Pippin, Hegel’s Practical Philosophy: Ch. 4

This will be our reading for July 22.  You can find the details at our Meetup page.

1. The previous chapter argued that freedom is fundamentally the capacity to “give oneself the law,” to legislate norms and bind ourselves to them.  This self-legislation is not the ratification of passing desires or opinions, some sort of pure subjectivism, but a strange combination of self-creation and self-limitation.  These self-created norms create and sustain social roles and reasons which we can use to justify or criticize behaviour.  We looked at two different models of self-legislation: Kant’s deductive model, which begins with the generic, ahistorical individual, and Hegel’s historical/developmental model, which begins with actually-existing groups.

2. For both Kant and Hegel, a key motivating factor in ethical behaviour is respect for the life-leading capacity of humans, which eventually cashes out in the claim that all value depends on recognizing the value of humanity as an ultimate moral identity.  As Korsgaard says, “A good soldier obeys orders, but a good human being does not massacre the innocent.”  Pippin thinks the Kantian framework cannot establish this value of humanity, but the Hegelian one can.

3. This self-legislation is not only about practical norms, but cognitive norms as well; all of this is attached to a much larger account of rationality in general.  Chapter 4 is about Hegel’s account of concept-formation, and is relevant here because it helps respond to a common criticism of Hegel: that he is an anti-individualist authoritarian.

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Pippin, Hegel’s Practical Philosophy: Ch. 3

This is the reading for June 24th’s meeting.  You can get the location and other details at our meetup.com page.

1. In chapters 1 and 2, Pippin argued that Hegel’s practical philosophy—which Hegel would have called a philosophy of spirit—is primarily a theory of freedom.  His idea of freedom is quite far from our usual notions of freedom, which tend to revolve around abstract questions of free will and political questions of what we ought to be free from or to do.  To some degree, Hegel combines these two sides of freedom when he says that a free act is not necessarily one freely caused by me, but rather an act which I can, on reflection, fully endorse.  Further, this sort of reflective endorsement is only possible when one understands one self and others in particular ways and stands in rule-governed institutional relations.

2. Pippin also introduced the claim that “spirit is a product of itself.”  Spirit is the industry-standard translation of the German word Geist, and for our purposes, we can basically define it as both the development and actual existence of a given historical period’s package set of fundamental concepts and practices.  

3. This claim that spirit is a product of itself is important for two reasons.  First, it both connects Hegel to, and differentiates him from, earlier German idealists like Kant and Fichte.  Second, it is one of the main points in his social, collective idea of freedom.  These two points are connected: for Kant and Fichte, cognitive and practical normativity (how we ought to think, what we ought to do) find their origins in the (either logically or practically necessary) cognitive acts of individuals, while for Hegel, both kinds of normativity are the result of collective, historical development.  

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JS Mill – On Liberty, Ch. 1-2

This is the reading for our June 17th meeting.  You can find all the details at our Meetup.com page.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

This essay is not about the freedom of the will, but civil liberty—the nature and limits of the power which society can wield over the individual.  In the past, liberty meant protection against government tyranny.  Since the power og government could be used against anyone, citizens had to be in a perpetual state of defence against this power.  This limitation could be carried out in two ways.  First, a set of immunities, called liberties.  Second, constitutional checks.  Constitutional checks eventually became the main defence of liberty.

Eventually, societies decided that government should not be an independent, antagonistic power; rather, government power should be a delegated power and representative of the people.  Once this sort of democracy appeared, people began to think that too much importance had been attached to the limitation of power, since the idea that the people could oppress themselves appeared to be so odd.  As Mill puts it, “The nation did not need to be protected against its own will.  There was no fear of its tyrannizing over itself.” (89)  His response to this is to say that phrases like “the power of the people over themselves” does not actually describe what goes on in democratic republics.  For example, the “people” who exercise the power are not the same people over whom it is exercised, and the “will of the people” means nothing more than the will of a numerical majority.

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Robert Pippin – Hegel’s Practical Philosophy 1: Ch. 1-2

This is will be our reading for June 10th.  You can find all the details on our Meetup.com page.

