What is a Politics of the Rights of Man?

From Masses, Classes and Ideas, New York: Routledge, 1994. 205-226. The point of departure of this text is a lecture given in July 1991 at the Institut français of Santiago and the University of Playa Ancha in Valparaiso, Chile.

Etienne Balibar

For a long time now in politics we have been hearing about the rights of man, which is to say that politics and its diverse "subjects" have been _recalled_ to the rights of man, to their universal value and unconditional necessity. The rights of man have become, again, the absolute of political discourse.

But little or practically nothing is heard about the _politics of the rights of man_, no questioning of its conditions, its forms or its objectives.[1] Why this discretion? Either such a notion is considered to be self-evident, to pose no particular problems-the politics of the rights of man being, tautologically, nothing but a politics that draws its inspiration from them and that tries with more or less success to put them into effect everywhere. Or it is considered to be contradictory, for (since they are either its
absolute or its principle) the rights of man are always either beyond or above politics, in the technical or pragmatic sense of the word (in the sense in which, to speak like certain contemporary philosophers, politics (_la politique_) as it is conducted, or as we are subject to it, is not to be confused with the political (_le politique_) as it is instituted or theorized). Whether to deplore it or to [End of Page 205] congratulate oneself upon it, it will then be said, "there is no politics of the rights of man," "the rights of man are not a matter of politics."[2]

Nevertheless I suspect that things are a little less innocent and that, if so little is heard about the politics of the rights of man, it is
because, in a very precise conjuncture, such a notion would be embarrassing. It would quite simply bring out the contradiction and principal deficiency affecting the notion and the very being of the rights of man today. Is a discourse of recognition really what they in fact lack most, what maintains skepticism about their necessity and even causes them to be dismissed as illusory?
Is it not rather a politics of their own, not simply politics with a view toward their proclamation, but the very politics of their realization and implementation?

Perhaps there are conjunctural reasons for this state of affairs. The situation in which the problem is posed and the obstacles it raises before us would have to be examined from this point of view, and the history of the question itself rewritten. Has a politics of the rights of man _ever_ existed anywhere? Is it not, as is said, merely utopian, or rather can we see it at work, in a more or less pure, more or less effective, more or less repressed or fettered fashion, in certain times and certain places?

But it is also possible (and I will say from the outset that this is my own position) that beyond these conjunctural reasons there are intrinsic or, if one prefers, logical reasons. It is possible that the very _concept_ of a politics of the rights of man is so burdened with internal difficulties that its formulation, and accordingly its consistent, thoughtful application, is permanently running up against redoubtable aporias. Then one of our first tasks-a properly philosophical one, not to lose sight of the
difficulties of the conjuncture but the better to face up to them-would be to seek to elucidate and to lay out all of the uncertainties, enigmas, and _aporias_ of the politics of the rights of man.

This would probably be the only rigorous way to respond, without artificially closing it, and in a way that is itself authentically
political, to the question, "What is a politics of the rights of man?"

On the Conjuncture

A few words should still be said about the conjuncture. I will characterize it by a triple _after_: after the end of "totalitarianism," after the beginning of the crisis of the "welfare-state," after the "return" of war. But in reality each of these suggestive formulations calls out for detailed corrections. [End of Page 206]

After the end of totalitarianism. Not only, as was said during many years, is the crisis of the regimes that called themselves "actually existing socialism" irreversible, but their collapse is universal.

The point of no return had perhaps been reached by the beginning of the 1980s, probably even by the beginning of the 1970s, with the failure of what, in a superb formula, Regis Debray called "the revolution in the revolution," otherwise known as the great, mutually opposed movements of internal _political transformation_ of communism or of "actually existing socialism" (notably the "Prague Spring" and the Chinese "Cultural Revolution"). Thenceforth criticism could come only from the outside, or from reference to an exterior model. The combination of the dictatorial state, ideological imposture, and corruption and inefficiency in vital domains of the economy coud no longer but lead to the collapse of the "system." Still, this event is ambivalent for two reasons. First of all because, in putting an end to the negation of elementary rights and of the freedom without which there is no politics, it also ruins (for how long?) the idea or the imagination of an alternative to the order of "liberal" capitalist states. Second, because we may know, or think that we know, what it is destroying, but we do not know - and doubtless will not for some time - what it is constructing in the way of a "society" or a "state."

After the beginning of the crisis of the welfare-state. This diagnosis has become banal, it circulates in the public forum and has even become a major topic in debates among politicians. Yet here too there are reasons to raise questions about dates and particularly about what effects can be foreseen.

Does dating the point of no return of the "crisis of the welfare-state" from the 1970s mean that this was the point when we entered the beginning of the end of a certain system of social and economic equilibriums that went hand-in-hand with a certain distribution of powers? Or does it mark the "end of the beginning," the fact that capitalist societies have now acquired
the means to prevent economic fluctuations from turning into collapses, without, however, acquiring thereby the capacity to _cancel_ their social effects (instead they are displaced in time and space)?

As for these effects, there is every reason to think that they will be profoundly different in the "center" and on the "periphery" of the world-economy. The welfare-state, an elaborate and very unequal result of prosperity, social struggles and their institutional mediation, only ever existed in the "center." But while it is true that this crisis is accompanied by massive phenomena of disindustrialization and unemployment, accentuation of inequalities and "exclusion," "new poverty" and
regression of trade union- [End of Page 207] ism, which can always put what is called "social calm" back into question, it is doubtful that this will end up in the competition of each against all and limitless individualism. More likely, confronted with the "Third World" or the "South" (which will contain all or part of the former "socialist camp") ravaged by "deregulation,"
the rival but interdependent states of the "North" will doubtless seek a way to conserve or reconstruct a certain degree of economic planning, both public and private. Not only will they seek to improve the financial instruments that allow them to control conjunctures, but also to preserve the sufficient correlation between economic, social, scientific, and technical research
policies that is an essential condition of power. It is by no means certain that they will all succeed. If it is nevertheless true that the welfare-state was intrinsically a national and social state (national _because_ social, social _because_ national), one might wonder whether the evolution of its crisis will not lead to an accentuation of this imbrication of the national and the social, which would end up in the (minimally viable) paradox of societies that are economically "open" to the world, but
that are "closed" from the point of view of social rights and the organization of citizenship.

After the return of war. Finally, but this is in an entirely different form than the one that haunted us more or less intensely during the period of "cold war" and "balance of terror."

