1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Despite the risks involved with imposing (post-hoc) a singular analytical framework onto the five diverse studies of this volume, this introduction attempts to do just that. All five of the pieces examine, from a variety of angles, the tension between what can be broadly referred to as constituted power and constitutive power. Though these terms have specific (and sometimes contested) meanings in the various literatures on radical democratic theory, this introduction is not committed to any pre-established framework vis-à-vis this terminology. Rather than adhering rigorously to any single theorist’s notions of constituted power and constitutive power, this introduction—drawing on (but not committing itself to) the work of Kalyvas and Abensour—provisionally articulates the meaning of these words at the outset so as to provide a lens for perceiving the commonalities between the contributions of each author in this collaborative project. From this provisional starting point, the full meaning of these terms (for our purposes here and now) should slowly come into view as they make contact with each of the case studies examined and the various analytical distinctions made therein. Hopefully this introduction will be a helpful tool in the effort to read these diverse pieces against each other in such a way that new insights—heterogeneous to each work as isolated pieces of scholarship—are birthed in the process of reading.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Whether focused on actions aimed more or less explicitly at the transformation of public policies and institutions (Moral Mondays, the Free Fare Movement, and the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement), or on actions that are more geared towards a transformation of the symbolic constitution of the social (the Situationist International, and the installments of Simone Leigh), the various problems of instituted power relations (constituted power) and the promise of emancipatory transformation (constitutive power) are major preoccupations of each study presented here. Understood broadly, constituted power consists in: entrenched state and economic institutions; the juridical codifications of right; the procedural mechanisms of legislation and adjudication; the symbolic constitution of social discourse; and the dominant modes of legible and/or legitimate speech, practice, and habit—in short, what could be called the “police order” or the “distribution of the sensible” from a Rancièrian perspective. Rather than seeking to work entirely within the bounds of constituted power relations, each instance of political practice examined here works from the constitutional outside of constituted power.[1] Whereas constituted power represents the ossification of a vast history of constitutive moments in which certain interests were institutionalized in one form or another, constitutive power represents the excess that has not (yet) been institutionalized, codified, or otherwise legitimated.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Miguel Abensour examines this situation in terms of the relation between the “determinant” and the “determined.”[2] The constituted structures of power are only constituted as such because they have been determined by certain political actors. The political actors are the determinant, while the constituted structures are the determined. However, once constituted, these “determined” structures in turn become the “determinant” of the people who initially determined (i.e. instituted) them (as well as of the people who are subject to the authority of these institutions but did not themselves institute them). The people (initially the determinant) come to be determined by that which they constituted. The living unfolding of human life is frozen in various “forms” that by their very nature cannot keep up with the dynamic process of social existence. Human relations constantly change, but the constituted forms of power that those same humans have instituted (i.e. constituted) are relatively static.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 [T]he state form  makes itself independent, develops its specific logic… to the point of forgetting in its arrogance the source from which it stems—to the point of turning against the life of the people and crushing all manifestations that do not fit into its perspective.[3]

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 A particular “public” engage in the process of constituting power, thereby institutionalizing their will in a particular form. That particularity, in turn, is absorbed into the police order; it is constituted. But as this particular “public” dynamically becomes other than it was, the forms in which it has been constituted remain static. This form, then, becomes progressively more oppressive to the changing human relations of the particular public that constituted (and subsequently exceeded) this particular form. This represents the “autonomization of form,” the ossification of an “organizing form” that contributes to a certain distribution of the sensible, thereby circumscribing the possibilities of confronting the police order from the perspective of the constitutional outside, which necessarily grows insofar as autonomized form is detached from human life and institutionalized in static codifications, rigid norms of discourse, and normalizing bureaucracies of state and economy.[4] Furthermore, the particular form in which this particular “public” has constituted itself is oftentimes established not as particular, but as universal; i.e. those other “publics” who did not constitute these forms are subjected to a constituted power that is oppressive to them from the very moment of constitution. And the entire “police order”—which is a contingent constellation of particular, constituted forms—is itself only a particular police order; but it functions as a universal. It is the result of a contingent chain of particular constitutive moments, but it universally orders space and power relations in the here and now.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The ideal of democratic politics, on the other hand—holding fast to the necessity of always raising anew the specter of constitutive power—implies the constant breaking up of this constituted ossification; thereby reducing the extent to which “the determined” (constituted power) becomes “the determinant.” This does not mean breaking entirely with all form, a kind of pure anti-formalism. Abensour does not think we should attempt to “make democracy deformalize itself.”[5] Constitutive power always aims for constituted power. But democratic politics must

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 open the forms of [constituted] democracy to a new future and break from forms that lead to autonomization and absolutization. Or again, at issue is recognizing the inherent limits of the rendering to form of democracy and maintaining an unsurpassable gap between formal and material justice.[6]

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 At a very general level, democratic politics should seek to open up constituted power to unanticipatable interventions by future constitutive moments; it should seek to introduce “plasticity into power,” to borrow a phrase from Roberto Mangabeira Unger.[7] At the more particular level of specific political interventions, we must work the gap between formal and material justice, between constituted form and the surplus materiality—the publics that are formally included but materially excluded—that renders formal justice unjust. The various tactics through which such strategic objectives are pursued is incredibly diverse, as can be glimpsed in the five studies of this volume.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Mette’s work lays out in detail much of the conceptual groundwork that pervades the collection as a whole. Before examining her case study, then, we’d like to extract some general theoretical points from her piece, and relate them to the notions of constitutive vs. constituted power. Starting from the premise that the spaces of public appearance are both the site and the stake of political struggle, Mette explores the ways in which Rancière and Lefebvre articulate variations on this theme. To say that social space[8] is the site of political struggle indicates that it is the place where struggle takes place—as an already existent place, it is always already the physical expression of constituted power. A long history of constitutive moments have been deposited into the landscape as physical infrastructure. These myriad layers of sedimentation embedded in the very spaces of everyday life are the material manifestation of ideological currents and entrenched interests that were well-positioned to literally leave their mark on the earth. That material space—duly constituted by particular publics—is durable. It has lasting effects. Any social space, thus, has politics built in; this built-in-ness generates political effects long after the constitutive moment of construction. Whether social space is defined as public or private (or as some combination of the two), it is deeply intertwined with the constituted power that prevails in the police order, and also reflects the legacy of constituted power that has since been sublated by new players. This process represents a genuine sublation, which preserves and maintains earlier moments while nonetheless moving beyond them:  historically sublated configurations of the police order continue to haunt the present both through the persistence of their symbolic formations and through the physical marks they have left in social space.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 To say that social space is the stake of political struggle is to indicate that, as potential elements of a constitutive power, counterpublics aim to transform the way that social space is organized. This objective of transformation can home in on various aspects of social space, including (but not necessarily limited to): the physical architecture of particular places, the layout of the city more generally, the rules and regulations that grant access to social spaces differentially to various publics, the symbolic representations embedded in social space, and the symbolic representations of social space. Social space—as the constructed or built element of constituted power relations both past and present—is the site upon which political struggle unfolds; the terrain of dispute. Social space—as the object of desire that political actors wish to transform through the enactment of their constitutive power—is the stake of political struggle.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The Situationist International, examined by Mette, confronted the fact that this process of spatial production was invisible to everyday life; that the string of constitutive moments that have constituted social space has been forgotten. Despite the fact that our daily routines are structured by the power that is constituted/constructed in the city-scape, this structuring goes unnoticed. The Situationists attempted to disrupt this forgetting and to reclaim the space of urban reality at the level of the sensory. By constructing (or constituting) “situations” that creatively appropriated artifacts, discourses, and values of a bourgeois public sphere dominated by advanced capitalism, they sought to disrupt the accepted patterns of recognition encoded in the habits of everyday life. These “situations” were enacted in the social space of the urban environment; thus the social space was indeed the site of these efforts of redistributing the lines of sensibility in the prevailing police order. Public space was also the stake of these efforts insofar as they sought to bring into play sedimented practices that had become invisible, and thereby to modify the way that public space is sensorily experienced. Even if their aims were not immediately focused on transforming the physical infrastructure through the sorts of constitutive acts that result in concrete new construction projects or formal legislation, they did indeed aim to transform the symbolic constitution of social space. It is worth noting that these sorts of redistributions of modes of sensation are probably necessary components in the project of forging a constitutive power that would seek to change the physical infrastructure through new construction or to enact new juridical codifications.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Rafael’s study examines the troubling ways that the public transportation infrastructure has been constituted in the Brazilian context. Focusing on the recent efforts of the Free Fare Movement (MPL, Movimento Passe Livre), and showing their historical linkages to previous struggles over the right to urban transportation, Rafael demonstrates the fact that the public-private distinction is relatively irrelevant in this struggle. Whether privately operated, publically operated, or operated through public-private partnerships, the power relations embedded in the urban transportation infrastructure has been constituted by a set of elite interests and actors. An historical series of particular (and elite) publics—composed of politicians, businessmen, financiers, construction firms, architects, city-planners, etc.—have progressively constituted an urban transportation infrastructure that functions universally (i.e. all residents of the city are subject to its effects) to the detriment of particular counterpublics that were neither present (nor adequately represented) at the constitutive moments that constituted the urban transportation infrastructure and specified the formal relations that inhere therein. Against this constituted power—this material ossification of the interests of a particular public, and its resultant universal effects—Rafael examines the democratically-organized, spontaneous irruptions of popular constitutive power that pushed back against this constituted power/space by claiming strategic places in the city (e.g. traffic choke points) and making demands of the state and/or the corporate interests profiting from the transportation system.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 By examining these spontaneous uprisings in an historical context, Rafael is able to demonstrate the relative insignificance of the public-private distinction in this ongoing struggle: whether the urban transportation system is owned and operated by the state or by a private organization matters little when the fare is constantly on the rise and people living in poverty are thus denied to access the city. Such lack of access to the city is due to the material conditions of social relations, i.e. the low wages paid and the high fares charged. Despite this material exclusion, such populations are formally included, i.e. they are not barred from using the transportation by law. The MPL seeks to work the gap between formal inclusion and material exclusion and to enact a form of constitutive power that challenges constituted structures by claiming specific physical spaces in the city-scape that are tactically efficacious in applying pressure on the elite public that has constituted the transportation infrastructure. Rather than the distinction between public and private, then, Rafael points us towards a distinction between constitutive power that is collective rather than elite.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Like Mette and Rafael, Tyler focuses on the spatial distribution of social reality. He examines the process of urbanization that has unfolded across the planet, subjecting the totality of social space to the organizational and economic imperatives of industrial development and economic growth as dictated by the elite publics of the dominating urban centers. Given this trajectory towards “the urban” the vast expanses of rural spaces come to be dominated by the constituted power relations that are concentrated in the urban centers, which subject agrarian practices to the imperatives of the global food regime at the expense of massive numbers of peasants and rural workers who are driven to the peripheries of urban space where they exist at the margins of constituted power relations. Severed from their former social relations, unable to access jobs that pay fair wages, and forced to pay the rising (and oftentimes prohibitive) prices of the urban transportation system (as described by Rafael), these populations are truly dis-placed: not only have they been displaced from their former homes and severed from their traditional social bonds, but the constituted power relations embedded in the urban spaces materially exclude them (despite formal inclusion).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 From this general situation of the domination of the rural by the urban, Tyler takes a broad view of the historical development of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra), and seeks to show the importance of claiming social space and of transforming the nature of public institutions in the actions through which counterpublics enact their constitutive power over and against the constituted power relations that are embedded in the geography of both the urban and the rural social space. Tyler articulates three moments in the formation and enactment of the form of constitutive power practiced by the plurality of autonomous communities that constitute the counterpublic known as the MST. First, a local assemblage of impoverished families—dis-placed to the periphery of some urban center—constitutes itself as a community by reclaiming their subjugated histories of exclusion and coming to consciousness of themselves as landless. This practice of conscientização (consciousness-raising) generally occurs in privately owned spaces rather than public space. Thus, the initial formation of the counterpublic occurs largely in spaces of privacy. Next, these nascent elements of the MST counterpublic claim a plot of land, thereby constituting a proper social space that serves as a permanent site from which they are able to reproduce themselves as a counterpublic. This represents the constitutive moment in which this counterpublic materially constitutes a social space that is collectively founded, apart from the elite public that normally plays the dominant role in the construction-constitution of social space. Finally, this materially (and collectively) constituted counterpublic requests state funding in the construction of their social space, including the construction and ongoing financial support of a public school within each MST community.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Rafael points out (in a comment on Tyler’s piece) that the MST does not try to establish a private school, but instead insists on the construction of a public school. Thus, he complicates the notion that the public/private distinction matters little in our institutions of service provision (such as education systems and transportation networks). While the key distinction to keep our finger on is indeed the distinction between elite constituted and collectively constituted spatialized power relations, the fact remains that public institutions are more susceptible than private institutions to collective constitutive power. While the formation of counterpublics may occur in private spaces as well as public spaces, as those counterpublics come to consciousness of themselves as counterpublics and seek to enact their constitutive power in the materiality of social space, perhaps the public-private distinction takes on a new resonance. Perhaps—in addition to social space broadly construed—public institutions would be an essential site and stake of the political struggles that aim to enact collectively formed constitutive power.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Misty examines the dynamic and diverse counterpublic that has coalesced around the signifier of Moral Mondays in response to a series of exclusionary public policies constituted by a particular constitutive power that sets itself up as “the” public in North Carolina, thereby universally imposing its particular vision of social space upon the entire population. She approaches this situation by way of a discourse analysis both of “the” (particular, white, male) public, and of the diverse, inclusive counterpublic that has emerged in response to the exclusionary power relations that have been constituted. This constituted power has deep historical roots in racist discourses, prejudices, perceptions, and public policies, and in the concomitant configuration of social space and service provision (including education inequalities and materially exclusionary structures of public transportation). The constitutive power of the counterpublic coalescing around the notion of Moral Monday’s also has deep historical roots: in the tradition of struggle against the constituted, white-supremacist power going back centuries. In the Moral Monday’s campaign, the collective memory of the Civil Rights movement serves as a particularly salient moment of emancipatory (and collective) constitutive power that lays claim to the present and demands that we make good on the promise that was embodied in their actions and embedded (or constituted) in the material transformation of public space they historically effected: including the desegregation of public schools, the elimination of legal “white-only” social spaces, and the entry of black bodies into the ballot box. As these material gains are de-constituted by an elite public composed largely of wealthy white males, the counterpublic organized around the notion of Moral Mondays expresses the moral imperatives both to make this process transparent for what it is (the re-constitution of a white supremacy that has centuries of constituted power to draw on), and to try to tear it down through the projection of an alternative constitutive power.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 One of the leaders of the Moral Mondays campaign, the Reverend Doctor William Barber II, engages in practices similar to those of the Situationists discussed in Mette’s work. Like the Situationists—who appropriate elements of the bourgeois public sphere in ways that bring those elements into play in creative citational practices—William Barber cites the Christian tradition to which “the” exclusionary public purports to adhere. What kind of Christian would defund schools, eliminate the healthcare of the elderly, and increase the tax burden of the poor? Is that moral? Is that Christian? By citing the common moral convictions of both “the” public and this counterpublic, Barber seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the legally constituted power that seems to contradict moral imperatives from a Christian perspective. This is not exactly the same as the appropriative citations of the Situationists, who cited a tradition that they rejected in the effort to bring its contradictions into view. Barber, to the contrary, cites a tradition he embraces in order to reveal the gap between the legal (formal) justice that has been constituted by a nominally Christian public and the material injustice that cannot be justified by an appeal to the common morality that transcends any constituted power for believers in the Christian faith. The voice of this counterpublic, rooted in the history of struggle that lays claims on the present, does not seek legitimacy through legal recognition or institutional force; rather, it seeks legitimacy in terms of a moral appeal, revealing the insufficiency of constituted legal frameworks to redress the material injustices imposed by “the” dominating public of the moment. Moral Mondays, then, represents a kind of moral insurgency of collective constitutive power.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Cory’s work also deals with the historical legacy of racist, exclusionary constituted power and the history of resistance to this reality. The installments of Simone Leigh that Cory examines—which were combinations of performance art, community spaces, history exhibits, and health clinics—serve to reclaim this history of struggle-resistance in ways that provoke a more subtle awareness of our historical condition. Leigh’s installments can be read as interventions in the current constellation of constituted power that thematize a history of both oppression and struggle, juxtapose that history in the context of the present (mingling past and present in the very space of the exhibit) and thereby bring to light the continuing oppression and the continued necessity for struggle. Like the Situationists, examined by Mette, Simone Leigh seems to be committed to the practice of disrupting of our categories of perception; an effort to reconfigure the symbolic constitution of the social. Though, whereas the Situationists constructed their “situations” in the public urban space, Leigh enacted her interventions in the more intimate spaces (that were nonetheless open to the public) of 175 Stuyvesant Ave in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and the 5th floor of the New Museum.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Leigh was specifically seeking to recreate or represent the United Order of Tents, a secret society of black nurses established in 1867 who worked to fill the gap between the material lack of adequate medical services for black communities and the formal justice demanded by the post-bellum US political order. This subjugated and forgotten history of specific practices of material justice that was constituted by the collective constitutive power of a materially, symbolically, and spatially oppressed and excluded counterpublic is recovered from oblivion by the staging of Leigh’s installments. These forgotten fragments of history, recovered by Leigh, are rubbed against the present constellation of constituted power in the effort to raise awareness of historical exclusions that extend into the present. Much like the work of William Barber, examined by Misty, Leigh’s work seeks to make good on the debt that we (in the present) owe to the past and to the long history of emancipatory efforts to materially constitute a more just social space. Though, whereas Barber engages directly in political speech and acts of civil disobedience, Leigh’s work is more attuned to the kinds of sensory redistributions of the symbolic constitution of the social that is evocative of the project of the Situationist International.