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.

10 comments:

DomPlav said...

Rancière's declaration of the "rights of the rightless" seems to be an accurate description of the status of the people of the world who find themselves being governed by one authority or another. Indeed, generally, we posess both potitical and human rights; however, realistically speaking, our human rights bear no rights whatsoever. I feel that they were just created to instill a sort of "political correctness", but have no real application of any kind - or if they DO have any type of application, it is such that these insignificant rights can be trampled over by the more important Political Rights. Political Rights are all that actually matter, but are created by the ruling powers of the state, and so can be seized or haulted by the state as well. The only rights we are given by the state are those that can do two things simultaniously: A) quiet the masses by "declaring" that we have rights - these rights are used as a pacifier for the masses. And B) these rights are created only insofar as they allow of the ruling state to remain in charge of the masses; no rights would be created which would interfere with the state's plans to govern. Not to mention, that the state always has the right to suspend the rights of anyone, at any time, so long as they call it "an emergency situation". So, certainly, the "rights" we are given are "the rights of the rightless".

M. said...

I do not think it any one person's authority to title what is the Right or the Wrong for people, let alone all peoples combined. Rights have undergone must turbulence over the course of man's existence, ranging from what rights men think different gods granted them, and didn't grant to others. So are rights just a traditional falsehood conceived by the natural man in its privity or from the early civil man in his deceit? Will anyone ever really truly be able to actual find the right answer to the question of who's right and wrong? If you look at it from a religious standpoint, different religions designate different things to be acceptable whereas other religions disagree entirely. (ex. alcohol consumption, or contraception) So who's god is the right one whose rights and wrongs are the correct ones? There is no answer to the question that we as mortal living being could ever comprehend, so we are merely left to ponder and speculate.

melaniewhite said...

It seems that historically, the rights given to a people are a reflection of the political body in which they live. The rights we posses as American citizens are meant to grant us our freedom and to treat us as we view to be culturally acceptable. However, the rights of another country or governing body become a gray area. When Ranciere refers to the right of "Humanitarian Aid" as more or less a means of justified invasion. Under this understanding of Humanitarian intervention, there must be (as Ranciere states) one universally accepted Wrong. Where that Wrong occurs, we invoke human rights. However, I think wrong is a cultural idea and as not all cultures are the same... who is to say that it is right for us to impose our rights on those who may not want our rights. Perhaps they want rights of their own, complete with wrongs of their own.

John McCooe said...

Human nature is a being of man in their natural state, in which society has formed around in order to protect their inalienable rights through civil rights. In order to punish in society, man must have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. When Ranciere talks about the "Wrong," he is implying that doing Wrong is a general part of human nature yet man needs to be punished because of their "Wrong" behavior otherwise man will turn to evil. With no control over what is and what is not accepted in society, any establishment which has been made will crumble and start to lose its funcion due to socities lack of consciousness.

Benny Macias said...

I believe Ranciere uses the Rights of Man to describe the identity of those who are right less. I believe, and correct me if I am wrong that the rights of man were the rights of those who had no say or political identity within their own nation. For those who did not posses rights perhaps this was the beginning of subjectivitization. The loss of civil rights was what ultimately leads to the creation of the Rights of Man; therefore it is only plausible to agree that if national identity was not important the creation of The Rights of Man would no longer need existence. Perhaps it is human nature that takes these individuals into consideration, but again what classifies a human? It is within the term human is what able to have "human nature", therefore I conclude the process of The Rights of Man is a complex system which includes the identity of not only what human is but what man is.

Cala said...

The main message that I got from this reading was that Ranciere was really trying to establish this Zone of Indiscernability that we have been talking about. This means that some people do not have any rights, which is not neccessarily a bad thing. This includes comatose people, children, and refugees. Here, Ranciere is specifically talking about refugees and immigrants because he says that people can only have a right through a nation, so they must belong to a certain state or country. I do not think that this is neccessarily fair, but it is true. When someone flees their country for another one, they can not really utilize their rights anymore. Politics is what ultimately decides who gets rights and what those rights are (this is what Ranciere argues anyways, and I agree with him.) Also, i found it interesting when he said that maybe natural man did not want any rights. I think that this may be true, there was a reason why natural man survived on simplicity. There was no politics, poverty, hunger, etc. so everyone just lived off of what they needed. Maybe it is important to remember this, especially when talking about how this dispute over human rights causes so much inequality.

Cala said...

The main message that I got from this reading was that Ranciere was really trying to establish this Zone of Indiscernability that we have been talking about. This means that some people do not have any rights, which is not neccessarily a bad thing. This includes comatose people, children, and refugees. Here, Ranciere is specifically talking about refugees and immigrants because he says that people can only have a right through a nation, so they must belong to a certain state or country. I do not think that this is neccessarily fair, but it is true. When someone flees their country for another one, they can not really utilize their rights anymore. Politics is what ultimately decides who gets rights and what those rights are (this is what Ranciere argues anyways, and I agree with him.) Also, i found it interesting when he said that maybe natural man did not want any rights. I think that this may be true, there was a reason why natural man survived on simplicity. There was no politics, poverty, hunger, etc. so everyone just lived off of what they needed. Maybe it is important to remember this, especially when talking about how this dispute over human rights causes so much inequality.

Jane Tsui said...

There was a lot of playing around with words in this reading, and I think the structure serves to tell how complicated the issue of rights is. I think the Rights of Man, in Ranciere’s view, is something constant that shouldn’t change with the people of the context, hence why something like government should uphold rather than create. Ranciere sees the qualifications of being in a democracy as not having civil rights, because the lack of civil rights shows what the government has to do in order to give those rights. He sees the qualifications as a motivation rather than something that acts on its own. I think that by capitalizing wrong, he wants people to develop a unified idea of wrong, and by questioning themselves they are actually being human.

julian saad said...

I am a bit on the border with Ranciere's explanation when he describe those who have suffered inhumane repression. On one account, humans do in fact inherit those rights when a weaker human is subject to inhumane opression. For examp,e there have been multiple cases where more powerful first world countries have assumed the rights of countries that are being taken advantage of. We have intervened in the middle east to "preserve the peace". But I find this hard to be true. There have been multiple cases in the world that we have not interviened in. After analyizing a case like rawanda versus the middle east i realize that it is something that concerns the US in the middle east. The control of oil. On the flipside rawanda posesses no resource to our benefit. To say the least we took a hands off approach. Rather than what ranciere said, those rights are assumed only when the actions of the more powerful country benefit them.

Carolina said...

This truly makes the reading more understandable. Ranciere was just one confusing man but i respect his work! I know comprehend why the "rights of the rightless" would be considered the rights of man. Think about it the rights of man has to be the rights that you have when you are not protected by law or society. We cannot think that because a person is rightless he is truly without protection. They might be missing civil protection but that doesn't mean they do not have something that protects them, whether it may be there own protection but they have it nonetheless. The rights of man become clear to an individual when they are stripped from their privileges in society. And to answer one of your questions, its not that they are not worthy of rights but that they did something to not deserve to be protected, at least as determined by the authorities, which doesn't allow them to have this privilege.