Whether we then adhered to scenarios of catastrophe founded on the extrapolation of the arms race and the hypothesis of the autonomization of its logic, or, without adopting this deterministic point of view, we were content to take note of and to fear the growing instability of the balance of power, we thought that war would "return" in a worldwide, nuclear form.[3] This eventuality has by no means purely and simply disappeared; the weapons are still there. But we have seen war return in other forms.

First, there was the "Gulf War." Projected at the beginning as a confrontation between two imperialisms - one "small" but no less to be feared (Iraq), and the other very big, in the course of becoming the sole "superpower" (the United States) - technology and the diplomatic impotence of other countries turned it into a gigantic "regrettable accident" by the "international police." Tens of thousands of men died, crushed in a few days under a concentration of weapons of extermination unrivaled since World War II and Vietnam, while public opinion was packaged by the control of televised images. Afterward the massacre continued for several weeks in Iraq itself as the victor and his allies looked on, on account of the arms left
to Saddam Hussein and the incitations to revolt that President Bush had heaped upon [End of Page 208] his opponents.

And now there is the resistible "ethnic" (or rather ethnico-religious) war currently turning Yugoslavia into a bloodbath, turning the "democratic transition" (or "transition to capitalism," according to the interpretation) into an unleashing of inexpiable community hatreds and a regression into a past that was believed to be definitively overcome, that had at least been repressed for fifty years. Europe looks on "powerless" (at least this is what we are told), except for fanning the flames with economic
intervention, "private" or "clandestine" arms shipments, and the speeches of some of its spiritual leaders. Atrocious in itself, this war cannot fail to have repercussions elsewhere: but what will they be? Will it constitute a terrible warning for neighboring countries, where the same conflicts are growing? Or will it signal the start of a whole series of "local" or "civil" wars?

These two events cannot be amalgamated: they do not stem exactly from the same process, even if they are both inscribed in the underside of the "new world order." Still, taken together, they force us to reflect. Much is heard of growing individual and collective insecurity in our "postindustrial" societies: a facile theme, perhaps already worn out. But is not the most important form of insecurity this violence, militarization, and finally,banalization of extermination that seems to be happening, making it even more difficult to tell the "zones" and "periods" of war and peace apart? This calls for yet another reflection: should we in fact be talking about the "return" of war? Did it ever go away? Are we not above all frightened by the fact that it has moved up another notch in its murderous efficiency, and by the fact that it has drawn nearer to us? I say _us_, this time, as an inhabitant and citizen of Europe: for you citizens of Latin America have been living for much longer with internal and external war, or near it. Is it not finally time to face up to the fact that, for decades, and notably in the "Third World," under the global constant of great strategic balance, extermination large and small never stopped? It is in any case no longer a question here of a _possible_ cataclysm but of _real_ war, and the question is to know how to go about living with it, and whether we will accept living with it. This is a major question for politics, a major question for the "rights of man."

Let us then leave aside, at least for the motnent, the conjuncture, and return to what I call the aporias or intrinsic difficulties of the very _concept_ of a politics of the rights of man. Many questions should be raised, all of which would require their own analyses, even if they have many points of contact. Today I only want to raise two of them, which seem particularly revelatory to me: the question of the _limits of democracy_, and, under the [End of Page 209] heading of a concrete illustration, the question of the _forms of property_, as an intrinsically political question.

The Limits of Democracy

Everyone can tell that such a formulation can cover several aspects of the political problem. There are, on one hand, _de facto limitations_, which weigh heavily. What are called democratic rights, that is, a set of civil liberties and individual and collective powers whose definition has been progressively developed since the origins of the political institution (in Greece and elsewhere), and which the universalist "revolutions" of the end of the eighteenth century "founded" precisely upon an absolute, "natural" notion of the rights of man - these democratic rights are more or less recognized and guaranteed in the framework of modern states. Let us say that they _fluctuate_ considerably (and dangerously) in space and time, that is, they are conquered, lost, and reconquered to a greater or lesser extent. Naturally there is nothing aleatory or spontanebus about this fluctuation; it is not a meteorological phenomenon. Here in Chile you are quite aware of this, having paid dearly for the knowledge.

There can be no doubt that one of the most important parts of the notion of a politics of the rights of man is the set of actions, forces, and forms - which it is difficult to describe other than as forms of struggle, even when this struggle is essentially peaceful - which work here to establish, there to re-establish, in their integrality, the respect of human persons and democratic rights, in opposition to their limitation or their suppression.Wherever dissidents are excluded from their work, imprisoned, and tortured,wherever political police (whether called the KGB or the DINA)[4] spy on, kidnap, and intimidate citizens, wherever poor children are shot on sight on street corners, wherever sexual, racial, and religious discrimination rule, the rights of man do not exist. And since resistance to these violations of the rights of man - which begins from individuals themselves but can only becollective - by definition forms a part of a politics of the rights of man, since this resistance never ends, we already have the first element of an answer to our question: the politics of the rights of man has always already begun, there is _always already_ a politics of the rights of man. And in this sense it is probable that there will always _still_ be one, be it only preventive: for we have learned to rid ourselves of the idea of anirresistible, irreversible progress of the rights of man through history.

But I am also thinking of other limits, which are not the ­_de facto_ limita-[End of Page 210]tions­ imposed upon a democracy whose requirements are perfectly well known if not always recognized, but which are the _boundaries_ of democracy, the borders of its unknown, that is, the limits that correspond to the question of just how far it can and ought to extend, and in what direction, to the question of just what happens when, in order to realize it or simply to confirm it or conserve it, it becomes necessary to go _to the limits­_ of democracy, intellectually and practically.

My argument is that the concept of a politics of the rights of man, in its specificity and with its own difficulties, begins to arise when, without leaving politics - on the contrary in the medium of politics and with its instruments (which are neither those of religion, ethics, science, nor economics) - we go to the very limits of democracy.

In truth this already originally characterizes the moment of the _Declaration of the Rights of Man_: as a publicity campaign, an act of making public without any real historical precedent, by which assembled individuals, taken as a representative "body," _publicly granted themselves their own rights_, it is an eminently political act. We should remember that, even if it has not always been valorized by political philosophy (for political philosophy since Plato has a strong tendency toward "aristocracy" if not oligarchy), the notion of democracy is considerably _older_ than that of the "rights of man." Democracy did not need such a foundation, such a notion, to begin to think and to organize itself, even if, retrospectively, we can read in Greek or classical definitions of democracy a concept of right and of justice that cannot be entirely reduced to a privilege, a status, the counterpart of collective obligations and civic duties, or the necessity of protection.[5] Nevertheless, when the "rights of man" are declared as such, one goes to the limits of democracy (thus one both goes beyond its simple organization and shows its conditions of possibility) precisely in that an essential limitlessness characteristic of democracy (which forms the whole difficulty of its institution) is expressed.[6]

And, what is perhaps even more significant, is that the rights of man cannot be declared without being stated and defined from the outset as the "_rights of man and of the citizen_." Now, the notion of the citizen, of the activity of the citizen - for the concept of a "passive citizen," however much currency it might have, is a contradiction in terms - indisputably connotes politics. It even gives it its name.