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 The United Order of Tents was a private space of service provision that also served as a site of conscientização for the construction of a counterpublic that could better contest the material conditions of oppression, violence, and exclusion that had already been condemned at the formal level of legal statute. Because minority groups—despite formal guarantees—are oftentimes excluded from spaces of public appearance as a result of the history of exclusionary constitutive moments (that have constructed a social consciousness as well as a social space), the process of forging an effective counterpublic oftentimes relies upon the private spaces in which vulnerable persons are able to let down their guard, share their histories of oppression, and transform their subjective consciousness in such a way as to better confront the objective reality of a police order that is hostile to them at every turn. The complex structure of Leigh’s exhibits—enacting private spaces of medical care within the very space of the public exhibits, and also representing the private spaces of the United Order of Tents in a public venue—helps to complicate the public-private distinction that is so dominant in various discourses of our current police order.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Against charges that Leigh’s work does not go far enough in the enactment of a form of constitutive power that would positively transform the material social spaces of the current police order and the formal codifications that can be marshaled in the defense, maintenance and continued construction of the exclusions embedded in the spaces (and embodied in the practices) of everyday life, Leigh insists that while she is indeed an activist, she is first and foremost an artist. Her work, while intended as an intervention in the social sphere, is not expected to immediately attain substantial transformation of political reality. Rather, it focuses on disrupting our ways of perceiving the world. It is not a social movement; it is an artistic intervention. The function of art in the broad project of instituting collectively organized constitutive power is not to make policy proposals or to engage the discourse of state power directly. To the contrary, the transformative potential of works of art lies in their ability to disrupt our categories of seeing, thinking, and perceiving; to enact dissensual situations that effect a redistribution of the symbolic constitution of the social. Such redistributions of the sensible are necessary components of the emancipatory institutional transformations effected by counterpublics in the enactment of collectively steered constitutive power.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Whereas Rafael’s case reveals the public-private distinction in service provisions to be relatively superfluous from the experience of “users” (with the caveat that “public” institutions are more susceptible to the pressures of collective constitutive power),  Cory’s case reveals the fact that the formation of a counterpublic occurs both in spaces that are public and in spaces that are private. Tyler’s case shows that a counterpublic—initially formed in private spaces free from the public gaze—is better able to achieve its ends by constructing a public space of its own and by inserting itself into the public institutions of service provision (which resonates with Rafael’s insistence that such institutions must be collectively controlled). Mette’s case reveals the radical potential of appropriative citations of elements of the bourgeois public sphere, whereas Misty’s case explores the ways in which common moral values across various publics (both dominant- and counter-publics) can be cited in such a way as to interrogate both the material injustices of social reality and the formal codifications through which those injustices are perversely legitimated as just. Whereas Mette and Cory examine instances in which the objective is to effect a redistribution of social categories of perception, Misty, Rafael, and Tyler examine instances in which state and/or corporate policies, institutions, and material spaces are immediate targets of transformation. Both of these elements—the symbolic constitution of the social, and the juridical and material constitution of the social—are essential targets of a constitutive power that seeks to enact an emancipatory political project.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 The following case studies deal with various moments in the efforts of five different counterpublics to resist, problematize, and contest the material exclusions of constituted power relations. While Tyler and Mette (who have been schooled-disciplined in Political Theory) focus on the more general contours of specific movements, Cory (of Theatre Studies) , Misty (of Linguistic Anthropology), and Rafael (of History) home in more closely on empirical details at the micro level of the cases they examine. Though, to be sure, all of the accounts presented here are driven by rigorous theoretical considerations as well as specific attention to concrete, empirical instances of collective efforts to enact constitutive power, broadly construed. At stake in each study is a specific relation between the past and the present: the specific ways that forgotten fragments of history lay claim to present reality and in turn are claimed by emergent counterpublics that straddle the public-private divide. These counterpublics ultimately aim to transform social reality from the generative perspective of the historically-imbued imaginaries they embody in their concrete practices of collectively steered constitutive power.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0  

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [1] This phrase, the “constitutional outside,” is borrowed from Andreas Kalyvas’s Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary: Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2008): 297.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [2] Miguel Abensour, Democracy Against the State: Marx and the Machiavellian Moment, henceforth cited as Democracy Against the State (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011): 57-58.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [3] Abensour, Democracy Against the State: 93.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 [4] Ibid: 98.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 [5] Ibid.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 [6] Ibid.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [7] Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Plasticity into Power: Comparative-Historical Studies on the Institutional Conditions of Economic and Military Success (New York: Verso, 2004).

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 [8] I will use the phrase “social space” in lieu of “public space” to avoid privileging state-owned spaces as more essential to the processes by which publics and counterpublics come into being. “Social space” includes urban, suburban, rural, industrial, agrarian, etc. spaces.

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