In his work, Ranciére delineates an understanding of the underlying structural mechanics of racism and xenophobia from a post-Marxist perspective. Primarily, the article concerns itself with the definition of the political in the post-Marxist era (or an era in which Marxist terms like proletarian are no longer used to define people), which he defines as the encounter between policy and emancipation (the definitions of which I will address below).
Ranciére concludes that the political is no longer concerned with the opposition between the universal and individual identity; but at the same time it has created a new kind of ‘other,’ in defining people not in terms of workers or proletarians, instead creating identity based on fear of the other. It is the alteration of these processes and their interpretations by (French) society that has led to the aforementioned xenophobia and racism.
Major terms defined in the text are:
1. The Political: Rancière attempts to define this throughout the article, but, broadly, it is the place where policy and emancipation meet. Or, the place where policy and emancipation collide, as he says: “I shall take the political to be the place where the verification of equality is obliged to turn into the handling of a wrong,” (59) because he claims that the two only meet in righting a wrong against emancipation.
2. Policy: Policy is governing, with community consent, guided by “distribution of shares” (58), which are akin to votes, and hierarchy of place.
3. Emancipation: It is a set of rules “guided by the supposition that everyone is equal” (58). Considered synonymous with ‘equality’–which Rancière equates with ‘emancipation. ‘ He goes on to call the process of emancipation, ‘politics.’ Ranciére further reveals how the enactments of the processes of equality/emancipation/politics consequentially lead to the process of subjectivization.
In calling emancipation politics, Ranciére was creating a buzzword. Politics has a fairly well established definition, which he was making slightly more confused by adding to it the ideas of emancipation.
Other buzzwords include subjectivization—which Ranciére uses to define the process of social disenfranchisement towards a group of individuals that fail to conform to pre-established social strata—as well as some well-worn terms with a Marxist ‘flavor’—such as discourse and paradigm.
Ranciére’s descriptions include the philosophical differences and social ramifications between universality and identity—and how the logical interaction among the concepts of politics, policy, self and ‘other’ both define and realize their roles in determining the fulfillment of emancipation. He identifies these concepts as processes or dynamic entities rather than as staid criteria.
The relationship between these key concepts is fairly clear. The political is comprised of policy and emancipation/politics. The political is the arena in which they meet, or “the place where the verification of equality is obliged to turn into the handling of a wrong” (59), as stated above. He uses these definitions to attempt to identify key problems in the political: those of fear, xenophobia, and the other.