In other words a declaration of the rights of man and the citizen, _the_ declaration of the rights of man and the citizen (for in the strong sense there is only one, progressively elaborated in the course of history), is a radical discursive operation that deconstructs and reconstructs politics. It begins by taking democracy to its limits, in some sense _leaving_ the field of instituted politics (this is the primary significance of the references to "human nature" or natural law), but in order to mark, immediately, that the rights of man have no reality and no value except as political rights, rights of the citizen, and even as the unlimited right of all men to citizenship. The right to autonomy and to the protection of "private life" is itself a political right: this is the renewed lesson of the history of all modern dictatorships. Earlier I tried to characterize the "proposition" that underlies this operation as the "proposition of equaliberty," that is, as the proposition that affirms a universal right to political activity and recognition for every individual, in all the domains in which the problem of collectively organizing possession, power, and knowledge is posed. I will here restrict myself to emphasizing again the three following points:

I. Equaliberty means that politics is founded on the recognition that neither freedom nor equality can exist without the other, that is, that the suppression or even the limitation of one necessarily leads to the suppression or limitation of the other. This might appear to be self-evident, but we know that in given historical conditions the construction of social forms that are both egalitarian and libertarian does not go without saying; it is on the contrary a task that is always being begun again, it is _the_ political problem _par excellence_, and most often bristling with obstacles. Philosophically at least (thanks to Spinoza and to a few others) we know that what this implies is the necessity of moving from the point of view of limitative, mutually exclusive rights to expansive, mutually multiplying _powers_.[7]

2. Equaliberty implies universality: in this sense the democratic limitlessness of which we spoke above signifies that democracy is not only a constitutional state embodying equal - that is, uniform - rights, making no distinction of persons, conditions, or ranks among its own members, but also a historical process of the extension of rights to all humanity. We know, however, that historical states are instituted communities of interests and passions, that they therefore imply a principle of closure, if not exclusion (not to speak of the interior barriers or categorizations they bring with them). Here still, consequently, there is an intrinsic difficulty. A politics of the rights of man, in the wake of this already political act that is the _Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen_, is a politics of the universalization of rights (and not merely a morality, an ethics, or even a religion of their universality).

3. Equaliberty implies, as we said, a universal right _to politics_: a right of [End of Page 212] everyone _on his or her own behalf_ (which signifies, among other things, that no one can be liberated or emancipated by others, from "above," even were this "above" to be right itself, or the democratic state). This then is the right of every man and every woman to become the "subject" or agent of politics, setting out from the specific forms of his or her activity and life, from the old or new forms of constraint and subjection to which he or she is submitted. It is in this sense that, against a well-established tradition, I proposed that the famous rallying cry of the preamble of the rules of the International Association of Working Men (1864), "That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves,"[8] should be read as a faithful translation of the proposition of equaliberty, and consequently of the _Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen_.[9]

This signifies, quite concretely - and history for the last two hundred years has constantly taken it upon itself to show to just what extent the question touched a nerve - that rights-claims cannot be circumscribed to any pre-established domain. As a consequence no social category or "social question," that is, no conflict of powers or project of liberation inscribed in any social relation whatever, can be indefinitely excluded from politics. This has been clearly seen with slavery, with colonization, with the inequality of the sexes and the domination of women, with education and the access of all to culture, and with the exploitation of salaried labor, even if, in all these domains, the "revolutionaries" of the eighteenth century thought that they had erected prudent safeguards, and even if none of these questions can be considered to be definitively dealt with today, nor even completely accepted as political questions.

This is _a fortiori_ true of rights-claims that must eventually appear as claims of "rights of man" or that are in the course of doing so. For if the "rights of man" must, at a certain moment, be thought of as "natural," that is as unconditional or inalienable, this evidently does not mean that they have no historicity, nor even that their list has been set out once and for all, for this list depends on the history of the "natural conditions" within which social relations develop. For this is the very history of the practical discovery and enunciation of an _unconditional_ (or, if one prefers, of a truth) in the _given_, determinate conditions of politics.

Let us try to put these questions to the test of a more concrete question: that of property. I choose it intentionally, among other possibilities, on account of the paradoxical combination of relevance and irrelevance that it presents: profound irrelevance because, since the collapse of socialist states and parties, the "ideological" debates on the mode of property to be incor-[End of Page 213]porated into the structure of the state itself seem to have been decided "by history"; yet still profound relevance if it is true that, on all sides, practice is coming into contradiction with the traditionally taught definitions, to the point that it is becoming more and more difficult for politics to abstain from _thinking_ property as such.

What Is Property?

Coming after Rousseau, who saw in it the origin of inequality among men, Proudhon said that property was "theft." No one will be astonished in these conditions that he denounced as an absurdity that the _Declaration_ of 1789 placed it on the same plane as freedom, equality before the law, and security."[10] And we should recognize that there is indeed a problem here: in what sense is property a "right of man"? In what sense is it a "right of the citizen"? How is it to be explained that it has never ceased to have justice or equality claimed _against_ it (under the name of the right to existence, of the right to employment, more recently of the right to environment, etc.)?

Unless, beneath the homonym of the term property, there are really _two_ distinct notions at issue, corresponding to two different problems: on the one hand (art. 2), the "natural and imprescriptible right of man," on the other (art. 17), the "inviolable and sacred right" of which "no one can ... be deprived, except when public necessity ... obviously requires it." In the same way, for example, freedom is posed in articles 1 and 2 as a universal characteristic of persons (which has no need of being acquired), whereas its application to "the communication of thoughts and opinions" requires the principle of repression of "abuses" to be stated (art. 17 ). What remains unclear is why, foreseeing practical limitations on the right of property (or discovering exceptions to it, if not abuses), the _Declaration_ did not specify which property was at issue, what it concerned (certain goods or usufructs for example).[11] Is it a question of uncertainty, lack of foresight, even dissimulation or latent contradiction? Or is it a question, on the contrary, of a margin wisely left for adaptation to historical conditions, so that the identification of the citizen as "proprietor" does not thereby signify that citizenship should be measured by property? But is that not essentially what was to happen?

