body (no wonder Fascism always relies on organicist-corporatist metaphors). This contrast can be nicely rendered in the terms of the Lacanian opposition between the "subject of enunciation" and the "subject of the enunciated (content)": while democracy admits antagonistic struggle as its goal (in Lacanese: as its enunciated, its content), its procedure is regulated-systemic; Fascism, on the contrary, tries to impose the goal of hierarchically structured harmony through the means of an unbridled antagonism.
In a homologous way, the ambiguity of the middle class, this contradiction embodied (as already Marx put it apropos Proudhon), is best exemplified by the way it relates to politics: on the one hand, the middle class is against politicization - they just want to sustain their way of life, to be left to work and lead their life in peace (which is why they tend to support the authoritarian coups which promise to put an end to the crazy political mobilization of society, so that everybody can return to his or her proper work). On the other hand, they - in the guise of the threatened patriotic hard-working moral majority - are the main instigators of the grass-root mass mobilization (in the guise of the Rightist populism - say, in France today, the only force truly disturbing the post-political technocratic-humanitarian administration is le Pen's National Front.
There are two elementary and irreducible sides to democracy: the violent egalitarian imposition of those who are "surnumerary," the "part of no part," those who, while formally included within the social edifice, have no determinate place within it; and the regulated (more or less) universal procedure of choosing those who will exert power. How do these to sides relate to each other? What if democracy in the second sense (the regulated procedure of registering the "people's voice") is ultimately a defense against itself, against democracy in the sense of the violent intrusion of the egalitarian logic that disturbs the hierarchic functioning of the social edifice, an attempt to re-functionalize this excess, to make it a part of the normal running of the social edifice?
The problem is thus: how to regulate/institutionalize the very violent egalitarian democratic impulse, how to prevent it from being drowned in democracy in the second sense of the term (regulated procedure)? If there is no way to do it, then "authentic" democracy remains a momentary utopian outburst which, the proverbial morning after, has to be normalized.
The Orwellian proposition "democracy is terror" is thus democracy's "infinite judgment," its highest speculative identity. This dimension gets lost in Claude Lefort's notion of democracy as involving the empty place of power, the constitutive gap between the place of power and the contingent agents who, for a limited period, can occupy that place. Paradoxically, the underlying premise of democracy is thus not only that there is no political agent which has a "natural" right to power, but, much more radically, that "people" themselves, the ultimate source of the sovereign power in democracy, doesn't exist as a substantial entity. In the Kantian way, the democratic notion of "people" is a negative concept, a concept whose function is merely to designate a certain limit: it prohibits any determinate agent to rule with full sovereignty. (The only moment when "people exists" are the democratic elections, which are precisely the moment of the disintegration of the entire social edifice - in elections, "people" are reduced to a mechanical collection of individuals.) The claim that people does exist is the basic axiom of "totalitarianism," and the mistake of "totalitarianism" is strictly homologous to the Kantian misuse ("paralogism") of political reason: "the People exists" through a determinate political agent which acts as if it directly embodies (not only re-presents) the People, its true Will (the totalitarian Party and its Leader), i.e., in the terms of transcendental critique, as a direct phenomenal embodiment of the noumenal People... The obvious link between this notion of democracy and Lacan's notion of the inconsistency of the big Other was elaborated by Jacques-Alain Miller, among others: