Faith in the masses

Ever vigilant, dmf calls for historical analysis to warrant the « faith in the masses » that Rancière invokes and Levi Bryant espouses. I can only wholeheartedly agree to the need for such empirical research, while avowing my ignorance. I can however give my gloss on what this slogan could mean in a more speculative context.

Rancière is careful to put the question on the plane of virtual being, and talks in terms of capacity. He makes it an ethical maxim (egalitarianism) to have faith in the « capacity of the dominated » against the arrogant experts who believe in the « inequality of intelligences ». He makes it a political maxim (anti-authoritarianism) to have faith in the « capacity of the masses » against the power of the State and other institutions based on transcendence.  The question is one of how liberating change can take place. It involves taking a step back from the current actualisations of knowledge and power to see that a real change requires transforming the form of action and interaction.

Feyerabend  contrasts the guided exchange, where some basic framework is imposed by one side as the basis for all communication and action, to the open exchange, where the interaction is open-ended in its goals, beliefs, and means of communication. He gives as examples of the former a rationalist debate or a colonial incursion; and his examples of the latter a shamanistic initiation or the encounter of lovers. Levi gives the example of the analytic exchange (he limits this to « Lacanian analysis » as his actualisation of that spirit was Lacanian, but he would agree that not all Lacanians practice in this sense, and that many non-Lacanians do). I take it that Levi’s post No Fear is an example of faith in the masses within, that can be enacted not only in analysis but in other open exchanges including writing and friendship.

Faith is needed because as Deleuze, amongs many others, is quick to point out revolutions regularly are betrayed, analyses stagnate, friendships disappoint, our writing seems to us like so much shit and pretence. Deleuze cites this as one of the great dangers alongside fear, clarity, power: disappointment. Disappointment for Deleuze and Guattari is loss of faith, and our modern malady is loss of faith in this world. They realise that « we have so many reasons not to believe in the human world » (What is Philosophy, p75). That is where we need faith in this world, in the possibility for further movements and becomings, for open exchanges and transformative encounters. Faith is choosing a mode of life not based on the stratifications of hierarchy and mastery and domination, but on equality, openness and sharing. I chose to flee my country because I couldn’t stand the relations I was subjected to there. I chose to start a blog to express myself in my own name and to open up to dialogue. Both were based on acts of faith. Deleuze says faith in this world, this is my preferred refrain chanting in my head. Rancière says faith in the capacity of the masses, and I am willing to endorse that if we deterritorialise the concept of masses to bring it to describe the multiplicities in and around us and their unexperienced and unfulfilled capacities.

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4 commentaires pour Faith in the masses

  1. dmf dit :

    if one is talking some kind of raw potential than well enough but to be effective one needs discipline, know-how, and organization (which is what the historical case studies show), some kind of meritocracy/pragmatism is needed. I go back to Dewey on such matters because he was interested in trying to make such capacities for achievement (making differences that make a difference) as widely accessible as possible, but there is no wild (as in wild psychoanalysis) politics/ethos/Eros which one can tap into for public and sustainable works. This is why there is some value in discussing Dreyfus and co., despite their nostalgia, as capacities/attunements need to be developed, but need to be developed in off the page realms of mangled practices, resistances, and affordances. Even fearless speech is a matter of discipline as Foucault gestured towards. This is why folks like Paul Rabinow and Annemarie Mol are the turn to take after structuralism, back to the rough ground of direct/reflexive/dialogical engagements with/in concrete situations, if that isn’t a leap of faith in the potential of people I don’t know what is.


    • terenceblake dit :

      I think that the notion of « wild » psychoanalysis is I further example of what we have been talking about with respect to the marxists. Freud was officially against the « wild psychoanalysts » who were untrained, incompetent, and totally erratic in their technique and its results. However another sense of « wild » would be to describe those who practice out of another understanding of being entirely. I am thinking of thse who like Otto Gross, Wilhelm Reich, Carl Jung, who approached psychoanalysis from a very different world than Freud’s power politics and positivism. To Freud it must have seen like they were wild because refusing his theoretical and practical structures. Their « wildness » was in fact just as structured, but at least partially, this was an open structure, attentive to individuality, and favoring more equality. So there is no attempt to blindly trust in « raw potential », but to develop a skill that constantly adjusts discipline and singularity to each other. Equality as I understand it is an ethical principle and in no way means « anything goes » (untrained incompetence)nor « one solution treats all cases equally » (trained obedience to the party line of Oedipus). Deleuze and Guattari use the example of Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda to show that change is not produced by just nurturing and trusting in the « raw potential » of the changing subject. There is that, but there is also a series of uncanny and sometimes rough exchanges, violent reorganisations of perception and action, intense discipline and just as much tearing down as building up of structures.
      So I think we are in agreement, unless I’m missing something?


      • dmf dit :

        sounds better, but I think that Levi’s OOO/flat-ontology-radical-equality has some functional sense of being equal before God and doesn’t seem to suggest the need for expertise/response-abilities. The great reliance in our complex/interrelated times on experts is a challenge to populist notions of democracy but to deny the need is in some significant way to deny the complexity. Democracy is not out there on the streets/fringes/steppes waiting to storm the gates, we have yet to really get organized/disciplined/educated in ways which begin to match the circumstances in which we find ourselves and not everyone will be equal to the tasks so how to account for, manage, such differences will be vital.


      • dmf dit :

        ps one of these skills/response-abilities to be developed will not be (following Rorty’s Romantic polytheism) the priestly/prophetic discernment of the character/will of « true » spirits…


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