Nothing is more obvious than the fact that the debate on the forms, limits, and attribution of property, or, as Saint-Simon would say, on the difference between the "right of property" and the "law of property," is a political debate _par excellence_. For the last two centuries people have taken [End of Page 214] sides, "classed" themselves by attacking it or defending it.

Property then appears as both the object of contention that gives politics its maximum reality - its weight of social conflicts and interests - and as what permanently leads it back to its boundary and tends to make it go outside itself: both in the sense that it refers to "extra-political" (economic) constraints, and in the sense that it refers to naked power relations. For the stakes here to be those of the rights of man, however, it is sufficient that property appear as the very example of a _right_ that has been turned back into, or that always tends to turn back into a _privilege_, and that this "regression" coincides with the installation of politics in a social constitution for which the role played by the rights of man is only that of a symbolic, founding reference.

Already in 1789, property as inscribed under the heading of the rights of man has a counterpoint that is heavy with social conflicts: the question of the means of subsistence, and more fundamentally still, that of the _right to existence_.[12] To the extent that it is interpreted as an exclusive right, as a "private" property that in practice takes the form of a monopoly and whose instrument is money, it confers upon its holders an absolute power over the life of others, which at the limit can become a right of life and death. Between those whose living is provided by property and those whom it kills, a mediation becomes necessary. The debate is joined among those who affirm that the solution resides in an extra measure of power to be conferred to property, which would become the only title under which society could be governed, and the prior _condition_ of all other rights (and whoever has no money should get a job if he wants to eat!),[13] those who demand that a humanitarian or social counterpart (without which a right becomes precisely an abuse) be fixed, and finally, those who affirm not that the right of property must be abolished - for, let us note, none of the parties to the debate formulate such a demand [14] - but that it must be _subordinated_ to the right of the community, to the principle of egalitarian distribution of the means of existence that founds and guarantees the community.

But a decisive redirection is produced when, half a century later, the question of the right to existence is taken over and advanced by the right to employment. It is in fact at this moment that a veritable dilemma is introduced, prohibiting the two theses in the debate from _simultaneously_ claiming to be inspired by the "rights of man," or obliging them to declare themselves _for or against_ the very idea of a politics of the rights of man.

It is well known that the claim for the right to employment, if not the notion itself, is Fourierist in origin.[15] Fourier and his successors begin from the fact that the human existence of individuals (not only their subsistence [End of Page 215] but the exercise of their passions and the establishment of their mutual relations) henceforth depends upon their being "workers": they propose in sum to interpret the right to property as _the right to receive work_. It is thus crucial that, at the very least, the proprietors of capital cannot hire and fire at their pleasure, and ideally, that property be organized so as to guarantee permanently to all citizens the quantity and type of work that they need. At the limit the proprietors of _capital_ fulfill a "public service," in the service of the property _of all_. It is equally well known that, when the question, brought before the public forum by the Revolution of 1848, was debated in France as a political question, it was decided negatively.[16] Two paths were open from this point: either, from the liberal perspective, to make the rights of man in general the metaphysical guarantee of unconditional private property, which is practically equivalent to the absolute "command" of labor by capital; or to denounce in the very notion of the rights of man a bourgeois notion, a dass discourse - at best a mystification and at worst an instrument of exploitation. Whence the socialist project of "going beyond" the simple rights of individual man by abolishing "bourgeois" property, and instituting the collective property of the workers, the condition of their "free association."

In a sense this dialectic, historically determinant, is still only a negative, exterior dialectic, in which the rights of man are posed againstpolitics and politics in turn is posed against the rights of man. This is doubtless due to the fact that the notions and forces involved were from the beginning torn between a purely juridical conception and a purely economic conception of "property." Nevertheless, the real history of the relations between "private property" and the "collective worker" (Marx) did not remain in this standoff. Once the question of the right ­_to employment­ (au travail)_ (while waiting to be reopened by the socialist revolutions and their repercussions in the capitalist world)[17] was decided by the victory of the "bourgeois" thesis, there began a much more obscure, day-to-day history, made of advances and retreats, which is that of the rights _of labor (du travail)_. That is, by these arrangements, wrestled away in a hard-fought struggle, the worker-whose labor power has been bought and sold like a "commodity" - unable to be recognized as a "citizen in the enterprise," obtains the right not to be a slave, but to become a "man" again in the labor process itself (and in his life insofar as its conditions depend upon work). To the extent that this made the modern national state into a _social_ state, incorporating individual and collective "social rights" into its constitution, opening a space of collective negotiation and politico-economic debate, there was a practical recognition [End of Page 216] of the _citizenship of the worker_, or if one prefers, of the fact that the citizen as such is _also_ a worker. In any case the decisive point is that it was the national state that thus declared that modern ­ _citizenship is impossible without a regulation of the conditions in which the right of property is exercised_. At bottom, if one reflects with a bit of distance, it can be seen that this conflictual regulation or "new social contract," despite flagrant irregularities, characterizes _both_ the "liberal" and "collectivist" regimes. The former did not succeed in completely avoiding collective property (which they had to recreate as public property wherever they had tried to eliminate it) any more than the latter were able to eliminate private property (they had to legalize its persistence, at the risk of their own political crisis). Everywhere there tolled the hour of what could be called, deforming a Fourierist phrase, "composite property."