Chapter 1: Introduction

There are several questions any account of freedom needs to be able to answer, with three being the most obvious.  First, what is freedom, or what would it mean to act freely?  Second, is it possible to act freely? Third, how important is leading a free life?

These days, these sorts of questions are folded into an area of research called “practical philosophy,” which has two questions of its own.  First, are there events that we can demand justifications for, or are all events caused in the same uniform way?  Is there a real distinction between a human act and a rock rolling downhill?  Second, if the answer to the first question is yes, then we need to ask what counts as a good justification.

Hegel’s theory of freedom, as a theory of both action and value, is his answer to all of these questions.  The standard description of Hegel’s theory says it has two elements.  First, to be free is to have a reflective and deliberate relation to one’s actions, and second, that this is only possible when one is in a certain (institutional and rule-governed) relation to others.

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Meillassoux: Divine Inexistence

This is the reading for Saturday, May 27th.  You can get all the details at our meetup.com page.

Imagine rolling dice and coming up with six.  Some might say this outcome was determined, and others might insist it was pure chance, and still others might say it was a mix of the two.  What they would agree on is that the faces of the dice had the appropriate numbers which could have produced a six—and importantly, this means that chance requires a set of pre-existing possibilities to work on.  We can think of any situation this way, as the actualization of pre-existing possibilities, governed by laws, chance, or a mix of the two.

Quentin Meillassoux’s work is dedicated to working out a single core idea: that the absolute truth of all existence is contingency.  Every single thing can exist, not exist, or exist differently.  What this means for our dice is that the ratio of chance and determinism governing their tumbling can be sidestepped entirely: Meillassoux’s thesis is the the faces of the dice can change, and can change for no reason, and importantly, it means this process does not answer to any possible account of probability.  Entirely new sets of possibilities can appear in the world, possibilities that had absolutely no antecedent.  He quite literally believes anything is possible.

His term for the appearance of new possibilities, or new dice, is the advent ex nihilo of a new world because they emerge from nothing and for no reason.  He says there have been three new worlds: the emergence of matter, the emergence of life, and the emergence of thought.  Life appeared in the context of matter, and thought appeared in the context of life.  Divine Inexistence is about the possibility of a fourth advent ex nihilo in the context of thought: the world of justice, a world of resurrected humans.  The goal is the final vanquishing of the division between being and value, otherwise known as the famous is/ought distinction.

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Slavoj Zizek, Seeds of the Imagination

A single thought can form a seed of imagination for an entire work of art. The seed itself is something very simple and might not even be recognizable in the end product. For most of Hitchcock’s films, for example, the seed is as simple as a gesture or a motif. Philosophers too have their seeds of imagination: Kant’s transcendentalism as a reaction against Swedenberg’s theosophy, or Hegel’s dialectics as a result of his look at English economy.

However, Zizek’s main argument is that today we are suffering from a failure of the imagination. The paranoid conservative fantasies about military exercises being a coup by the Obama administration, or debates about the ethical concerns of biotechnology (completely ignoring the upside) show that imagination has a lot of work to do to reach it’s emancipatory potential. Even as a zero marginal cost society is possibly over the horizon, imagination still hasn’t reached it’s potential to think of these.

One of the reasons for this is that as technology brings more possibilities, it also brings more impossibilities, such as the impossibility of thinking of any alternatives to the current socio-economic system.  “The reason is that we live in he postpolitical era of the naturalization of economy; political decisions are as a rule presented as matters of pure economic necessity, so that when austerity measures are imposed we are repeatedly told that this is simply what has to be done. In such postpolitical conditions, the exercise of power no longer primarily relies on censorship, but on unconstrained permissiveness…” (213-214).

To combat this permissiveness, one must instead, as in Kipling’s poem, “dream and not make dreams your master” This would involve breaking certain taboos which limit the imagination. And the power of Frederic Jameson’s work, An American Utopia, is precisely in breaking taboos. They need to be broken because:

These taboos arise from the fact that every historical situation contains its own unique utopian perspective, an immanent vision of what is wrong with it, an ideal representation of how, with some changes, the situation could be rendered much better. When the desire for a radical social change emerges, it is this logical that it first endeavors to actualize this immanent utopian vision, which is why it has to end in a catastrophe. (215)

Zizek identifies three broken taboos that become potential for the seed to sprout.

