Archive for July, 2011

Etienne Balibar “Politics and the Other Scene”

Balibar, Etienne 2002. Politics and the Other Scene. London and New York: Verso

Three Concepts of Politics: Emancipation, Transformation, Civility (1-40)

Autonomy becomes a politics when it turns out that a ‘part’ of society (and hence of humanity) is excluded – legally or not – from the universal right to politics (if only in the form of a mere opposition between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ citizens – which already says it all – or, in other words, between responsible, adult citizens and ‘minors’). This part (which inevitably becomes a party: the party of the universal, or of the abolition of the particularities and classes) presents itself, then, not just as the most active mouthpiece of the citizenry, but as that fraction which is capable of presenting its own emancipation as the criterion of general emancipation (or as that fraction which, in continuing in slavery and alienation, inevitably entails the unfreedom of all). (6)

[…] the autonomy of politics presents itself first as a negation that the politics of autonomy must present itself in turn as a negation of the negation, and thus as an absolute. The idealization of politics and its subjects is the corollary to the ideality which grounds them (without which it would have no practical reality). And, inevitably, this idealization expresses itself in namings, creations of keywords, whose power to seize the imagination is all the greater for the fact that they initially expressed a radical negativity, the rejection of the substantive representations of ‘political capacity’. (7)

[…] the ‘dominant ideas’ cannot be those of the ‘dominant class’. They have to be those of the ‘dominated’, the ideas which state their theoretical right to recognition and equal capacity. More precisely, the discourse of hegemonic domination has to be one in which it is possible to appeal against a de facto discrimination to a de jure equality – not only without the principles being weakened, but in such a way that they are re-established and lastingly prove their absolute character, since it is they which, now as ever, constitute the recourse against failure to apply them. All protest can then turn into legitimation since, against the injustice of the established order, protest appeals not to something heterogeneous to that order, but to identical principles. (7)

Politics is not the mere changing of conditions, as though it were possible to isolate them and abstract from them so as to obtain a purchase on them, but it is change within change, or the differentiation of change, which means that the meaning of history is established only in the present. Nothing, then, is more absurd […] than to believe such a politics to be ‘subjectless’ (it is history which is without a subject). (12)