I will not linger any longer on this history, which is undergoing new episodes before our eyes, for what I want to get at is the following point: in reality liberal individualism and socialist collectivism have a common presupposition identifying property with the _unlimited disposal of goods_. (This is a simple relationship between men and things, or man and nature, which exactly illustrates what Marx calls "fetishism.") Whereas liberalism attributes this disposal to the "individual," socialism attributes it to "society," a collective subject that can be incarnated by the state or other institutions. But this interpretation is by no means implied by the actual text of the _Declaration_ of 1789 (whose astonishing theoretical power we must once again recognize). The _Declaration_ begins in a Lockean manner by posing a _generic_ right of property, which is certainly not of "collectivist" inspiration but is also not reducible to "private" property. The latter, by definition, only concerns the disposal of objects by an already given "subject," one constituted elsewhere. But the sense of the preliminary formulas of the _Declaration_ is precisely to define in its essential characteristics and thus to _constitute_ this "subject," this citizen-man.[18] "Imprescriptible" property is one of these essential characteristics: which means that the idea of a citizen-man who is a "non proprietor," "devoid of property," or dispossessed would be a contradiction in terms. It is obviously necessary that this property not be empty, that it have, as Hegel would say, an "actuality," that is, that it concern goods or services, means of labor, objects of consumption and enjoyment. But even before the appropriation of things has been determined in this way, before it has been decided whether it is to be exercised in a private or collective fashion, it thus appears as the condition of a _property of oneself_, of a free disposal of one's forces and of their employment. Only such a notion of property, _yet to be determined_ - just as freedom, equality, resistance to oppression and security are to be determined in their means and juridical modalities - would truly be part of the system of the rights of man. We can then (and this is doubtless what current circumstances themselves oblige us to do) _reopen the dialectic of property_, this time as an _internal_ dialectic: not in order to suppress its contradictions, but to generalize them and set them in motion - and this in several ways. First of all we can put back into question the general identification of private property and individual property - and as a consequence dissolve their undifferentiated opposition to "collective" property, whether it be state property or not. This identification is properly speaking a fiction, that is a efficacious juridical construction, which allows all exclusive disposal to be referred to an ideal "individual." But the real functioning of this category is exactly the inverse of what is suggested by legal ideology: it is not proprietors who by nature are individuals or groups of individuals, it is individuals whc among others, fall under the exclusive, limitative category of "private proprietor," and who on this condition can exclusively appropriate such and such an object, such and such a right or power. From this point of view collective property and particularly state property - except precisely when it is associated to obligations, to the goals and constraints of "public service" - is in itself nothing but _private_ property (what I would hazard to call _collective private_ property). And the conflict that can oppose it to the properties of "private persons" is only a conflict between competing exclusivities. In both cases one can witness the _expropriation_ of individuals in th very forms of the triumph of "property" (which is, as Marx had seen, the inevitable tendency of societies founded upon the exploitation of labor).

The constitutive link between the property _of things_ and the property _of oneself_ is a double-sided activity by which a subject "forms" or constitute itself by engaging in relations of use, transformation, or enjoyment with natural as well as cultural objects. Combining the lessons of Adam Smith and Hegel, Marx saw that this activity, as such, is a "social relation," that is, that it is a possibility for each individual to the very extent that, in diverse degrees, it is shared with others - _common_ to several individuals or to several groups of individuals (which does not mean that it is without conflict, competition or antagonism). He further showed that this activity turns around into its opposite, from a movement of appropriation into a movement of expropriation, when private property abolishes this transindividual aspect or places it beyond the reach of individuals (when, fo instance, the "collective powers" of labor, including its powers of decision [End of Page 218] and organization, are entirely attributed to capital, and the necessities of their own organization are "thrown back" on the workers as pure exterior compulsion).[19] But there too the "solution" cannot consist in formal collectivization, which only displaces and at the limit reinforces this separation.

Marx, the virulent critic of the _ideology_ of "the rights of man," is exactly in the line of a _politics_ of the rights of man when, carefully guarding against positing the thesis of a simple reversal of private property into collective property, he defines the "expropriation of the expropriators" as the _re-establishment of individual property_ in general"on the basis" of the "socialization" historically realized by the capitalist mode of production.[20] But for Marx - faithful in this regard to the theoretical tradition of socialist ideology and its critique of alienated labor - the only activity that realizes the double appropriation of oneself and of things is precisely productive labor. We have since learned to recognize alienation in consumption and even alienation in enjoyment.... And from the experience of an _expropriation_ of individuals in the object of their consumption or their enjoyment we can deduce the concept of a corresponding _appropriation_. It would then be necessary, in this perspective, to think a generalized appropriation that includes all the forms of the relation of the "self" to "things" (and of the relation to "others" by the intermediary of things) insofar as it is expressed in a property. Doubtless such an appropriation goes beyond the juridical framework and can only be realized as the institution of a _way of life_, posing the limits of the respective shares of the public and the private, of work and nonwork, of individual and collective consumption. As such, this is precisely what can be called a frontier (to be explored) of politics.

But the dialectic of property must be reopened in yet another fashion. Even when a compromise has been sought to regulate it, the conflict between the cause of private property and the cause of public property, or between the "right of property" and the "right to employment" has always been conceived of in _dualist_ terms, as if this were the only possible alternative. It has thus been forgotten that the very terms of the opposition presuppose an arbitrary decision: that every object, every raw or refined material, every natural or artificial (or even immaterial) "thing" is effectively appropriable (whether by an individual or an institution) in the form of an exclusive disposal. And despite some difficult cases - paradoxical "exceptions" - what can be called the _principle of total possession_ of objects[21] has reigned unchallenged, and has appeared as the corollary of the constitution of individuals as free proprietors, of their realization inand by property. [End of Page 219]

Ever since old theological or theologico-political notions such as the "eminent domain" of God or of the sovereign over the entire earth have lost all significance, what has posed problems (and is today undergoing new developments) has above all been the possibility of extending the application of this principle of total possession to the human person itself, particularly when the human body, the use of its services and its capacities enters into commodity circulation. But the question was never again posed whether the principle of total possession brings with it intrinsic limits, that is, whether there are not "objects" that, by nature, cannot be appropriated, or more precisely that can be appropriated but _not totally possessed_. But this is in fact the question that arises today in the center of the aporias of property, and whose repercussions point up its intrinsically political character, in such a way that also makes clear, retrospectively, that it had always existed but had been repressed or marginalized.[22]

This question first arises _negatively_, by way of "ecology" in the broad sense, that is by the recognition of the harms that turn the "productive" balance sheet of human labor into a "destructive" one, and that suddenly make manifest that the use of nature is submitted to practically no law. By "nature" should be understood here precisely all the nonpossessable materials that are nonetheless an indispensable component of all "production," all "consumption," and all "enjoyment:" Their existence is only noticed when they are lacking (by the potential or ongoing exhaustion of certain fundamental "resources"), or when they are transformed into waste that cannot be eliminated, or when they produce effects capable of endangering the life of individuals and of humanity, which can be neither controlled nor repaired by the owners of their "causes," even when these owners are superpowers or multinational conglomerates with a worldwide reach.... There then arises the necessity to institute, and, first of all, to conceive of a control on the use of certain resources or certain "universal" goods, and to give it a juridical foundation in a notion likethe "common heritage of mankind."[23]

But what is this notion if not _the return of eminent domain_, the only difference being that it no longer has a theological foundation, that it is no longer attributed to a person transcending the laws and the life of the polity but is constituted in a secular or immanent mode by the presumed agreement of men themselves. The common heritage of mankind is thus exactly the other of money, what could be called, to parody Marx, the "general nonequivalent": neither private property nor public or collective property,but universal property, "without a subject," or without any subject but the fiction [End of Page 220] of a unified humanity,[24] a fiction that is perfectly _real_ from the moment that it becomes the condition of any appropriation and is translated by restrictive limitations placed upon private or public property as exclusive right of disposal. Universal property in this sense is thus by no means a suppression of the "right of property" in the name of external ethical, economic, or political principles. Nevertheless, far from representing an enlarged application of the principle of total possession, it on the contrary marks its limit, the impossibility of subsuming everything under the right of exclusive property. It has nothing in common with a public appropriation, a national or supernational state property in whose terms a "social" power would _exclusively_ dispose of certain goods. It would rather represent the form in which property would become once again virtually "imprescriptible" for"man," taken both individually and collectively.

