Copy to Clipboard. Add italics as necessaryCite as: Bernardo Bianchi, ‘In the Labyrinth of Emancipation: An Inquiry into the Relationship between Knowledge and Politics ’, in Materialism and Politics, ed. by Bernardo Bianchi, Emilie Filion-Donato, Marlon Miguel, and Ayşe Yuva, Cultural Inquiry, 20 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021), pp. 163–80 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-20_09>

In the Labyrinth of EmancipationAn Inquiry into the Relationship between Knowledge and Politics Bernardo BianchiORCID*

Abstract

In this chapter, I analyse the concept of emancipation in terms of a philosophical anthropology of autonomy, which allows me to assess the stakes of the historical development of the classical form of the concept of emancipation and its connection to the idea of minority, or Unmündigkeit. My thesis is that this conception reaffirms a hierarchical conception concerning the relationship between knowledge and political action, leading to forms of tutelage based on the necessity of education. In opposition to such a view, I draw on a particular conception of materialism, which posits the reciprocal constitution between activity (Tätigkeit) and subjectivity.

Keywords: emancipation; knowledge; political rule; education; materialism; evolution; individuation; Balibar, Étienne

This chapter is based on three different strands of my research and aims to demonstrate their interconnection. Firstly, it marks the closure of my research as a fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel of the Brazilian Government (CAPES). Secondly, it engages with the research that has recently resulted in another co-edited volume published by Routledge entitled Democracy and Brazil: Collapse and Regression. Thirdly, it aims to bring together these two projects with the debates I have been engaged in with Émilie Filion-Donato, Marlon Miguel, Ayşe Yuva, and many other dear friends from the project ‘Materialism and Politics’.

Étrange parti pris cependant qui valorise aveuglément la profondeur aux dépens de la superficie et qui veut que ‘superficiel’ signifie non pas ‘de vaste dimension’, mais de ‘peu de profondeur’, tandis que ‘profond’ signifie au contraire ‘de grande profondeur’ et non pas ‘de faible superficie’

Michel Tournier, Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique

Introduction

1In the Marxist tradition, emancipation is often described as the opposite of either alienation1 or domination.2 However, during its politicization [p. 164]Beginning of page 164in the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth century in the Vormärz, it is not so much the alternative between both dimensions, but rather their intertwinement, which becomes evident. In this chapter, I analyse what I consider to be the classical form of the concept of emancipation. This classical form is rooted in two fundamental features. On the one hand, it is based on a dichotomy between passivity and activity, or heteronomy and autonomy. At the same time, the concept is impregnated with the ideal of a process of maturation, which takes the form of a process of intellectual development along the lines of an organic growth.3

2I analyse, on this basis, how the classical form of the concept of emancipation developed according to a particular philosophical anthropology of autonomy. This, in turn, gave rise to civil law as the common reference for how to conceive political autonomy. My purpose, as I develop in the section ‘Tutelage and the Labyrinth of Emancipation’, is to demonstrate how this has been done and how this conception has led, however well intended, to a hierarchical understanding of the relationship between knowledge and political action. The latter trait is inseparable from what I define in a homonymous section as ‘epistemocracy’.

3According to the classical concept of emancipation, those who lack judgment, since they are ‘incomplete’ individuals, are alieni juris, and, consequently, cannot take part in the political life of their community — ‘before one can be a free citizen in the state, one must feel free in the bosom of nature’.4 To emancipate oneself was the great task of that time period as defined by Heinrich Heine,5 and it became a requirement for the individual to engage in the political realm. Accordingly, emancipation forges an ideal of a fully-fledged individuality in association with epistemic aptitude as the true basis for political autonomy. [p. 165]Beginning of page 165

4The Latin emancipatio, derived from the verb emancipare, from the expression ex manus capere, indeed literally means ‘to take off hands’.6 In Roman law, this referred to the figure of the slave, but, primarily, to the infant under the rule of the pater familias — the infant being the one who does not speak (in + fāns). In the German language, the fact of being unable to speak for oneself is at the basis of the noun Unmündigkeit and the adjective unmündig, which can be literally translated as ‘non-mouthed’. Unmündigkeit is also a legal concept that corresponds to the English word ‘minority’, and goes hand in hand with the notion of legal incapacity.7 In the thought of Immanuel Kant, minority became associated with a problem concerning the attainment of autonomy, a problem directly linked to that of emancipation.8 Accordingly, it can be said that to emancipate oneself, to become autonomous, means to have a voice, to be able to speak — both in one’s private affairs in the form of legal capacity, as well as in the political realm in the form of political rights.