The first taboo Jameson breaks is his dismissal of the vision “of communism as association, multitude, councils, anti-representationist direct democracy based on citizens’ permanent engagement.” (215-216) Toni Negri’s vision in his works is grounded in this idea of the multitude, where the dual power between the people and the state organs tips the balance in favor of the self-organized mass of people that finally take over all the social functions of the state. “If is as if, in the recent Brazilian revolts and mass protests, Negri, a longtime sympathize of the Lula government, got his own message back in its true form- the government of Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor, spectacularly failed to contain and integrate the protesting multitude. Although life of the poor and the middle classes improved considerably, it was as if this improvement, this very attempt of the government to involve excluded minorities in a dialogue and empower them as autonomous political agents, backfired and strengthened acts of resistance.” (216)

The reason this multitude cannot reach a nonantagonistic conclusion is because the protesting of the protesters is based on desire. And Zizek invokes the Lacanian idea that desire’s actual desire is always to not be satisfied: “its ultimate aim is always to reproduce itself as desire, which is why its basic formula is always something like ‘I demand this from you, but if you give it to me, I will reject it because this is not really that (what I really want)’-i.e., desire s a gap, a void, in the heart of every demand.” (217)

This is where the critique against political representation reaches its limit. Three reasons: 1. Sometimes speaking for others is necessary, “it is cynical to say that victims of mass violence from Auschwitz to Rwanda (and the mentally ill, children, etc. not to mention suffering animals) should organize themselves and speak fro themselves.” (218) 2. Even when there is a mass of people protesting in public spaces, they are still a minority, with the silent majority being outside of those spaces. 3. Political engagement has a limited time span. The majority of those involved disengage after time lapses. The opposition of normal and the state of exception needs to be abandoned. It is not enough that the Event happens, what is important is how much normal life has changed after the Event is erased. V For Vendetta ends with a spectacle of an Event of people rising against the power- what would’ve happened in the sequel?

Jameson also deals with the topic of resentment, against te idea that in communism envy will disappear. “Dismissing this myth, Jameson emphasizes, that in communism, precisely insofar as it is a more just society, envy and resentment will explode. He refers here to Lacan, whose thesis is that human desire is always the desire of the Other in all senses of that term: desire for the Other, desire to be desired by the Other, and, especially. desire for what the Other desires.” (219)

This can be a critique of John Rawl’s theory of justice. “In Rawl’s model of a just society, social inequalities are tolerated insofar as they also help those at the bottom of the social ladder, and insofar as they are not based on inherited hierarchies but on natural inequalities, which are considered contingent, not merits.” (220) Insofar as people desire for what the Other desires, a society following Rawl’s theory of justice will explode in resentment: if my failures are all my fault alone, and I cannot blame it on social injustices. “The catch of envy/resentment is that it not only endorses the zero-sum game principle, where my victory equals the other’s loss, it also implies a gap between the two, which is not the positive gap (we can all win with no losers at all), but a negative one. If I have to choose between my victory and my opponent’s loss, I prefer the opponent’s loss, even if it means also my own loss. It is as if my eventual gain from the opponent’s loss functions as a king of pathological element that stains the purity of my victory.” (221) Which is the insight Hayek had: it is much easier to accept inequalities if they can be attributed to an impersonal system, so the free market capitalist system operates as Fate did in the past.

The demand for justice is to curtail the excessive enjoyment of the Other and make the access to this enjoyment equal, which results in asceticism, because jouissance can’t be equally distributed, but prohibition can. However, today, this asceticism comes from the command to “Enjoy!” “We are all under the spell of this injunction. The outcome is that our enjoyment is more hindered than ever. Take the yuppie who combines narcissistic “self-fulfillment” with those utterly ascetic disciplines of jogging, eating health food, and so on. Perhaps this is what Nietzsche had in mind with his notion of the Last Man, though it is only today that we can really discern his contours in the guise of the hedonistic asceticism of yuppies.” (222) A new, emerging communist government would have to introduce an element of randomness in its system, such as elections by lottery.