This is the negative aspect. But we should note that it is a _self-limitation_ of property that is at issue, and this can only result from social power relations and their institutional mediation: it thus immediately has a positive aspect. Moreover, it is indeed property, a moment of the appropriation of things, that is at issue; but this property consists in a regulation of men's activity upon "nature" - better yet, it consists in the reciprocal control of the collective activity of men (or of human groups) on nature. The real content of the universal property of nature is nothing but a _universal_ politics of mediation of the interests and ends of public and private property. And more and more it appears that it cannot be enacted by unilateral or authoritarian means. It at least potentially includes a new political practice, democracy's crossing of a frontier (and of many borders), since it cannot exist without the participation or contribution of _all_ "proprietors," even the poorest and most oppressed.

I have discussed at some length this point, which touches on debates, but, without developing it fully for itself, I want at least to point to the other approach by which the virtual recognition of universal property is occurring today: namely, the effects of the "mechanization of intelligence," indissociable from the universalization of means of communication. In reality intellectual activity, or better the _intellectual aspect_ of human activities, which accompanies all technology and all culture, has alwaysbeen in a contradictory relation to private property. All appropriation presupposes an intellectual activity, in that it occurs through learning rules, knowing techniques, exchanging information, etc. But the "material" of this activity (whether it be called "ideas," "consciousness," "knowledge," or "discourse") is as such transindividual: it escapes exclusive property, or at least it always [End of Page 221] bears with it a non-exclusive remainder. At the limit the concept of an "exclusive knowledge," of a public or private _monopoly_ of knowledge, is a contradiction in terms.[25] This obstacle to possession can nonetheless be turned in different ways, which are as much tied to relations of domination as they are to technical inventions: what then become objects of property are the instruments of this activity or of its communication (radio and television networks, newspapers, publishing houses, but also schools, libraries, research centers, even typewriters...) and its products (submitted to the system of copyright or public distribution). But techniques of assistance to thought and of global communication in "real time" are on the way to making most of these instruments inoperative. They too create an increasing quantity of _that which cannot be possessed or mastered_, which does not put an end to appropriation but becomes its condition. Data and methods are irresistibly "disseminated"; the "paternity" of the results of scientific and technological research can no longer be defined in an exclusive fashion - neither can, as a consequence, the property of objects that incorporate an ever greater amount of crystallized knowledge. Different individuals can experience this situation, which puts back into question what Paul Henry called the "postulate of the individuality of the thought process,"[26] as either a dispossession or a liberation. The great collective proprietors (firms, states) regard it as a threat, which is why they are trying to control its effects by reintroducing monopolistic and secretive practices, combined with practices of exclusive training and development of employee "loyalty" for individuals who are the bearers of knowledge or the agents of its utilization and transmission, etc.

As can be seen again here, the problem is purely political: in order to _possess_ it is necessary to _know_, but in order to know it is necessary to be integrated in cosmopolitan institutions that are less and less "separable" (as Aristotle would have said) from the networks of the communicative machine, and that are riven by tensions between compartmentalization and openness, authoritarianism and democratization. It then becomes impossible in practice, and more and more difficult even to conceive of in theory, to pose on one side a right of property that would deal only with things, or with the individual concerned with the "administration of things" (with the _societas rerum_ of the jurists of antiquity), and on the other side a sphere of the _vita activa_ (Hannah Arendt) that would be the sphere of "man's power over man" and man's obligations toward man, of the formation of "public opinion," and of the conflict of ideologies. Property (_dominium_) reenters domination (_imperium_). The administration of things re-enters the [End of Page 222] government of men (if it had ever left it). And the _form_ in which the "intellectual property of mankind" is instituted, controlled, distributed, and developed becomes the condition of each social group's temporary, local disposition of its objects and products. Let there be no misunderstanding: the appearance of universal property, in its different forms, does not in any way put an end to the existing forms of property among which, since the beginning of the modern era, possessable objects have been divided. Nor does it put an end to the political antagonisms surrounding property that polarize social life when private property's successive _opposites_ are affirmed against it: the right to existence and the right to employment, as a condition of their effectiveness, call for all or part of the right of property to be transferred to the state. What these antagonisms show is that _all_ "property law," which divides property into public and private domains and thus regulates the hierarchical relation between property, labor, social security, and environment in a determinate fashion, is based on a determinate distribution of power. What the current debates on the common heritage of mankind or on monopolies of data (and technology) show, on the contrary, are the intrinsic limits of the principle of total possession. And what they bring forth as a repercussion is a "generic" notion of property, which fundamentally, in the totality of its conditions, remains a transindividual process. Whatever the mechanism of appropriation may be, individual or collective, there is thus _always already politics_ in the division into or mediation between the different forms of property, none of which can eliminate the others. And in a certain sense politics itself is nothing but the permanent mediation between these different forms, private and public, exclusive and non-exclusive.

This _becoming-political_ of property, without which it could not truly be considered to be a "right of man" (because it would never imply a "right of the citizen"), has already begun when its distribution appears as the key to the distribution of the means of existence and of labor itself (since the latter is not only a means of existence, but also a means of conquering personal dignity, or "independence," and thus getting out of a state of social "tutelage"). It is affirmed when a concept of "universal property," by imposing limits on the principle of total possession, opens up on active citizenship as the condition of the effective appropriation of nature.

Still, as long as such a concept is only perceived negatively, as a symptom of impotence (unless by inversion it is projected into a new mysticism of nature-which seems to be the danger of some current ecological doctrines), it is not only of blockage, conflict, or antagonism but of a veritable [End of Page 223] aporia of politics that we must speak. And we cannot say today that we have found our way out of this aporia: we can only say that it imposes itself upon us, so that if it is ignored-that is, if it is repressed-there is no more politics.

...Perhaps it can now be seen more clearly in what sense I thought I could say that the very definition of the rights of man, which determines their politics, cannot be abstracted from a history, which in a sense is the very history of "human nature," or, if another vocabulary is preferred, "social relations:" In reality the only vocabulary that is truly proper here is that of politics. This is why I will summarize by saying that a politics of the rights of man goes to the limits of democracy and takes democracy to its limits to the extent that it can never be content to conquer or to provide a juridical guarantee for civil and civic rights, however important these objectives may be, but must necessarily, in order to attain them at a given historical moment, extend the rights of man and eventually _invent_ them as rights of the citizen (which implies conceptualizing them, declaring them, and imposing them).

