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.