This is the platform which Zizek uses to critique the fetishization of democracy. The fetish is that it is always invoked as a last resort when confronted with social antagonism. “Yes, but at least we have democracy.” The many Hollywood blockbusters where the ordinary man brings down the president by uncovering scandals is a manifestation of this fetish. “This is why the most inappropriate, stupid even, names for a new radical movement that one can imagine are those that combine “socialism” and “democracy.” It effectively combines the ultimate fetish of the existing world order with a term that blurs the key distinctions.” (223)

An exemplary case is the socialism of today’s China, where the unity of the Party hides the constant riots and internal conflicts of the workers, and the old Communist believers opposed to the capitalistic system of the new order. “No wonder the official propaganda obsessively insists on the motif of harmonious society: this very insistence bear witness to the opposite, to the threat and chaos of disorder. One should apply here the basic rule of Stalinist hermeneutics: since official media do not openly report on troubles, the most reliable way to detect them is to search fro the positive excess of the propaganda- the more harmony is celebrated, the more chaos and antagonisms there are likely to be.” (225) The attack on the universalism of Western values also reflects this unsatisfactory socialism:

However, if Western universal values are false, is it enough to oppose them with a particular way of life like the Confucian “China’s mainstream ideology”? Don’t we need a different universalism, a different project of universal emancipation? The ultimate irony here is that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” effectively means socialism with a market economy (with capitalist characteristics), i.e., socialism that fully integrates China into the global market. The universality of global capitalism if left intact, it is silently accepted as the only possible frame, and the project of Confucian harmony is mobilized only in order to keep under control the antagonisms that come from global capitalist dynamics. […] Such a socialism with nationalist colors- a national socialism- is a socialism whose patriotic horizon is the patriotic promotion of one’s own nation, and the immanent antagonisms generated by capitalist development are projected onto a foreign enemy that poses a threat to our social harmony. What the Chinese Part aims at in its patriotic propaganda, what it calls “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” is yet another version of “alternate modernity”: capitalism without class struggle. (226-227)

Movements whose aim is to return to premodern, pre-capitalist conditions are also found to be lacking. Fundamentalist movements like Boko Haram claim to be fighting against modernity by forbidding women from a western education, which severs the traditional communal ties and helps them enter the chap labor market. Leaving aside the ethic and moral problems of their claim, the organization itself is anything but premodern. “Boko Haram is run like a modern centralized terrorist/revolutionary organization with leaders exerting total control, not as a tribal network where paternal chiefs meet to deliberate and decide on communal matters. It is thoroughly internationalist: It pursues a universal model, ignoring particular ways of life or particular ethnic identities. In short, Boko Haram is itself a form of perverted modernization. It obliterates traditional communal forms of life even more brutally than Western capitalist modernization does.” (227)

This means a rejection of attempts at an alternative modenity and also on using traditional local cultures as sites of resistance against global capitalism.

Jameson also rejects the notion that communism is a society where alienation is overcome, where the gap between production and pleasure is resolved. Instead, his utopia posits a radical, clean cut between the domain of the economy and cultural pleasures.  This separation of the two domains means a disappearance of the political, which leaves Jameson open to such basic critiques as who will run the army?

Jameson’s vision is not so much utopia as fantasy proper, “having a cake and eating it”: Its main premise is the clear division between the kingdom of necessity and the kingdom of freedom, between production and culture/pleasure. Production is militarized and everyone is allocated a job, while outside this kingdom of necessity total freedom reigns supreme, with the wildest diversity of freaks organizing their weird pleasures. (Do we not have today almost the obverse of this fantasy: liberalization of market economy, militarization of pleasures, in the guise of the duty to enjoy which demands discipline and training, conquest, and the battle of the sexes?) Can this be done? (229)