This operation of inventing rights, or of continually setting their history back into motion, without which the concept of a politics of the rights of man in the strong sense is meaningless, is by definition a _risky_ operation. It brings with it an intellectual risk, but also a practical, even existential one. It always supposes, whether one likes it or not, that an existing social order is put into question, even if it be the democratic and juridical order of a constitutional state that, within certain limits and within a certain field, institutes freedom and equality. We must not fear to employ the term once again: it supposes an insurrectional act, in the sense in which insurrection (which is more than revolt and anything but rebellion) is opposed to the stability of a constitution, and yet prepares and founds it. In insurrection, be it controlled, be it nonviolent, what is at stake is the necessity and the risk not only of popular _sovereignty_ but above all, once again, of popular _power_. This is in the end the aporia, or in any case the difficulty, of the politics of the rights of man: the risky putting into the balance of the power that makes and unmakes constitutional orders through the invention of new rights, or the extension of rights, at the limits of democracy. It is the risk that arises once it has become clear that a simple _adaptation of rights_ to the "evolutions of society" (evolutions of the market, of technology and productive forces, of morals, beliefs, etc.) is impossible. It is the risk of collective error, with [End of Page 224] infinitely greater consequences than those of any individual error whatsoever. It is the risk of having to confront the multiform violence of an established order "defending" itself and, what is doubtless even more difficult, of having to confront the consequences and the effects upon oneself of a "counterviolence," in which so many revolutionary endeavors have been lost (which means that they have tragically been both infinitely close and infinitely far from a politics of the rights of man). But it is the risk without which every right, even the right of peoples to existence, security, and prosperity, can be irremediably lost.[27]


[1] Among the notable exceptions it is obviously necessary to cite Claude Lefort, "Politics and Human Rights," in _The Political Forms of Modern Society, ed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1986),

[2] Marcel Gauchet, _La Révolutionn des droits de l'homme_ (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), xxv: "the imperative of the rights of man has been _definitively_ dissociated from political forms" (emphasis added).

[3] Cf. E.P. Thompson et al., _Exterminism and Cold War_ (London: Verso, 1982), including my own contribution to the debate of 1981-1982, "'The Long March for Peace," 135-52).

[4] [Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia, the Chilean secret police from 1974 to 1977. - Translators note.]

[5] Cf. lmmmanuel Terray, _La politique dans la caverne_ (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1990).

[6] I can only agree with Claude Lefort's formulations on this fundamental point: the rights of man "go beyond any particular formulation which has been given of them; and this means that their formulation contains the demand for their reformulation, or that acquired rights are necessarily called upon to support new rights....Tfhe democratic state goes beyond the
limits traditionally assigned to the _état de droit_. It tests out rights which have not yet been incorporated in it ..." ("Politics and Human Rights," 258).

[7] Cf. Etienne Balibar, _Spinoza et la politique_ (Paris: P.U.F., 1985); Antonio Negri, _The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics_, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

[8] Karl Marx, "Provisional Rules of the International Association of Working Men" (1864), in _The First Interrtnliortal and After_, ed. David Fernbach (New York: Vintage, 1974), 82.

[9] Cf. also Jacques Rancière, "Les usages de la democratic," in _Aux boids du politique_ (Paris: Osiris, 1990), 62: "Thus is defined a labor of equality that can never be simply a demand made or a pressure exerted upon the other, but must always be, at the same time, a proof given to oneself. This is what _emancipation_ means. Emancipation is leaving a tutelage. But no one leaves a social tutelage except by him or herself. ..." It would be interesting to discuss this reversal of the etymological signification of the term emancipation (which comes from Roman law). Cf. also, as far as women (before the workers) are concerned, Elisabeth G. Sledziewski, "Revolution française: le tournant," in _Histoire des femmes ert occident_, ed.
George Duby and Michèle Perrot (Paris: Pion, 1991), 4:49: "integrating female citizens into the political body makes them decision-makers, active subjects of the revolution on a level with men: a hypothesis that many find unbearable at the time. On the other hand the idea of men making civil laws that emancipate women is more reassuring, since women then remain in the
position of objects. ..."

[10] Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, _What Is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government_ (1840), trans. Benjamin R. Trucker (New York: Dover, 1970), 44-53.

[11] It is precisely on this path that, each in its own way and motivated by divergent intentions, the declarations of Year I (1793) and Year III (1795) set out, immediately bringing into play the notions of goods, revenues, labor, industry, service, employment, production, social order....

[12] Cf. Florence Gauthier, _Triomphe et mort du droit naturel en Révolution_ 1789-1795-1802 (Paris: P.U.F., 1992), which in particular recalls how, beginning in 1789, the proclamation of martial law is associated with the defense of economic freedom against popular claims for subsistence goods. On the opposite side, faced with the "new despotism" of the rich, Robespierre gives "the first theorization of the natural universal right to existence, and explodes the contradiction between political freedom and the natural right of private property in material goods.... (He) clearly exposes the way that proprietors put themselves in contradiction with the _Declaration_-Constitution by restraining _the general idea of property_ to material goods alone (...):" Cf. also E. P. Thompson et al., _La guerre du blé au XVllle siècle. La critique populaire contre le libéralisme économique au XVIIIe siècle_ (Paris: Editions de la passion, 1988).

[13] This is why the ethico-political legitimacy of pure liberalism is entirely dependent on the postulate that every individual will always be able to live from his or her work.

[14] Cf. Albert Soboul, "Utopie et Révolution française," in _Histoire générale du socialisme_, ed. J. Droz (Paris: RUE, 1972), 1:195-254.

[15] Babeuf had already spoken of a "right to employment:" See Viktor Moiseevich Dalin, _Gracchus Babeuf à la veille et pendant la Révolution Française 1785-1794_ (Moscow: Progress, 1987), 281 ff. In Fourier see in particular the _Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées générales_ (1808), ed. S. Debout (Paris: J.-J. Pauvert, 1967), 219: "1 will limit myself to indicating the subject that would have to be discussed, the right to employment. I have no intention of entering a debate on these daydreams ofa renewed Greece, on these entirely ridiculous rights of man. After the revolutions that their reign has caused us, will it be believed that we are headed for new troubles, for having forgotten the first and only useful one ofthese rights: the right to employment, which our politicians, following their habit of omitting the primordial questions of each branch of study, never mention.... '

[16] See the text of the debate of 11 and 13 September 1848 at the National Assembly in _Ainsi parlait la France: Les heures chaudes de l'Assembée Nationale-, ed. Jean-François Kahn (Paris: Editions Jean-Claude Simoën, 1978).

