Political Resistance and the Constitution of Equality
Burgos, Adam Benjamin
In this dissertation I explore the conceptual relationship between equality and resistance in political philosophy. Through examination of the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Dewey, and Jacques Rancière, I formulate a position called Fractured Social Holism. This is a problematic that attempts to articulate core issues at stake in the debates surrounding the purposes, meanings, and possibilities for politics. Through Fractured Social Holism I articulate a theory of equality that emphasizes the communities upon which society’s institutions intend to distribute equality, arguing that resistance on the part of a population—group opposition, formal or informal, to some element of the societal status quo—conceptually grounds equality and its distribution by articulating its very possibilities. My central question—“How is equality constituted?”—focuses on the community itself in order to shift agency from institutions that distribute equality to those who demand it. It emphasizes the active role of “the people” in the constitution of a community of equals, as well as the fact that the very notion of “the people” is what is at stake in that constitution; popular resistance challenges the very meaning and content of any given “people.” I understand equality in the broadest possible sense, in terms of the opportunity of each and all within society to participate in dictating the terms of their public engagement with that society and with others within it. I argue for the possibility of resistance within egalitarian community in Rousseau, the limits of what that resistance in egalitarian society looks like in Marx, how egalitarian communities can organize themselves in Dewey, and how subjectivity relates to mechanisms of resistance and political action within society in Rancière. These historical interpretations and the conceptual framework they engender provide a novel means of thinking about issues of paramount importance in contemporary political philosophy, including pluralism, oppression and domination, and the purposes and meaning of politics, remaining true to a normative vision of equality while insisting on the necessity of the people’s resistance to the status quo in the name of a re-imagined vision of social harmony.