I had a thought today about egalitarianism and democracy with regard to Ranciere on this stuff. Ranciere argues, rightly, that we should be intellectually egalitarian: no minds are better than others, there are no permanent or inherent differences in kind among people that justify inegalitarian political arrangements.

On the other hand, in The Ignorant Schoolmaster Ranciere lays out what he terms a relationship between will and intellect, which relates to inter-personal or inter-subjective relationships. Each person has a will and an intellect. Intellects are not additive: I can’t think for you or add my intellect to yours. Each person must do their own thinking. Wills are additive, however. You can motivate me to think, to push harder, to reconsider, and so on. Teaching and intellectual comradeship, then, involves relationships between minds mediated by wills.

There are various ways this could be complicated or questioned or shown to be overly simplistic and schematic, but the basic point is true to my experiences in various roles in formal and informal education. In writing this post, though, I want to think about how Ranciere’s egalitarianism fits here.

As I remember it, and it’s been a while so maybe I recall it wrongly, Ranciere posits equality as related to the intellect. Equality is an intellectual relationship for Ranciere, though also political, and Ranciere understands and advocates for his version of equality through the category of intellect. It’s not clear and is not argued, however, why intellect should get the pride of place here. The relationship or types of relationships that Ranciere focuses on, as I said, involves two or more people and two qualities. Will gets secondary treatment in Ranciere (pardon the metaphor, but in Ranciere’s conceptual polity there seems to be a decided unequal relationship between those citizens intellect and will). If we consider all of this through Ranciere’s category of will, the relationships and practices he describes and advocates might look considerably less egalitarian.

Clearly people exercise power on each other in Ranciere, will is in part (but only in part) a category of the exercise of power between people. Ranciere insists, and I think this is part of the power and importance of his work, that intellects are equal. He does not, however, insist that wills are equal. It seems to me actually that a good deal of the conceptual work that will does actually implies that in Ranciere’s framework wills are unequal.

I need to get off the computer, so two questions to get back to later. First, does “egalitarian” imply “consensual”? Second, while Ranciere talks much about egalitarian and inegalitarian relationships understood through his category of intellect, what would egalitarian and inegalitarian relationships look like understood through his category of will?

Advertisements