[17] It is well known that, surrounded by diverse qualifications, the right to employment is symbolically inscribed in the preamble to the French Constitution of 1946 (confirmed in 1958), as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 7948. Considered as the counterpart of the duty to work, it obviously formed one of the pillars of the successive Soviet constitutions.

[18] The confrontation with the French Civil Code of 1804 is instructive:"Property is the right to enjoy and to dispose of things in the most absolute fashion, provided that a use prohibited by laws or regulations is not made of them" (art. 544). Read, on this point, the brilliant commentary by Elisabeth G. Sledziewski, who emphasizes the distance between this "Roman" formula and the text of 1789, concluding that the major function of properly bourgeois "individualism" (that of the Civil Code) is to "economize on politics by applying 'state power' directly to the treatment of individual interests" (_Révolutions du sujet_ [ Paris: Meridiens-Klincksieck, 1989], 49-59).

[19] At the heart of the expropriation of workers (better: of individuals _qua_ workers), there is thus the division of "manual labor" and "intellectual labor" in its different forms and with all its conditions: inequalities of formation, parcelling of tasks, prohibition of "horizontal" communication. This, by contrast, points up the organic function filled by intellectual activity in all effective appropriation, thus in property itself.

[20] Cf. Karl Marx, _Capital_, vol. I, trans. Ben Nowkes (New York:
Vintage, 1977), 927-30.

[21] Or of total _taking possession_: _Besitznahme_ in German. Hegel distinguishes between possession (_Besitz_) or taking possession, and property (_Eigentum_), but he establishes a strict correlation between the two, making property the juridical, that is, "objective" form of subjective possession. See G. W. N. Hegel, _Elements of the Philosophy of Right_ §45, ed. Allen W. Wood, trans. H.B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 76-77: "To have even external power over something (_in meiner selbst aeusseren Gewalt_) constitutes possession, just as the particularcircumstance that I make something my own (_zu dem Meinigem mache_) out of natural need, drive, and arbitrary will is the particular interest of possession (_das besondere Interesse des Besitzes_). But the circumstance that I, as free will, am an object (_gegenständlich_) to myself in what I possess and only become an actual will by this means constitutes the genuine and rightful element in possession, the determination of property." Marx on the other hand, in _Capital_, takes up the same concepts while inverting their positions, which allows him to think possession as a "social relation" of appropriation. Cf. Etienne Balibar, "On the Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism," in Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, _Reading Capital_, trans. Ben ßrewster (London: Verso, 1979), 226-33; and, more recently, Tony Andréani, _De la société à l'histoire_ (Paris: Méridiens-Klincksieck, 1989), 2 vols., 1:397-403.

[22] The considerations that follow owe much to the idea exposed some time ago by C. B. Macpherson of a "political theory of property," even though they diverge in the detail, principally on account of the change in historical context. Macpherson's idea is that the political foundations of the right of property are put back into play from the moment that, in the "quasi-market" societies in which we live, economic and social evolution requires a movement from property as a "right to exclude" to property as a "right not to be excluded" from access to certain goods, and thence to property as a "right to a kind of society." Cf. _Democratic Theory, Essays in Retrieval_ (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1973), 133-40, as well as the commentary by Carlos Ruiz, "Tres Criticas a la Téoria Elitista de la Democracia," _Opciones_ (Revista de Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Contemporanea, Academia de Ilumanisrno cristiano, Santiago, Chile) 6 (1985): 87-105, which shows how the blockage of reflection on property maintains the illusion of a separation between economics and politics.

[23] Cf. René-Jean Dupuy, _La communauté internationale entre le mythe et l'histoire_ (Paris: Economica/UNESCO, 1986), 159-70. Cf. also, by the same author, "Réflexions sur le patrimoine commun dc l'humanité," _Droits_ 1 (1986): 63-71.

[24] Dupuy speaks on this count of a "conflictual community." The "subject" is then the procedures of agreement and reciprocal control, supported by a particular balance ofpower, between individual and above all collective subjects (firms, states, possibly associations).

[25] Cf. Etienne Balibar, "Intellectuels, idéologues, idéologie," _Raison présente_ 73 (1985): 23-38.

[26] "On ne remplace pas un cerveau par une machine," in _Intelligence des mécanismes, mécanismes de l'intelligence_, ed. Jean-Louis Le Moigne (Paris: Fayard/Fondation lliderot, 1986). Cf. also Pierre Lévy, _Les technologies de l'intelligence: l'avenir de la pensée d l'ère informatique_ (Paris: La Découverte, 1990), 193-94, "Consciousness is individual, but thought is collective."

[27] I will have to come back to this question: in a sense it contains, in its turn, the totality of the aporias of a politics of the rights of man. It is the tomb of moralism and legalism as well as of their abstract reversals. In a world in which the disproportion of wealth goes hand in hand, now more than ever, with that of the capability of annihilating the adversary, a world in which the principal frontier (whether it is called North/South or otherwise, for the "South" is everywhere) tends to separate _two humanities_, one which is constantly subjected to violence and one which is constantly girding itself against it, a politics of the rights of man cannot be "nonviolent" _in principle_. Nor however can it fail to go beyond the idea that, according to the famous saying, (the) violence (of the masses, of the oppressed) is "the midwife of every old society which is pregnant with a new one" (_Capital_, vol. I, 916). This is not only because the oppressors seem to have found the means to make the violence of the oppressed systematically turn around against them, but because violence can no longer - if it ever could - be considered as a means, and tends to become a condition of existence. Once the distinctions between security and insecurity, public and private violence, military and economic violence, and even between human violence and "natural" disasters start to become effaced, the problem can no longer be either simply to regulate violence (by law), to drive it out (by the state), or to eliminate its causes (by revolution): it is to organize an "antiviolence," that is, to install in the center of politics the collective "struggle" against the both multiple and interdependent forms of violence. I would be tempted to believe that what is today called the passivity or the political discouragement of the masses is to be attributed not so much to some "end of ideologies" or of history as to the extreme uncertainty of perspectives and of strategics in this new kind of "struggle." (On these question, see a first attempt at discussion in my paper, "Violence et politiquc: Quelques questions," in _Le passage des frontières: Autour de l'oeuvre de Jacques Derrida_, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet I Paris: Galilée, forthcoming.)

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