5In the section ‘Materialism and Emancipation’, I outline a very intriguing formula employed by Étienne Balibar: materialism without matter.9 Following Balibar’s usage of the expression and its connection to Karl Marx’s ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, this conception of materialism [p. 166]Beginning of page 166posits the reciprocal constitution between activity (Tätigkeit) and subjectivity, which means that the emergence and development of human beings are inseparable from their practice. On this basis, I argue in favour of what I consider to be a materialist concept of emancipation, a topic further developed in this volume by Marlon Miguel and Pascal Sévérac. This conception is fundamentally distinct from the classical concept in so far as it rejects, from the outset, the premises of the philosophical anthropology of autonomy, which are based on the concept of minority (Unmündigkeit) and lead to epistemocracy. Therefore, I argue that a materialist concept of emancipation is rooted in the dismissal of the concept of minority. This means, ultimately, the rejection of hierarchical ways of articulating the relationship between epistemic competence and political agency, which opens up different approaches to education. However, instead of reversing the ‘principle of the ignorance of the people’10 into the ‘principle of the wisdom of the people’, the question seems rather to lie in conceiving a form of education akin to the democratic principle of self-organization, leading to a process of reciprocal constitution of knowledge and political agency.11

Tutelage and the Labyrinth of Emancipation

6On the eve of the French revolution, the Marquis de Condorcet, in his Essay on the Constitution and Functions of the Provincial Assemblies, distinguished between those who are entitled to the right of citizenship (droit de cité) and those who are naturally excluded from it: ‘the exclusion of minors, monks, servants, men convicted of crimes, all those who may be presumed not to have an enlightened will [volonté éclairée], or a will of their own [volonté propre]; those who may legitimately be suspected of a corrupt will’.12 A year later, Emmanuel-Joseph de Sieyès laid the foundation of a fundamental distinction in constitutional theory [p. 167]Beginning of page 167between active and passive citizenship which was enshrined in the French law of 22 December 1789:13 ‘all can enjoy the advantages afforded by society; but only those who contribute to the public establishment are […] true, active citizens, the true members of this association’.14

7The principle of autonomy, which is connected to the idea of an independent and enlightened will, was a central trope of political rhetoric in the late eighteenth century. In fact, autonomy is what enabled Condorcet to differentiate between natural and political individuals — a distinction that could have no place in the ancien régime which, being an organic society of corporate bodies, assigned political power not to the individuals themselves but to status, that is, to the belonging of an individual or group of individuals to specific sectors of the society. In this sense, the ‘minors’ did not constitute a group like other groups who were excluded from political life. After all, they were not a determinate social category such as monks, servants, etc. In Condorcet, as in the writings of Sieyès, autonomy is the only thing that can legitimize legally binding obligations in either the political or private sphere. Therefore, legal capacity and political autonomy go hand in hand.15

8In the same way, in Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, autonomy is forged along the lines of the legal capacity: [p. 168]Beginning of page 168

The only qualification for being a citizen is being fit to vote. But being fit to vote presupposes the independence of someone who, as one of the people, wants to be not just a part of the commonwealth but also a member of it, that is, a part of the commonwealth acting from his own choice in community with others. This quality of being independent, however, requires a distinction between active and passive citizens, though the concept of a passive citizen seems to contradict the concept of a citizen as such. — The following examples can serve to remove this difficulty: an apprentice in the service of a merchant or artisan; a domestic servant (as distinguished from a civil servant); a minor (naturaliter vel civiliter); all women and, in general, anyone whose preservation in existence (his being fed and protected) depends not on his management of his own business but on arrangements made by another (except the state). All these people lack civil personality and their existence is, as it were, only inherence.16

9By drawing on civil law, Kant takes ‘civil personality’ as the measure of citizenship. Nevertheless, the reference to civil law as a repository for reflecting on political theory is obviously not specific to Kant. In Thomas Hobbes, this reference appears, for example, in Chapter xvi in Leviathan, where he develops his theory of representation.17 Hobbes was adamant that in the absence of purposive actions assignable to a personal identity, only a tutor could give final consent for any transaction in which the minor had a part. That is, because ‘children, fools, and madmen […] have no use of reason’, they lack authority, that is, ‘the right of doing any action’.18 Furthermore, because unrepresented minors are not legal persons, their tutelage is nothing more than a form of ‘representation by fiction’.19 Tutelage was different to the authority of the parents over their offspring (patria potestas) which arose solely [p. 169]Beginning of page 169from natural right.20 Instead, it was understood as the corollary of a de facto situation concerning the lack of individuality of the minor. It had no normative anchorage: tutelage did not aim at creating individuals or producing autonomy.21

10John Locke radically changed this position, as he connected the authority of the parents to the duty of educating their offspring. The power of parents over their children derived from their educative duty, that is, their obligation to ‘inform the mind, and govern the actions of their yet ignorant nonage […]’.22 Therefore, even though children were to look upon their parents as ‘absolute governors’,23 their parents were not to behave only as sovereigns but also as educators. This meant that parental authority was not only conceived of in terms of sovereignty, as in Hobbes, but also in connection to education.

