Writing in Libération, Jacques Rancière talks about populism and French politics today.
The People Are Not a Brutal and Ignorant Mass
Not a day goes by without the risks of populism being denounced on all sides. But it is not so easy to grasp what the word denotes. What is a populist? Despite various fluctuations of meaning, the dominant discourse seems to characterize it in terms of three essential features: a style of speech addressed directly to the people, bypassing representatives and dignitaries; the assertion that governments and ruling elites are more concerned with feathering their own nest than with the public interest; a rhetoric of identity that expresses fear and rejection of foreigners.
Discussing the critique of “the new communism” in the Guardian recently, Stuart Jeffries wrote that the fear is that “nasty old left farts” such as Jacques Rancière “will corrupt the minds of the innocent youth.” In conversation with Jeffries, however, Rancière himself defends the relevance of his and his contemporaries’ thinking in 2012, explaining:
“The gravediggers are still here, in the form of workers in precarious conditions like the over exploited workers of factories in the far east. And today’s popular movements – Greece or elsewhere – also indicate that there’s a new will not to let our governments and our bankers inflict their crisis on the people.”
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.
Stuart Jeffries gives an overview of the mainstreaming of Marx in today's Guardian, featuring Verso authors Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Owen Jones and Slavoj Žižek as well as the new edition of The Communist Manifesto.
Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable."...
Today, 164 years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support.
Jeffries interviews Jacques Rancière, philosopher, radical social historian (and Ségolène Royal's favourite thinker) to shed light on the 'new Marxism':
Aren't Marx's venerable ideas as useful to us as the hand loom would be to shoring up Apple's reputation for innovation? Isn't the dream of socialist revolution and communist society an irrelevance in 2012? After all, I suggest to Rancière, the bourgeoisie has failed to produce its own gravediggers. Rancière refuses to be downbeat: "The bourgeoisie has learned to make the exploited pay for its crisis and to use them to disarm its adversaries.
There are Reds under the bed. Or in the academies. Or worse: about to spill into the streets. So warns Alan Johnson in World Affairs, the esteemed Washington-based international affairs journal. Tracing the rising profile of a group of authors such as Alain Badiou, Bruno Bosteels and Slavoj Žižek and the popularity of their books, the columnist outlines what he sees as a nascent threat lurking in the incendiary words of Terry Eagleton and Toni Negri.
In a fiery critical call for solidarity, rich with the language of class war, a number of European academics and artists call for a campaign of solidarity with the Greek people and a launch against the dehumanising and aggressive ideology of technocratic austerity.
"[T]he future of democracy and the fate of European nations are in question" under the restructuring of Greek debt and the "endless, devastating bailouts", according to the authors, who include French academics Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar, Jacques Ranciere and more. Public assets are being carved up for privatisation under the oversight of the troika, producing vast wealth for the international buyers but failing to address the sovereign debt crisis at all: "it has literally exploded into free fall in approaching 170% of GDP, while in 2009 it represented more than 120%".