Practising democratic equality: overcoming hierarchy alongside Rancière’s schoolmaster and Phillips’ psychoanalyst

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Alena WolflinkUniversity of Denver, USA

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This article tackles the problem of how to transcend affinities for hierarchy and in their place generate desires for equality. Drawing from paradoxical treatment of equality in his The Ignorant Schoolmaster as something that is verified by unequal subjects, I show that Rancière treats equality as something only possible in the context of a false authority, the teacher, encircling students in a political boundary out of which they must break. Turning to writing on the relationship between democracy, equality and psychoanalysis in his book Equals, I argue that uncovering internal desires for dominance and hierarchy is a prerequisite for cultivating different desires. As Phillips shows, we must become equal with ourselves in order to cultivate appetites for democracy, and to do the work that democracy requires. Taken together, these two texts demonstrate the necessity of two interrelated steps for transcending dominant structures: cultivating desires and exercising capacities for democratic equality.

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Alena WolflinkUniversity of Denver, USA

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