11We find this precise idea in Kant as well, not exactly in the text of 1797, but in An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment [Aufklärung]?’, which was published in 1784, where the idea of minority as preparation for autonomy is clearly posited.

Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude!24

12Here, a second form of minority emerges, which is different from the kind of minority that is mentioned in The Metaphysics of Morals. In this text, Kant connects minority to the Enlightenment as its opposite and, at the same time, its final objective, its raison d’être. Kant states that this condition of being alieni juris occurs even in the condition [p. 170]Beginning of page 170of natural majority or maturity.25 At the same time, he is obviously not simply dealing with a minority resulting from the law (civiliter), as he refers to in The Metaphysics of Morals, which is related to all those who, despite having reached the age of maturity, remain minors before the law, as was the case for all those still under tutelage. According to Kant, the minority in this case is not a mere product of nature, but rather fundamentally a problem concerning the habit of dependence, of letting others decide — a form of voluntary tutelage. Moreover, Kant’s text from 1784 introduces the idea of minority as preparation for autonomy and not simply its opposite. In contrast to his other writings, Kant’s What is Enlightenment is more in line with the old problem of voluntary servitude,26 which implicitly points in the direction of Étienne de la Boétie.

13The connection between Kant’s thought and La Boétie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, originally published in 1574, was definitively consolidated by Johann Benjamin Erhard who, in 1793, translated it into German and had it published in Der neue teutsche Merkur, which was an important journal of dissemination for the Aufklärung at that time. Unlike the Monarchomachs,27 La Boétie’s text sheds light on how subjects voluntarily adhere to a despotic government — not simply out of fear or sheer violence — so that they become accustomed to tyranny. For Erhard, the minority cannot simply be described in terms of a relation of domination by force or by law, since self-incurred minority (which is an expression he borrowed from Kant) corresponds to a ‘degree of formation of the spirit’.28 In Erhard’s eyes, Kant offered [p. 171]Beginning of page 171an answer to the problem of voluntary servitude posited by La Boétie, in which he proposed that through the propagation of the lights, that is, the diffusion of knowledge, it becomes conceivable to foresee an exit from the state of minority. However, if kept against their will in a state of minority, the people have the right to revolution: ‘as long as the ruling class does not prevent the people from the Enlightenment and as long as it maintains its primacy based on the predominance of its own Enlightenment, there will be no revolution of the people’.29

14It is only when minority becomes a dogma for the people that they have the right to abolish the state that oppresses them. As a result, revolution becomes an act of resistance and not an act of creation. In Erhard’s view, it is the dogma of minority in terms of the repression of human progress that causes revolutions, and although he does not use the term emancipation (like Kant), he clearly addresses the concept by tapping into the development of a self-incurred minority towards a majority, or from voluntary servitude to becoming a people who know their rights. Nevertheless, this progress takes the form of a process of intellectual development along the lines of an organic growth. However, as Hans Blumenberg has shown, the limits of the metaphor of organic growth do not only concern the unjustifiable belief in ‘a continuous progress of rationality’,30 but instead the fact that the hour of ‘political majority’ only tolls after a process of intellectual development. By considering Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and Erhard together, one can argue that the attainment of ‘the use of reason’ coalesces with the ‘propagation of the lights’, and gives way, paradoxically, to the idea of benevolent forms of tutelage justified by the de facto minority of the people. Under such a worldview the transition from minority towards ‘complete knowledge of human rights’ becomes ultimately impossible, and tutelage becomes a labyrinth from which emancipation can never emerge. [p. 172]Beginning of page 172

Epistemocracy

15In the period of time known as the Vormärz, or ‘pre-March’, preceding the 1848 Revolutions in the states of the German confederation, Heine took up the argument concerning the connection between emancipation and minority. He wrote that a true transformation must assume the form of a transformation of mentalities, which also justified, in his view, the superiority of German philosophy vis-à-vis the French political transformations of the time. While the transformative energy in France was, in his opinion, directed against feudal privileges, in Germany it was directed instead towards abolishing intellectual obstacles and privileges.31 By drawing a comparison between Kant and Maximilien Robespierre, Heine underscored the importance of the intellectual transformations that had taken place in Germany, thus highlighting how they were more radical and more mature than the French revolutionary efforts.32 In Germany, the most important revolutionary task was not seen as being directly political but rather ‘spiritual’ (geistig) or, to put it in contemporary terms, as a matter of consciousness. Heine explicitly praises the Germans, in contrast to the French, whom he characterizes as infantilized, shallow, immature, and prone to unpremeditated action.

