Jodi expresses some confusion with Rancière's idea that, as she puts it, "justification and legitimacy [of power] presuppose an underlying equality". Rancière seems to suggest that democracy, in a sense, rests on chance, since it is only chance that has one group ruling over another. This "chance" implies an underlying equality. I recall that Chomsky has said on numerous occasions that any kind of authority must be justified. It must be justified because there is no natural reason why, for example, you should have authority over me. This requirement that authority (or politics) be justified points to equality. She quotes Rancière:
[there is] no force that is imposed without having to justify itself, and hence without having to recognize the irreducibility of equality needed for inequality to function. From the moment obedience has to refer to a principle of legitimacy, from the moment it is necessary for there to be laws that are enforced qua laws and institutions embodying the common of the community, commanding must presuppose the equality of the one who commands and the one who is commanded. ... Inegalitarian society can only function thanks to a multitude of egalitarian relations.This makes some sense to me (that at base we are equal, and that, therefore, authority must be legitimized). I would add that even the most authoritarian rule relies on the consent of the governed. Jodi observes that this "equality" is "trivial" since it can serve to merely "cement" more "fundamental inequalities"--i.e., those inequalities that actually obtain in real life.
I'm getting ready to set out what I believe are some first principles about democracy, and some implications thereof. This kind of discussion helps. I may need to seek out some of Rancière's work, who I'm only now learning of for the first time. (Add him to the list!)
In the comments to Jodi's post, Amish Lovelock refers to a New Left Review article from last year by Peter Hallward, which examines Rancière's "radical egalitarian politics"; the piece apparently compares Rancière to Chomsky in this regard. Of course, the article is subscription-only, but this is from the end of the freely available snippet:
Against those who argue that only the appropriately educated or privileged are authorized to think and speak, Rancière’s most fundamental assumption is that everyone thinks. Everyone shares equal powers of speech and thought, and this ‘equality is not a goal to be attained but a point of departure, a supposition to be maintained in all circumstances.’I like this, and I think I may need to either subscribe to the NLR, or at least buy this article. In any event, this idea is one of central importance to my own conceptions of politics in general, and democracy in particular. I will be returning to this.