Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zone of Indiscernibility

Hi guys, Im writing this blog because I wanted to get other opinions on what we discussed a little bit in class today; Ranciere’s “Zone of Indiscernibility."

First of all, lets talk vocab. When something is "indiscernable," it is difficult or impossible to perceive. So when Ranciere mentions this "Zone of Indiscernibility," he is simply making a category of things that he feels cannot be completely perceived. A few examples we had on the board today include: children, comatose patients, people with mental disorders, and immigrants. Some of these examples have a more obvious reason to be placed in Ranciere's zone, such as refugees. They flee their home country for safety, so it is hard to determine what rights, if any, apply to them (their rights are difficult to perceive). Children also have a fair reason to be placed in this category, as they do not have enough knowledge nor experience to make decisions on their own, therefore making their rights hard to be perceived as well. If a child commits a murder, are they tried as an adult or as a child? These thin lines are exactly what causes Ranciere's Zone of Indiscernibility.

I would like to know how all of you feel about the more difficult examples, such as comatose patients and people with mental disorders. In the case of comatose patients, you might want to reference Agamben on page 4 of Ranciere's Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man. Take note what he says about "sacred life."
Also, if you can think of any other subjects that should be placed in the Zone of Indiscernibility, feel free to mention those as well.


Thanks guys!!
(250 words)

Humanitarian Invasion - An Abuse of Power?

Having read Ranciere’s “Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man?” multiple times now, I find that fully comprehending the ideas and assertions of the essay is rather complex and confusing. Personally, I was completely hung up on the statement which Ranciere uses (albeit halfway through his essay) as the foundation for his arguments: “the Rights of Man are the rights of those who have not the rights that they have and have the rights they have not” (5). What? I had hoped that class today would clarify this but it seems to have baffled the majority of us. Ranciere explains that according to Arendt, rights are “Either a void or a tautology” (5). However, he believes there is a third assumption which is ignored in Arendt’s arguments and that is what brings us to the previously stated and extremely complicated sentence. Essentially, what comes out of his musings are two things: first, that rights are written inscriptions for society, and second that they are the rights of those who use and verify the validity of their rights.

Since Andrea already posted a very thorough blog on the arguments of Ranciere, I’d like to focus on the conclusion that Ranciere draws from his new third assumption. He traces the progression of the Rights of Man from being the rights of those with certain civic rights to becoming Human Rights and eventually the new right to “humanitarian interference.” By his account, Rights of Man were essentially the “rights of the rightless” (1), which lead to the obligation of society to uphold those rights for them. In modern, western society, humanitarian aide is generally considered one of the highest goods a person or nation can do. However, Ranciere uses curiously negative language in his description of this phenomenon and I wonder what he may be implying when he describes the right to humanitarian interference as “the right to invasion” (1)?

Historically, many wars have occurred over what seems to be Human Rights. World War II is best remembered for victory over Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The War in Iraq is said to have began in order to free the Iraqis from their tyrannical leader. The Civil War is remembered best as the war in which the Yankees freed the slaves. However, is this really why the wars began or have we simply started using this new right to humanitarian interference as an excuse for personal gain? In my opinion, nations have abused this new right as both an excuse to conquer and a way to rally its subjects. It seems that as a nation, we only act when we are either provoked or it is to our advantage. Because of this, defending the rights of the rightless has become the byproduct of something much less noble – invasion.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rights of the Rightless?

Those who trudged through the long reading of Rancière on “Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man”: Congratulations! In all seriousness, it was not an easy reading. Rancière takes a backwards approach to his essay by stating the conclusion first with, “And the Rights of Man turned out to be the rights of the rightless,” (297) and he slowly works forward with evidence from other philosophers.

What exactly is Rancière implying with the “rights of the rightless”? One of his stronger arguments was when he broke down his statement, “The Rights of Man are the rights of those who have not the rights that they have and have the rights that they have not,” (Rancière , 303). Confused? He clarifies his idea by stating that the two forms of existence—written rights and the rights of those who make something of the written rights—are brought together by the subject of rights. Bringing his ideas back to Arendt, he agrees with the German philosopher that humans only obtain rights through a nation. People are rightless until they are identified in a group in which rights are established and protected by a state. Therefore, the Rights of Man (assuming man in his natural state, without establishment) are actually the rights of humans who don’t have rights. A little wordy, but it seems plausible. However, because people are rightless, does that make them not worthy of rights? I think the term “rights” is thrown around too often. Rancière makes a point to say only citizens have rights, not natural man. Since rights are established within a community, they could vary from group to group. So perhaps being “rightless” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like the saying “you never know what you have until it’s gone,” maybe natural man isn’t compelled to seek equal rights because it’s not something he was seeking. A right doesn’t become a right until someone takes it away from another; only then is it a privelage to be treated a certain way.