But another question: why does Jameson use the army as a model? His army is one where wars are gone and the celebration of heroics purely ceremonial, where only the structure, discipline and social benefits remain. But what is the extra meaning, surplus of meaning, added to Jameson’s system by calling it an army? “This surplus element is enigmatic and crucial: what if the militarized form is the very form in which the excluded politics and its obscene pleasures return int he pragmatic domain of production, of servicing the goods?” (230)

The rejection of politics is in line with Baidou’s “axiom of equality.” In a system where inequality is not generated by hierarchy or class distinctions, “egalitarian justice is unsatisfactory because it applies an equal standard to unequal cases.” Because equality is an impossible immanent to capitalism, Marx moved beyond the horizon of equality. “The great art of politics is to detect it [the point of the impossible] locally, ina  series of modest demands that are not simply impossible but appear as possible although they are de facto impossible.” (231-232) Demands such as equality, universal health care in the US, the cancellation of Greek debt in Europe, or even ironically enough a demand for a truly free market:

A couple of years ago, a CNN report on Mali described the reality of the international “free market.” The two pillars of Mali’s economy are cotton in the south and cattle in the north, and both are in trouble because of the way Western powers violate the very rules they try to impose brutally onto the impoverished Third World nations. Mali produces cotton of top quality, but the problem is that the US government spends more money on the financial support of its cotton farmers than the entire state budget of Mali; no wonder Malians cannot compete with US cotton. In the north, the European Union is the culprit: Malian beef cannot compete with the heavily subsidized European milk and beef- European Union subsidizes every cow with about 500 euros per year, more than the per capita gross national product in Mali. No wonder the minister of economy commented: We don’t need your help or advice or lectures on the beneficial effects of abolishing excessive state regulations, just, please, stick to your own rules about the free market and our troubles will be basically over. (233)

Going back to Jameson, it appears that only a form of militarization, not the grass roots democratic-multitude (the first two taboos), can be a competitive alternative to global capitalism, as militarization “is another name for suspending the power of self-regulating economy.” (235) It is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, a temporary scaffolding to reach higher stages, “stages between capitalism and communism, but also between imperialism and the passage to socialism- such a “fetishism of the formal number of stages” is always symptomatic of a disavowed deadlock.”  Rather, “in a properly Hegelian way, we effectively reach the higher stage not when we overcome the lower stage but when we realize that what we have to get rid of is the very idea that there is a higher stage to follow what we are doing now and that the prospect of this higher stage can legitimize what we are doing now, in our lower stage. In short, the ‘lower stage’ is all we have and all we will ever get.” (235)

While breaking all these taboos, Jameson seems to fall short of touching the taboo of the state, “his traditional Marxist idea of dismantling the state apparatus” (235) In China, the Party acts as the open secret behind the government. It has no legal status, and yet the government is basically there to pass the laws and policies that the Party has already decided beforehand:

This brings us to the crucial idea of Jameson’s utopia: the rehabilitation of the old Leninist idea of dual power. Is what we find in today’s China not also an unexpected kind of dual power? Does the same not also hold for Stalinism? […] The standard characterization of Stalinist regimes as “bureaucratic socialism” is totally misleading and (self-) mystifying: it is the way the Stalinist regime itself perceives its problem, the cause of its failures and troubles- if there are not enough products in the stores, if authorities do not respond to people’s demands, etc., what is easier than to blame the “bureaucratic” attitude of indifference and petty arrogance? […] what Stalinist regimes really lacked was precisely an efficient “bureaucracy”: a depoliticized and competent administrative apparatus. In other words, the problem of Stalinism was not that it was too “statist,” implying the full identification of party and state, but, on the contrary, that party and state were forever kept at a distance. The reason was that Stalinism (and, in general, all communist attempts until low) was not really able to transform the basic functioning of the state apparatus, so the only way to keep it under control was to supplement state power with “illegal” party power. The only way to break out of this deadlock…here a new “seed of imagination” is desperately needed.

