Category Archives: General

The very singular custom of voting

It’s that time again; a time in which it’s worth reflecting on the practice of voting itself.

1. Please see section 53 of the Ontario Elections Act which specifies the method for declining a ballot (essentially saying “none of the above”). The more citizens that do this, the more it sends the message that the whole system needs an overhaul.

2. I submit Alain Badiou’s thoughts for your assessment.

Badiou, Alain. 2002. “Philosophical considerations of the very singular custom of voting: an analysis based on recent ballots in France.” Theory and Event 6:3.

Says Badiou:

The only reasonable conclusion is that when decisive political transformations are at stake in a country putting them to a vote will ensure that nothing happens because they will have been submitted to the principle of the homogeneous. And it is interesting to note that, in general, a partial but large mass of opinion, whether it be “democratic” (in defence of free existential comforts) or directly bourgeois (in defence of property rights and earnings), serves to guarantee, on the street, the principle in question. That is, it guarantees our continuing just like before.

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Paradoxes of the vote

This thinking oneself heroic when in reality one is simply conservative furnishes us with a good introduction to examination of the paradoxes of the vote. For example:

1. That the vote is a free formalism, indeed, some say, the formalism of political liberty itself, yet it is also obligatory. It is,as one knows, juridically obligatory in a number of countries. But as we witnessed this time in the violent diatribes against abstention for many it is also subjectively, or morally obligatory. (That is, let it be said in passing, for any intellectuals and students, but not so much for the essential people. For they abstained in still greater numbers in the June legislative elections. Little by little, “democracy” is taking the turn of a minority ritual).

2. That there is equality of number, such is the law of suffrage. Yet, as we have said, the decisive places are coded according to norms which transcend numbers.

3. That there is a flagrant asymmetry between “yes” and “no”. The consequence of a “no” is elimination and it is effective. On the contrary, what is played out with a “yes” could not be more elusive. What commitments are elected members held to? Nothing of worth, in any case, which holds even more today as the notion of “program” had been practically discredited. Thus, for the voter there is, a real of the negative sanction, but no real foreseeable effect of success — except that of the conservation of the principal parameters of existence. At least, that is, of those ones over which elected representatives exercise some authority. Such is the secret of lukewarm politics: the only way to stay in power is to do nothing.

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The reason for the paradoxes of the vote are well known: its technical rationality means the result is gotten from a pure count, which authorises the infinite attentions of sociologists and political scientists — as concerned with numerical details and variations as the specialists of climactic history — and works to cover over massive irrationality. For why would number have political virtue? Why would the majority, modifiable at will thanks to the ruse of infinite modes of balloting, be endowed with the attributes of a norm? Such approximations are simply not tolerated in other domains where human thought is at stake. Great scientific creators and innovative artists have been right contrary to dominant opinion. Even violent amorous passions affirm themselves against mediocre social judgement. Is politics, and it alone, to be condemned to the conservatism of numerical means? Everything indicates that this is not the case. Since each time a capital political decision is to be taken, by everyone in their own name, the partisans of the just and the true are initially entirely in the minority, indeed, electorally insignificant. The résistants of the 1940’s, those of the 1950’s opposed to the sordid colonial wars, the “leftists” of the 60’s and 70’s: all of them were absolutely in the minority just as are those who today see imperialistic ambitions and the spirit of servitude hide beneath the mask of “humanitarian interventions”, or the “war against terrorism”. And, basically, everyone knows that number, the majority, won as it is from blind lists upon leaving the ballot box, has no real meaning.

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Rousseau knew it well: “Individual will by nature tends to preferences, and the general will to equality”. The manifestation of the return of a general will, were it on a single point, will necessitate sacrificing preferences. This is where philosophy can help. Since, in its most general inspiration it teaches us that the universality of truth is preferable to mere preferences. And it is then that one is fortunate–beyond the market.

Read the whole thing here.

Doctorow’s book Little Brother challenged in Florida high school

This is ridiculous. The only hope is it broadens awareness of the conversation about state/corporate surveillance and civil liberties.

The students at Booker T Washington High in Pensacola, Florida were to be assigned Little Brother for their summer One School/One Book read. At the last instant — and over the objections of the head of the English department and the chief librarian — the principal reversed the previous approval and seems to have cancelled the One School/One Book program outright.

More on Boing Boing.

David Harvey at Occupy London

Via Elaine Castillo.

And this is actually how politics has been evolving, over the last 30 years in particular. More and more money buys influence and buys political power. It also structures the media. Increasingly we find it dominates what’s going on inside of universities. It dominates our educational system, so that universities increasingly become places where all you learn is neoliberal ideology. Where all you learn is corporatist manegerial techniques. And those corporatist manegerial techniques are about actually how to squeeze more and more money out of those who can least afford it.

David Harvey at Occupy London / November 12, 2011 / International Day of Solidarity from Elaine Castillo on Vimeo.

Get the full transcript here.