Rancière goes on to talk about politics and democracy. He states that unlike many perceive it to be, democracy is not the power of poor. Instead, it is the power of the people who are powerless. It’s supplementary in politics. While I believe this is true—that democracy serves to try to spread the power amongst the citizens—I was confused about his stance on qualification. He says, “Democracy is the power of those who have no specific qualification for ruling, except the fact of having no qualification,” (Rancière, 305). I agree that you do not have to be qualified to have power in a democracy, but does that mean that each person is not “qualified” to have power? What exactly is this qualification; what traits does a person need to be qualified to have power? I do agree with Rancière’s opinion that politics separate the community. Politics divide humans into parts, whether it is between nations, political parties, opinions on issues, etc. By forming a community of people with different ideals, it is inevitable to have some sort of separation between opinions and ideas.

A part that caught my attention was Rancière’s view about Wrong. First off, by writing “Wrong” with a capitalized “W,” Rancière implies that there is only one collective unit that consists of all “wrong.” He says that rethinking Wrong is the key to Human Rights in a humanitarian circumstance. He then uses Lyotard’s concept of Inhuman to justify his thoughts. Lyotard says what we call “inhuman” behavior is, in fact, part of human nature. Humans act inhumane when they are betrayed by another Inhuman; it is an uncontrollable part of human nature. However, by using this example, is Rancière implying that certain “Wrongs” should be dismissed because sometimes a human’s reaction is part of the unconscious? In that case, how would Wrongs be regulated? How can someone distinguish Right from Wrong? While Rancière pretty accurately covers most topics on the Rights of Man, some points could have been clarified one step further.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blast to the Past? (Butler)

In Indefinite Detention, Butler uses the actions of the U.S government towards detainees as a platform to voice her concerns on “indefinite detention”. Here, it’s used to describe detainees held by the U.S who are denied even recognition and solid standards for convicting evidence and trials. She believes it doesn’t have a ground in law and is based on the judgment of a select few who determine the fate and lives of people. However, is it because that indefinite detention is based on people’s judgment that it is outside the sphere of law? Or is it the other way around? And is she implying that those who make heavily consequential decisions are dumb? Indefinite detention plays a constant role on detainees because in government policies because people’s definition of terrorism is limitless; people see terrorism in everything, and so their detention will never end. She shoots down the excuse that extreme measures are necessary in a state of emergency by pointing out that the definition of “state of emergency” is also indefinite, and that there is no set period for it. What I found interesting was the notion that indefinite detention “not only carries implications for when and where law will be suspended but for determining the limit and scope of legal jurisdiction itself”. (Butler 51). Is she saying that those who implement indefinite detention become the law or the sovereign?

Something that really confused me was the idea that getting rid of the traditional thought of sovereignty (as in how people got power through social status, etc.) would cause sovereignty to rise again as an “anachronism” (an error in chronology). My interpretation of this is that sovereignty could potentially rise again as something it wasn’t supposed to be, and so the new sovereignty would be a mistake. But does she mean an error in what was already past, and what counts as an error in time?

Butler beings up two forms of government power: sovereignty and governmentality. Governmentality cannot be reduced to law and “legitimizes the state” (as in it allows the state to do what it deems to those it governs). The state cannot exist without governmentality, and in order for governmentality to exist, the traditional sovereignty has to be dropped. So how do countries with sovereign-like governments survive today? And does she see a difference between the traditional sovereignty and the governmentality now? Because it’s the government now that is keeping the detainees from basic rights and living conditions that she believes everyone should have and that’s loosening the standards for evidence and trials. Could we be living in a monarchy right now without knowing it?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Run! The Stateless are coming!!


“Before this, what we must call a ‘human right’ today would have been thought of as a general characteristic of the human condition which no tyrant could take away” (Arendt 297). Aristotle thought of those people part of a political community as “political animals” (297). But what happens when the political is taken out of the term “political animal.” Those once considered “political animals” just become animals or what equivalent to a “savage” or stateless person who attains human rights by nature. Arendt presents a valid argument on the existence of human rights. It is hard to believe that a slave and a criminal in political society have more rights than an innocent refugee who abandons their nationality for their basic rights. Arendt brings about an interesting conclusion to the idea of the growth of a stateless people when she states “their ever-increasing numbers threaten our political life [and] our human artifice [similar to the way] wild elements of nature once threatened the existence of man-made cities and countrysides” (302).
If the stateless people one day grow to have a population almost as large as the amount in civil society, should civil society take those “just humans” back so that civilized society does not face any danger from the stateless community?
If yes, civilized society would be admitting the “savages” that were let go in the first place. It beats having a confrontation with the stateless society. Also, where do the stateless people go to live? They no longer have right to land or a nation to call home.
Would they live a life of travel like the gypsies who are constantly migrating or live somewhat like the Native Americans who have specific land granted to them by the government?