Blog post

“The will of the people is not a hollow cliche”—Peter Hallward in the Guardian on the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions

Tamar Shlaim 2 February 2011

Peter Hallward writes in the Guardian on the popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and the real meaning of the "will of the people": 

In today's Tunisia and Egypt, as in 1950s Algeria, to affirm the will of the people is not to invoke an empty phrase. Will and people: rejecting the merely "formal" conceptions of democracy that disguise our status quo, an actively democratic politics will think one term through the other. A will of the people, on the one hand, must involve association and collective action, and will depend on a capacity to invent and preserve forms of inclusive assembly (through demonstrations, meetings, unions, parties, websites, networks). If an action is prescribed by popular will, on the other hand, then what's at stake is a free or voluntary course of action, decided on the basis of informed and reasoned deliberation. Determination of the people's will is a matter of popular participation and empowerment before it is a matter of representation, sanctioned authority or stability. Unlike mere "wish", if it is to persist and prevail then a popular will must remain united in the face of its opponents, and find ways of overcoming their resistance to its aims.

Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.

For more on the will of the people, see Peter Hallward's chapter in Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Zizek's edited volume The Idea of Communism

For the story of  how, in Haiti, the US conspired with external & internal forces to "to undermine or crush those people whose wills did not dovetail with their own", see Peter Hallward's Damming the Flood, out now in paperback. 

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