16A similar argument is to be found in a text by Ludwig Feuerbach from 1842 in which he identifies sensualism and materialism with revolution (and France), while metaphysics and idealism are associated with reformism (and Germany):33 ‘The heart — the feminine principle, the sense of the sensible, the seat of materialism — is French-minded; the head — the masculine principle, the seat of idealism — is German. The heart makes revolutions; the head, reforms. The head brings things to a state; the heart, to motion’.34 When placed in connection with Heine’s thoughts, Feuerbach’s analysis reveals an argument according to which the French mentality (and its materialism) entails a sort of transformation that is inferior to German philosophy (and its [p. 173]Beginning of page 173idealism) because the latter philosophical culture is not limited to the surface of things. This perspective offers a view that displaces politics by postulating the existence of a field of determination from which politics emerges as a product, or secondary reality, of a core that is located beyond it. This shows how Heine and Feuerbach prepared the argument — which was later much associated with Marx — according to which French materialism (and the politics that stem from it) is ideological.35

17These arguments implying the separation between depth and surface, or essential and secondary phenomena, are inseparable from stadialist arguments based on the hierarchization of the relationship between intellectual development and political emancipation.36 Stadialist arguments are also quite common in the discussions surrounding the emancipation of subaltern groups, such as Jews, Blacks, women, the working class, etc.37 Between 1842 and 1843, Bruno Bauer wrote two interventions on the emancipation of the German Jews: The Jewish Question and The Capacity of Present-day Jews and Christians to Become Free.38 In these texts, which were starkly criticized by Marx, Bauer argued that in order to achieve political emancipation Jews needed to be freed from their prior prejudices.39 According to Bauer, they needed to overcome their state of minority in order to become citizens. Here, again, we can identify the philosophical idea, very prevalent in Germany at the time, that a reform of consciousness must precede political emancipation. [p. 174]Beginning of page 174

18In 1850, Hermann Scheidler was confronted by the same question and contrasted two fundamental forms of emancipation: inner emancipation (innere) and outer emancipation (äußere). While the first chiefly concerned superstition and the passions, the second concerned political autonomy.40 Based on this idea, Scheidler defended the importance of a public pedagogical project (Volks- and Staatspädagogik) in order to bridge the two forms of emancipation — we are once again faced with the problem of education, which, as we have seen, justified parental authority in Locke’s work. This argument leads us to the paradoxical, yet deeply ingrained, relation between domination and education. This concerns not only the fact that education was often employed as a means to dominate, but also the idea that domination prepares for self-rule (educates) those who were deemed still unfit for it. For example, in the context of slavery in the Americas the subjugation and domination of Blacks and Native Americans was often justified ‘as a way to prepare them for eventual participation in society as full citizens’.41

Preliminary Conclusions

19Even though Sieyès’s invention of the distinction between passive and active citizenship was mainly connected to pecuniary hindrances upon the right to vote, entailing a system of censitary suffrage, it was also inserted, as we have seen, into a broader discussion about autonomy and minority. After the revolution of 1848, the Second French Republic abolished the last economic obstacles to exercising the right to vote, and instituted universal adult male suffrage, a trend that later spread throughout the continent. In the same time period, however, another form of exclusion was consolidated: exclusion through illiteracy. However, in Europe, exclusions based on illiteracy have never had the same importance as they had in the Americas.42 In the United States the propagation of literacy tests, which were administered to voters, spread [p. 175]Beginning of page 175in the mid-nineteenth century and lasted until the second half of the twentieth century. In Brazil, the exclusion of the illiterate became a constitutional norm with the first republican constitution of 1891, which eliminated the censitary suffrage created by the imperial constitution of 1824.43 As these examples show, in the context of profoundly racialized societies, knowledge became a way of cloaking unequal access to citizenship.

20In view of these forms of political exclusion, I want to coin a term, epistemocracy,44 which refers to all forms of discourse according to which political action is dependent on the possession of knowledge and competence by an individual or a group of individuals. Epistemocracy allows for a modern form of tutelage, according to which those individuals and groups of individuals that find themselves in a state of minority (Unmündigkeit) should be completely governed as long as their minority persists. In this paradigm even though the minors are to be regarded as citizens, they are also denied a say in political life so long as they are deemed minors. Therefore, epistemocracy allows for forms of tutelage on the ground of ‘epistemic incompetence’. It separates active (mündige) citizens from passive (unmündige) citizens, or those whose voice should be heard from those whose voice should be ignored. The legitimacy of epistemocracy is different from open domination in that it is built upon the potential reversibility of the situation affecting those deprived of their political rights based on the proviso that, so long as they become epistemically competent, they can leave their minority status and take part in political life. Regarding this view, it must be said that minority is not something per se, it is not a natural state resulting from ignorance and backwardness, and nor does it arise from nature. Quite to the contrary: it is the result of ideological constructions by means of which the individuals in a given [p. 176]Beginning of page 176society are endowed with different functions. Consequently, instead of the concept of minority, one should prefer the idea of minorization, which underscores the fact that minority is not something that exists by itself, but the result of practices and choices entailing the political distinction between those whose voice is heard and taken into account and those who are deemed to be incomplete individuals — and who, therefore, need to be under tutelage.45 In this sense, minorization is inseparable from epistemocracy, which ultimately re-enacts different forms of domination, especially those connected to class, gender, and race, under the appearance of differences in competence and knowledge.

