How to do Politics with Words
The French revolution not only transformed France’s political institutions and society, but it also effected a change in the very way in which politics took place as an art of speech. Terms belonging to a marginalized history, such as ‘nation’, ‘citizen’ and ‘republic’, found themselves in a foundational position. The language of politics - acts of law voted on in the national parliament – was physically transported into outlying villages of forgotten regions and translated into local dialects in order to not only inform people of their rights but help them exercise such rights in the settling of social conflict. It is my contention that these changes in the language of politics are not secondary or super-structural but form the very base of the revolutionary process. In other words, the consistency of revolutionary praxis resides in the construction of a new apparatus of communication whose singularity operates at three levels: the level of vocabulary (master-signifiers), the level of typical speech acts, and the level of technologies of communication. To conceptualize this apparatus I will have recourse to three unlikely bedfellows, John Austin, Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze. The goal of this research is to develop a theory of emergent apparatuses of communication in periods of political transformation.
American University of Paris