Spivak and Chatterjee (The Subaltern, The Governed)

Spivak: Can the Subaltern Speak

Spivak works with many concepts in this essay, but for our purposes lets build off of one, the concept of the subaltern. The subaltern is pulled from Gramsci’s Notebooks and it refers to any person or group who is low ranking in the grand scheme of society. In other words, the subaltern is that person who is suffering under the dominant hegemonic class, such that their basic rights of participation are denied. They are denied political activity, in other words. In Gramsci’s work the subaltern are specifically the workers and peasants under the Mussolini regime who are oppressed and discriminated upon. These groups and the subaltern in general is not unified and cannot be unified unless it organizes as a counter hegemony. A fundamental difference between Gramscian and Marxist analysis in the raising of class-consciousness and the construction of a new hegemony was the fact that Gramsci included peasants, whereas Marx (in Northern Europe) was convinced of their dwindling significance and the rise of the workers. This, according to El Habib Louai, is the connection between Indian historians and cultural theorists of the 1980s and Gramsci.

At the forefront is Ranajit Guha, who defines the subaltern as a name for the general element of subordination in South Asia, expressed in terms of class, caste, age, gender, etc (Louai, 2011). In the Indian context, the subaltern are the general population in contrast to the elite (be that it may the colonial elite or the localized native elite). More to the point, from the perspective of the historian rather than the political activism of Gramsci, to study the subaltern for Indian scholars, was to assess the role of the elite and to critique the elitist interpretations of that role (Guha, 1982; in Louai, 2011). The significance of what Guha was doing here as far as historiography goes cannot be understated. He and many others (particularly anthropologists, who were undergoing a reflexive turn) during this period were re-considering how history was written. This was because of their growing concern based on the assumption that Indian national history was controlled by colonial elitism or was being produced by nationalist-bourgeois elitists (also produced by British colonialism). The question then became, how do we get at, or get to the subaltern? This is the same as asking what is the history that is not the “accepted” history? Is such a history possible? We reside here at the use and abuse of discourse broadly construed. This takes us into the epistemological. This is where Spivak’s text comes into the discussion.

Spivak is interested in the epistemological structures that denote the parameters of our discourse. Like Guha, she is interested in how history is written and the extent to which a vast majority of the individuals in that history are left out, written out, written over, unvoiced, or given a voice. What is written about? For what reason is it written certain ways? We can take this further of course. What is the extent that we can write about this something? Without the knowledge of something or an exposure to it and therefore without the language for it, can it be discussed? Interesting here is what is done when we are exposed to something we have no words for. The abject comes to mind here, but other examples abound, particularly in the form of artistic development (eg: Duchamp’s urinal), or socio-cultural “abnormalities” (homosexuality as an example, if we witness the level of sophistication of discussion here in Korea compared with the US).

With Spivak however we are not in this potentially emancipatory space. She takes us to a question before the “What is to be done”, before the “What do we talk about”. Who is the “we”? Who is talking? Who or what are they talking about? The work of colonial historians as we have mentioned More importantly, if they are talking about a “who”, why doesn’t the “who” speak for itself? Can the subaltern speak? Spivak says no. A great deal of her reasons why the subaltern cannot speak, we have already touched upon above through Guha and Gramsci. However this claim that the subaltern cannot speak was met with great criticism. Spivak seems to have been trying to refuse the possibility of a subaltern voice, though her argument was more towards a recognition of how well buried the voice of the subaltern is given the historical discourse.

Half way through her text, Spivak finds herself trying to fully understand what the subaltern is and thereby finds herself raising an example of what might be one instead, women. Here she reflects on the status of Indian women by analyzing the sati practices of women under British colonial rule and comparing it with the Hindu policy. Under the British discourse in the colonial there was a writing of the individual freedom of sati women, the overarching analysis being one where the woman were forced into the practice. But under Hindu policy sati was understood to be a voluntary ritual. The conflict between these two positions produced two different discourses, which simply could not reconcile with one another. The British one, in Spivak’s words being: “white men are saving brown women from brown men,” while the other discourse being, “the woman actually wanted to die” (Spivak, 92). In either of these contradictory discourses however, the woman is totally without voice. In some respect, the next Chatterjee piece tries to reconcile this voicelessness through a more contemporary historical and ethnographic analysis.