Materialism and Emancipation

21As I have outlined in the previous sections, the classical concept of emancipation is inseparable from a political anthropology of autonomy. One of the clearest arguments against epistemocracy corresponds to ‘the insurrectional moment of citizenship’46 as it was theorized by Jacques Rancière in his book Disagreement. Furthermore, the relationship of this conception of citizenship (or emancipation) to the question of education was clearly articulated in Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster. In this work, emancipation acquires special contours insofar as it is associated with Jacques Jacotot’s revolutionary pedagogy; an (anti-)pedagogy which, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, rejected the hierarchy of intellectual capacity and instead asserted that all people were equally competent.47 For [p. 177]Beginning of page 177this reason, Jacotot proposed that each person would be able to become a master for the others and to support them in their own intellectual development. Based on Jacotot’s perspective, Rancière method ‘consists not merely in aiming for future equality, but in directly producing its effects, precisely by positing it as an “axiom” in the first place’.48 Without equality, the people would become stultified by the superstition of their lack of intelligence.49

22Through his complete rejection of minorization, Rancière’s axiomatic presupposition of emancipation leads us to overlook the problem of education. The title of this section ‘materialism and emancipation’ points, however, in the direction of what could be regarded as a contradiction; after all, emancipation and materialism are concepts that stem from different traditions. This means that the operation of reconciling both concepts will ultimately imply their transformation into something else. I believe, however, that this reconciliation brings about a form of emancipation that neutralizes epistemocracy, avoiding, nevertheless, the form of an insurrectional moment it takes in Rancière. It also brings about a form of materialist education which is fundamentally anti-stadialist.

23As Ayşe Yuva argues in her contribution to this volume, materialism cannot be reduced to a debate regarding the primacy of matter over spirit. Friedrich A. Lange, who was not willing to assign the origin of materialism to a specific time period, stated in 1865 that this tradition was as old as philosophy itself and corresponded to the specific struggle against religious thought, which is also why materialism has so often been associated with impiety.50 However, Marx and Friedrich Engels instituted a controversy by analysing the origin of the materialist tradition in early modernity. Marx’s reception of materialism is complex and even problematic, since his account of the modern history [p. 178]Beginning of page 178of materialism in The Holy Family was fundamentally copied from Charles Renouvier’s 1842 Handbook of Modern Philosophy — not the best source to study the theme.51 Nevertheless, Marx still achieved a theoretical breakthrough by proposing a new materialism, at the earliest in his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ in 1845.52

24According to Marx’s ninth and tenth theses ad Feuerbach, materialism is characterized by the reciprocal constitution between activity (Tätigkeit) and subjectivity, which leads to the concept of practice.53 This reciprocal constitution takes the form of a ‘recursive loop […] where the products and the effects are at the same time causes and producers of what produces them’.54 Even though Marx had already proposed the reciprocal constitution between activity and subjectivity in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, in 1844, it was only with the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, from 1845, that he could start to theorize this recursive loop concretely in terms of social relations, and not abstractly in terms of human essence. This shift represents a radical break with previous writings, such as his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

25In 1993, using an expression that he borrowed from Friedrich H. Jacobi,55 Balibar proposed that this perspective be named ‘materialism without matter’, claiming that ‘Marx’s materialism has nothing to do with a reference to matter’.56 The concept of materialism without matter is inseparable from Balibar’s further research in terms of transindividuality, which affirms the reciprocity between processes of individuation [p. 179]Beginning of page 179(autonomization) and of individualization (singularization).57 In his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, Marx argues that old materialism is idealist like idealism itself because it assumes reality as a given fact based on the exteriority between subject and object — and not in the form of what I call, based on Edgar Morin, a recursive loop. Because philosophers have neglected the reciprocal constitution between activity and subjectivity underlying human practice, they have historically preferred education, even the ‘edification of the masses’, to the detriment of revolution58 — the interpretation of the world, rather than its transformation.59 Precisely for this reason, Marx says in the third thesis on Feuerbach that ‘the educators must be educated themselves’60 — a problem extensively analysed by Miguel in his contribution to this volume.

26I would like to propose a historical example that can address the problems concerning the relationship between emancipation and education that I have outlined in the previous two sections. After the introduction of universal adult male suffrage in France, notably in view of the election of Napoleon III, a preoccupation with educating the people in order to adjust them to political participation led to the fashion known as démopédie.61 This concept, which was analysed by Rosanvallon, involved the art of educating or instructing the people (demos + paideia). It is an idea that weds together the right to vote and instruction, as if true political agency can only be attained through a previous process of edification of the masses, or, as discussed throughout this text, the kind of epistemocracy that is similar to the examples concerning the exclusion from the right to vote in Brazil and in the United States.

