Democracy means the rule of the people, rule by ordinary people rather than by a privileged few. Political actors from Robespierre and Blanqui to Gramsci and Che recognized, in different ways, that genuine democracy can only apply in situations where the ‘will of the people’ becomes strong enough to over-power those few who might seek to exploit, oppress, or deceive them. As several recent political sequences across the world suggest, oligarchic resistance to popular power continues to reinforce the historic connection between democracy and revolution: although the notion of political will remains problematic and controversial (not least in Germany), this talk argued that analysis of what it entails remains the key to understanding both this connection and the defensive responses it so consistently provokes.
Peter Hallward teaches at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University London. He has written books on the French philosophers Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze, on postcolonial literature, and on contemporary Haitian politics. He is currently working on a book entitled The Will of the People, alongside brief studies of Rousseau, Blanqui and Marx.
The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series Constituting Wholes II, which seeked to re-examine the critical potential of notions of wholeness by exploring the double movement in constituting wholes. How are wholes and other forms of association differently constituted and how do they constitute their parts or elements? How can one maintain a critical position towards persistent wholes without making them inescapable and foreclosing the possibility of reducing violence and arriving at more benign forms of association? Conversely, how can one be attuned to heterogeneities and potentialities without participating in the reparation of existing structures of domination? Conceived within the framework of the multi-discipinary ICI Research Focus ‘Constituting Wholes’, the lecture series addressed and debated these and similar questions from a variety of perspectives.
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