Hatred of Democracy by Jacques Rancière reviewed by Paulina Tambakaki

Although democracy has always been hated, the anti-democratic sentiments of today, warns Rancière, have taken a worrying turn. It is a worrying turn because alongside the discourse which deplores democracy for its limitlessness, for the atomism and unfettered consumerism of democratic society, there is another discourse which suggests that democracy is only good when spread abroad to defend the values of civilisation. For most of his book Rancière persuasively challenges this latest expression of anti-democratic sentiment, and he confidently argues that behind this new hatred of democracy are entrenched forms of domination, oligarchies of power and wealth, which no longer tolerate limitations to the growth of their authority. These oligarchies, he stresses, have inverted democracy as a term. By reducing it to mass individualist society, they charge democracy with social homogenisation - much like totalitarianism - and with collapsing government into the limitless demands of society. Rancière is not disillusioned about present-day democracy, to be sure, and yet for him democracy denotes something different. As the very principle of politics, democracy steers towards a redistribution of lots and an overthrowing of places in society. For Rancière it involves a struggle, a movement to displace limits, and he concludes that in resisting this movement present-day anti-democrats are erasing politics.