27Rather than postulating the axiomatic neutralization of epistemocracy, as Rancière does, I believe a solution against stadialist and [p. 180]Beginning of page 180hierarchical conceptions regarding the relationship between knowledge and political action is to be found in the idea of a materialist education. A materialist education cannot be regarded as the transmission of knowledge; instead it must be conceived as intrinsically political. However, this does not mean that it is political in the sense of political philosophy. On the contrary, as Balibar recalls: political philosophy has always taught that the multitude is intrinsically violent, and, therefore, that it is in need of education — which means that it needs to have knowledge transmitted to it, as if knowledge could be transmitted from the outside. But autonomy is not the corollary of education. The ideal of a fully-fledged individuality as the condition for autonomy was, as we saw, the very basis of the philosophical anthropology of autonomy, leading to the labyrinth of emancipation. As illustrated in the case of démopédie, such a view leads to the vicious circle of elitism and tutelage. In opposition to this perspective, materialism can play a role in redefining the relationship between knowledge and political action in an anti-stadialist fashion. Accordingly, education becomes intrinsically political as long as it is regarded in the form of a recursive loop between the process of learning and the process of acting and transforming reality. Paraphrasing Marx, one could say: autonomy is not the reward of education but is, instead, education itself.62

Notes

  1. This chapter is based on three different strands of my research and aims to demonstrate their interconnection. Firstly, it marks the closure of my research as a fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel of the Brazilian Government (CAPES). Secondly, it engages with the research that has recently resulted in another co-edited volume published by Routledge entitled Democracy and Brazil: Collapse and Regression. Thirdly, it aims to bring together these two projects with the debates I have been engaged in with Émilie Filion-Donato, Marlon Miguel, Ayşe Yuva, and many other dear friends from the project ‘Materialism and Politics’.
  2. See Gérard Bensussan, ‘Émancipation’, in Dictionnaire critique du marxisme, ed. by Gérard Bensussan and Georges Labica (Paris: PUF, 1999), pp. 382–84.
  3. See Ulrich Weiss, ‘Emanzipation’, ed. by Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Historisch-Kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, 15 vols (Hamburg: Argument, 1983–), iii (1997), pp. 272–89.
  4. These two features have been partially identified by Ernesto Laclau in a provocative text, which was originally published in 1992. In opposition to Laclau, however, I don’t agree that these two dimensions lead to an undecidability between the ‘dichotomic dimension’ and the ‘dimension of ground’. See his Emancipation(s) (London: Verso, 1996), p. 1.
  5. Elme-Marie Caro, Problèmes de morale sociale (Paris: Hachette, 1887), p. 190.
  6. Heinrich Heine, ‘Reise von München nach Genua’, in Heinrich-Heine-Säkularausgabe, 27 vols (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1970–), vi: Reisebilder ii (1828–1831) (1986), pp. 7–72 (p. 61).
  7. Reinhardt Koselleck and Karl Martin Grass, ‘Emanzipation’, in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon, ed. by Reinhardt Koselleck, Otto Brunner, and Werner Conze, 7 vols (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1972–97), ii (1975), pp. 153–97.
  8. I am referring to minority in reference to its meaning in terms of age. In English, as in French and Spanish, the term minority (minorité in French and minoría in Spanish) combines two different meanings: (i) the situation of a group that is smaller in number, and (ii) the period before the attainment of majority. This is not the case in German (nor in Italian and in Portuguese), which distinguishes between Minderheit, minority in terms of number, and Unmündigkeit (or Minderjährigkeit), minority in terms of age.
  9. See Immanuel Kant, ‘An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?’ [1784], in Practical Philosophy, trans. by Mary J. Gregor, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 15–22 (p. 17). In the current chapter, I have chosen to translate Unmündigkeit in the work of Kant as ‘minority’ and rejected other options such as ‘immaturity’, following the choice made by Gregor in the Cambridge edition. I believe this choice is well justified for two reasons. Firstly, it is the best option considering how Kant employs the concept throughout his entire work, especially in the Doctrine of Right (first section of The Metaphysics of Morals, which was also translated by Gregor in the Cambridge edition of the works of Kant). Secondly, ‘minority’, differently from ‘immaturity’, is a legal concept and, therefore, is more in line with Unmündigkeit.
  10. Étienne Balibar, La Philosophie de Marx (Paris: La Découverte, 2014), p. 61. I also refer the reader to Marianna Poyares’s contribution to this volume.
  11. See Catherine Colliot-Thélène, ‘L’Ignorance du peuple’, in L’Ignorance du peuple: Essais sur la démocratie, ed. by Gérard Duprat (Paris: PUF, 1998), pp. 17–40.
  12. I argue, furthermore, that a materialist education should not be conceived as the activity of explaining human reality, as if this were composed of circumstances separated from our own practice.