Chatterjee: The Politics of the Governed

Chatterjee’s set up, his brief conceptual history of the world in the second chapter, is as follows. The French Revolution came from coming together of enlightened modernity and the universal political aspirations of citizenship. What came out of this was a formula: the identity of the people with the nation and the identity of the nation with the state (Chatterjee, 28). His claim is that the legitimacy of a modern state from this point onwards was grounded in the concept of popular sovereignty and indeed this is the beginning of democratic politics of today where all regimes today claim to rule on behalf of the people (ibid). Through the concept of this modern state, “the people” and the entire discourse of rights have become generalized within the very idea of the nation state, but there exists a massive gap between the advanced democratic nations of the west (where these concepts came from) and the rest of the world (where these concepts were applied). Moreover, and this gets to the crux of Chatterjee’s discussion, there was a particular framework of rights of and for those people in the modern state, these included the ideas of freedom and equality. We know all too well and could easily open up a massive discussion on this, but these two core concepts at the heart of the nation state, are constantly pulling at one another in opposite direction.* Because of the opposition of these two core concepts of the modern state, to further concepts were required to ameliorate the inevitable conflict. The French philosopher, Etienne Balibar, has labeled them simply, property and community (30). “Property” was meant to resolve the contradictions between freedom and equality from the perspective of the individual in relation to all other individuals, whereas with “community” the resolution was implied in regards to the level of the entire “fraternity” (ibid). The correlations to larger dimensions of political discourse that Chatterjee briefly makes here could be written as: resolutions of property are liberal, while resolutions of community are communitarian. In the third chapter he describes “property” as “the conceptual name of the regulation by law of relations between individuals in civil society” (74). “Community” on the other hand, is “conferred legitimacy within the domain of the modern state only in the form of the nation” such that, “[o]ther solidarities that could potentially come into conflict with the political community of the nation are subject to a great deal of suspicion” (75). In order for a modern nation state to properly operate then, we could more simply correspond “property” with the necessity of the legal and paralegal and “community” with the necessity for moral solidarity (74/75). At the heart of Chatterjee’s discussion is that these ideals of a modern state and its correlative, modern citizenship, required a very specific form of homogeneity (30). Put into terms we have discussed in the Spivak piece, the tension of equality and freedom with their twin operatives of property and community as they were realized in modern state “defined the conceptual parameters of political discourse of capital, proclaiming liberty and equality, could flourish” (30). Chatterjee’s use of “capital” here has many implications, but he is referring to the latter incarnations of a modern state with the rise of industrialization and capitalist practices, which in fact heightened the ideals of equality and freedom. Additionally equality and freedom got rid of a great deal of restrictions against individual mobility which were traditionally confined by birth and status, however the legal-political theory which unraveled in trying to reach these ideals separated the domain of Right (universal equal rights) from the actual domain of life of civil society (ibid). Again, rights of citizens were unrestricted by race, religion or class, but this did not mean that these distinctions were abolished in society, that is, they remained heterogeneous. The promise of universal equal rights coupled with this heterogeneity of course propelled the vast majority of struggles over the past two centuries based on social differences of race, religion, caste, class, and gender (ibid). Given this universalism promised in the domain of Right and the heterogeneity of the actual civil society, a whole new range and ordering of power relations came into play; entirely new methods of governance set out to resolve threats to its order. This birth of new modes of governance is familiar to us by now, but it’s worth examining a few points.

Taking us into the end of the colonial era and the beginning of the postcolonial period, in the West at least in the early 20th century, an entirely new distinction was made between citizens and populations. Here to be a “citizen” was/is to carry an ethical connotation of participation in the soverienty of the state, while “population” referred/refers to the domain of policy (34). Populations are wholly descriptive; there is no normativity involved. Populations are identifiable, classifiable and describable, and amendable through statistical technique, as Chatterjee explains. As we have learned from Foucault several decades ago, the implications just described in the use of the very concept of “population”, gives various institutions of the government or bodies of the government “a set of rationally manipulable instruments for reach large section of the inhabits of a country as the targets of their policies–economic, administrative, law or mobilization” (ibid). The shift then is away from a participatory politics of the citizen within the modern state, represented in the term “civil society”, toward a governmentalization of the state where state legitimacy is gained through a claim to provide for the well being of the population, a management of bodies, so to speak. The shift then is from politics to governance, from political representation to administration.

