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March 06, 2007


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hi Jodi,

My copy of the new book's not arrived yet, but I don't think R would say "complete idiots have as much right to rule as anyone" so much as "geniuses have as little right to rule as anyone," I think the argument on equality is against any type of rule. He says in the Ignorant Schoolmaster that the equality Jacotot encounters/posits is completely incompatible with institutions at all.

On that note, I think your remark about R's arguments potentially falling into a forever critical (essentially sidelined) gadfly position is fair. That would I think be the police version of his arguments, rather than the political, in his terms. I'm pretty sure he holds that there's a police variant possible for any political assertion (at least that's how I read some of Disagreement).

I also think your argument about commands is fair. Presumably a state of exception doesn't presuppose the equality of those rendered bare life in any meaningful way: pulling the trigger when the commander shouts "fire!" doesn't seem to presuppose equality (at least not in any non-trivial way) between executed prisoners and soldiers or soldiers and commander. One could argue that that event does require egalitarian relationships elsewhere, but this too might be trivially true. I think the argument on equality works best as an argument against inequality, rather than one for equality.

take care,


Hi Jodi,

I'm a transfer from sometimes' blog to yours..

Thank you for the resonance.

I think when R says inequality has to pass by way of the equal to justify itself he means there's no power that's natural, and that mere fact makes power prone to being challenged. This of course doesn't bring any immediate consequence that it "will" be challenged. But it creates the leverage.

I find his examples significant in this text. It's scary that a former Althuserian, and current Lacanian (Milner, as well as Zizek) can revert to the language of the "natural" to complain about the political process in France. We're not even talking about outright right-wingers here.

That seems to me the kind of context he's writing from, a concrete frustration with things happening around him in France. Somebody calling Bourdieu an anti-semite, etc. And how can you explain and deal with these, R. seems to ask, except as naming it the "discontent with equality"--because equality is what inserts arbitrariness and chance, and that way, goes against the natural. how else can you oppose it if you don't want to revert to yet other "natural" belongings (identity/property) yourself? How does one break out from pitting one "natural" (Balibar would say anthropological) difference to another? Those at least are his questions, in my reading.

Angela says it's a convoluted way to go. I'll have to reread her comment now.



by the way, reading Nate, i think in the command and shoot situation we are dealing with natural power. As when there's a physical asymmetry between weapons--it's again natural power. His whole attempt to hold onto the remnants of the text of law or equality in the strategic way he suggets is to avoid confronting the power as natural.

Amish Lovelock

Peter Hallward's piece on Ranciere that compared him with Chomsky on the equality thing in the New Left Review was quite good, I thought. When I first saw the title of this book I thought it would be a critique of democracy rather than a critique of its abuse - which kind of put me off it. Inegalitarian societies function because of the veneer of egalitarian relations.

Amish Lovelock

Or perhaps the vested assumption.


Jodi - great as usual! I'd like to point out - since we're talking "greek" here, that the wealthy elite of Athens spoke of "democracy" in derogatory terms. Even the word democracy is rooted in the concept of a mob - eluding to a militarized


correction - alluding ;)

Amish Lovelock

These were interesting'


Amish Lovelock

Taking responsibility for power - when Zizek talks about the need for the State does he mean the need for a monopoly of legitimate violence?

jeremy hunsinger

Hmm, doesn't this statement on equality have to be read in light of his other works on equality and its origination? as this seems to be at least the third book with inequality as a central theme.


Doesnt Kojin Karatani have a suggestion to reinstall the dictatorship of the proletariat via lottey based elections.
also borges, the babylon lottery, is a classic example in a similar vein.

i think zizek attacks karatani in the first or second chapter of parrallax view.



For an understanding of where
Ranciere is coming from read the spine chilling pages from around p304 to 322 of The Lives of Michel Foucault by David Macey. There you will find Ranciere a member of the Maoist party, the GP, while they call for the 'liquidation of the bourgeoisie', and the specific lynching (their term) of a murder suspect, because he was a member of the bourgeoisie, all in the name of 'direct democracy'.
Search the web for 'Papin sisters' to also gain an insight into the respect for life and equality common among the Ranciere, Foucault, Satre set.
Makes David Irving look like a saint.

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