  13. Marquis de Condorcet, Essai sur la constitution et les fonctions des assemblées provinciales, in Œuvres de Condorcet, ed. by Arthur Condorcet O’Connor and François Arago, 12 vols (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1847), viii, pp. 115–662 (p. 130; my translation).
  14. This distinction was enshrined in the third article, section i, of the above-mentioned law.
  15. Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, Reconnoissance et exposition raisonnée des droits de l’homme et du citoyen (Paris: Chez Baudouin, 1789), p. 21; my translation.
  16. For this reason, Pierre Rosanvallon states that the foundations of the modern tradition of civil law and those of political theory overlap (Le Sacre du citoyen. Histoire du suffrage universel en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1992), p. 100). In fact, in French civil law, the usage of the word ‘emancipation’ was widely connected to the legal capacity (capacité juridique). At the end of the seventeenth century, Antoine Furetière defined emancipation in his dictionary and encyclopaedia as the freedom ‘to act in one’s affairs and to govern one’s income without the assistance of a tutor’ (‘Émancipation’, in Dictionnaire Universel, 3 vols (The Hague and Rotterdam: Arnoud et Reinier Leers, 1701), ii, pp. 33–34 (pp. 33; my translation). In the Napoleonic Civil Code of 1804, it is stipulated that emancipation can be both tacit, as in the case of marriage (art. 476 et seq.), or explicit, when a minor is prematurely released from parental authority. These conceptions reverberate in Antoine-Gaspard Boucher d’Argis’s spirit when he writes, in 1755, the article ‘emancipation’ for the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert: emancipation is ‘an act that places certain persons outside the power of another’ (‘Émancipation’, in Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des arts et des métiers, ed. by Jean Le Rond d’Alembert and Denis Diderot, 17 vols (Paris, 1755), v, pp. 546–49 (p. 546; my translation).
  17. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals [1797], in Practical Philosophy, trans. by Mary J. Gregor, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 353–603 (p. 458).
  18. For the indebtedness of Hobbes’s theory to civil law, see Mónica Brito Vieira, The Elements of Representation in Hobbes: Aesthetics, Theatre, Law, and Theology in the Construction of Hobbes’s Theory of the State (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009), p. 156.
  19. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil, ed. by William Molesworth, in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, 11 vols (London: Bohn, 1839), iii, pp. 150 and 148.
  20. Ibid., p. 149. See also David Runciman, Pluralism and the Personality of the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 21.
  21. In Hobbes, tutelage is the form of patria potestas which is specific to civil society.
  22. In this respect, tutors are analogous to sovereign.
  23. John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, in Locke: Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 265–428 (p. 306). It’s worth recalling that the term ‘nonage’ was also used to translate Kant’s Unmündigkeit into English, as it was done by Mary Campbell Smith <http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/etscc/kant.html> [accessed 30 June 2020].
  24. John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, in The Educational Writings of John Locke, ed. by John William Adamson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 21–180 (p. 33).
  25. Kant, ‘What is Enlightenment?’, p. 17.
  26. On this specific occasion, one could write ‘natural maturity’, because in this case Kant is referring to ripeness, or the biological condition of maturation.
  27. Even though this formulation does not entirely match what could be described as minority in light of Kant’s Critique of Judgement, since, in the latter text, Enlightenment is identified as the ‘liberation from superstition’ (Befreiung vom Aberglauben), both texts suggest an idea of minority as preparation for autonomy.
  28. It is worth recalling, in this regard, the work Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, originally published in 1579, and possibly written by Philippe de Mornay, considered to be one of the most celebrated Monarchomach treatises of that time period. This book formulated, for the first time, a theory of the sovereignty of the people as the origin of the king’s power (Hubert Languet, Vindiciae Contra tyrannos, or, Concerning the Legitimate Power of a Prince over the People, and of the People over a Prince (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
  29. Johann Benjamin Erhard, Über das Recht des Volks zu einer Revolution (Berlin: Syndikat, 1970), p. 82; my translation.
  30. Erhard, Über das Recht, p. 95; my translation.
  31. Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1999), p. 440.
  32. See Heinrich Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland, in Heinrich-Heine-Säkularausgabe, in Heinrich-Heine-Säkularausgabe, viii: Über Deutschland, 1833–1836. Aufsätze über Kunst und Philosophie, pp. 125–230 (p. 191).
  33. Ibid., pp. 194–95.
  34. Ludwig Feuerbach, ‘Vorläufige Thesen zur Reformation der Philosophie’, in Gesammelte Werke, 14 vols (Berlin: Akademie, 1970), ix, pp. 243–63 (pp. 254–55).
  35. Ibid., p. 255; my translation.
  36. In this sense, one could rightfully identify Heine’s and Feuerbach’s writings with Jacques Rancière’s category of meta-politics. See Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), pp. 81–82.