More substantially, in Asia and Africa, this chronological sequence was rather different, since under colonial regimes, these forms of governmentality actually predated the nation-state. Individuals in these countries were subjects, never exactly citizens since colonial rule never recognized a popular politics. Nevertheless these ideals, which we have already looked at, of the republican citizen and of citizenship guided the growing consciousness of colonized peoples and accompanied their historical movement and the very politics of their national liberation (37). In this well known story of a postcolonial state however Chatterjee adds an additional caveat: neither citizenship nor national liberation were every fully realized in postcolonial states because, without exception, “they were overtaken developmental state which promised to end poverty and backwardness by adopting appropriate polices of economic growth and social reform” and by deploying the latest governmental technologies which promoted the well-being of their populations” (ibid). In this governing of the population through technical strategies, all the old ethnographic concepts of classifying people and even in the using of the national languages (as we saw with Spivak) were used out of convenience and expediency.

Chatterjee’s long set up here returns us to Gramsci of last week and the loosely defined distinction between political society and civil society. It might be noted that the distinction is not only useful for India or other postcolonial states, but to all subalterns as we have defined them above. Civil society is connected with the nation-state, founded on popular sovereignty and granting equal rights to all citizens. This is politics, as we traditionally know it. Civil society is bourgeois society, inhabited by a small group of elites. Across the board even as colonial powers left or passed over their modes of governance to the people, a vast majority of those who held on to power were native individuals who had previously eased the governance by foreign powers (India and Korea are good examples of this). Point being, everyone is necessarily a member of civil society, but in practice, civil society and the benefits that come with access to it was and remains to be inhabited by only a small group. Chatterjee then refuses to give this term to everyone in society. In theory it should be an access point into political activity, but in practice it is not. What Chatterjee wants to call political society on the other hand, connects people to governmental agencies, which pursue modes of security and welfare to the population. More to the point, those subalterns who are being governed often have tenuous and ambiguous rights as citizens, yet they are not outside the state and therefore demand to be looked at by the state. In trying to discern the entanglement between clearly demarcated citizens and the subaltern Chatterjee is trying to bring out this space of political society. His question is, might this relationship between these subaltern and those who have a readily available access to civil society, require a different mode of politics?

His third chapter is a fuller discussion of how the politics of the dispossessed might be realized. Here Chatterjee returns us to that tension of freedom and equality and their correspondents, property and community. He builds towards his argument of how this kind of politics may look like first with an interesting discussion of a smallish religious group, but later in a discussion of the 100’s of thousands of squatters throughout the country. Going over the various success stories and the not so successful, his claim is that the subaltern (squatters here), must first find recognition as a population group, but more than that they must invest in a collective identity of moral content, they must, in other words, shoot for that (moral) community (57). Property on the other hand, as we have seen is the regulation of law of regulations between individuals and civil society. Pushing the subaltern further, refugees, landless people, day laborers, people below the poverty line, (and we can take this beyond Chatterjee’s context), aborigines, Native Americans, those registered as offenders, those registered with AIDS, women, etcetera etcetera—are all demographics categories of governmentality and it is on this ground of their governance, through these demographics, as opposed to through their rights as citizens, that they define their claims (59). These claims are always political and not limited to postcolonial states of course.* Returning us to Spivak’s question, “Can the subaltern speak?” Chatterjee ends this chapter on the quest for a mediator, someone who is capable of pursuing a persuasive politics of the governed, and someone who equally has certain access points to that civil society. The mediator must “succeed in mobilizing the population groups to produce a local political consensus that can effectively work against the distribution of power in society as a whole” (55). These individuals are meant to mediate between those who govern and those who are governed. Chatterjee briefly mention the significance of teachers in the Indian context here, but leaves us hanging toward the end of the chapter as he says they have lost a certain amount of “social capital” for this kind of mediation.