  37. I refer the reader to the definition of ‘stadialism’ in the Introduction (p. 11, n. 17). Anti-stadialism here should not be misunderstood as rejection of the idea of stages. It refers instead to the idea of a linear and hierarchical evolution that entails a separation, in the form of a progression, between the moment of formation, on the one hand, and that of political autonomy and activity, on the other.
  38. In this case, we could say that the meaning of minority in terms of age (Unmündigkeit) encounters its meaning in terms of number (Minderheit).
  39. See Bruno Bauer, Die Judenfrage, first published in 1842 by the Deutsche Jahrbücher für Wissenschaft und Kunst and Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen, frei zu werden, first published in 1843 by the Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz.
  40. The core of Bauer’s argument can be found in the opening pages of ‘The Jewish Question’, in The Young Hegelians, an Anthology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 187–97 (pp. 187–88).
  41. Hermann Scheidler, ‘Judenemancipation’, in Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, ed. by Johann Samuel Ersch and Johann Gottfried Gruber, 167 vols (Leipzig: Johann Friedrich Gleditsch, 1850), xxvii, pp. 253–315 (p. 266).
  42. Yuko Miki, Frontiers of Citizenship: A Black and Indigenous History of Postcolonial Brazil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), p. 55.
  43. See Jairo Nicolau, História do Voto no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2002).
  44. For a discussion about the introduction of the ‘literacy census’ in Brazil, see Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, História Geral da Civilização Brasileira, 11 vols (São Paulo: Bertrand Brasil, 2005), vii, p. 234. The exclusion of illiterate people from their right to vote lasted until 1985 in Brazil, the final year of the military dictatorship.
  45. My usage of the concept of epistemocracy must be distinguished from David Estlund’s concept of ‘epistocracy’. See his Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007). In opposition to epistocracy, epistemocracy is not limited to the rule of experts, as it does not just concern political rule or governance, but, more importantly, political agency and political participation.
  46. I am using the term of minorization in a sense that is not identical to Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s ‘becoming-minor’ — or the term ‘minoritization’ which is derived from it. ‘Becoming-minor’ and ‘minoritization’ are built on the basis of the ‘minority’ as the smaller in number, a meaning that Deleuze extrapolates by saying that it corresponds to a ‘state of rule, that is to say, the situation of a group that, whatever its size, is excluded from the majority, or even included, but as a subordinate fraction in relation to the standard of measure that regulates the law and establishes the majority’ (Gilles Deleuze, ‘One Less Manifesto’, in Mimesis, Masochism, & Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought, ed. by Timothy Murray (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 239–58 (p. 255)).
  47. Étienne Balibar, Equaliberty: Political Essays, trans. by James Ingram (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 10.
  48. This equality is explained by the following: ‘every common person might conceive his human dignity, take the measure of his intellectual capacity, and decide how to use it’ (Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 17).
  49. Katia Genel, ‘Jacques Rancière and Axel Honneth: Two Critical Approaches to the Political’, in Recognition or Disagreement: A Critical Encounter on the Politics of Freedom, Equality and Identity, ed. by Katia Genel and Jean-Philippe Deranty (New York: Columbia University Press), pp. 3–32 (p. 29).
  50. Ibid, p. 39.
  51. Friedrich Albert Lange, The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance, 3 parts (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1925), i, p. 5.
  52. Which has been meticulously demonstrated by Olivier Bloch, Matière à Histoires (Paris: Vrin, 1997), pp. 384–441.
  53. See the contribution by Frieder Otto Wolf and his discussion around the notion of ‘materialism of materialities’.
  54. See Karl Marx, ‘Thesen über Feuerbach’, in MEW [Marx-Engels-Werke, see abbreviations], iii (1958), pp. 5–7 (p. 5). I follow Frank Fischbach’s preference for translating the term with practice — avoiding, therefore, writing the word as Praxis/praxis. To keep it in the German original represents an undue proliferation of concepts. See Franck Fischbach, Philosophies de Marx (Paris: Vrin, 2015), p. 27.
  55. See Edgar Morin, On Complexity (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2008), p. 49.
  56. See Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, ‘Letter from Jacobi to Fichte’, in The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill, ed. by George di Giovanni (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), pp. 497–536 (p. 502). However, Balibar’s usage of the expression must be distinguished from Jacobi’s, since the latter has used it to describe Johann G. Fichte’s Doctrine of Science as an inverted Spinozism.
  57. Balibar, La Philosophie de Marx, p. 60; my translation. I also refer the reader to Marianna Poyares’s contribution to this volume.
  58. See Étienne Balibar, Spinoza politique. Le Transindividuel (Paris: PUF, 2018), p. 306. See also Jason Read, The Politics of Transindividuality (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
  59. Balibar, La Philosophie de Marx, p. 61.
  60. Marx, ‘Thesen über Feuerbach’, p. 7.
  61. Ibid., pp. 5–6. This question reappears much later, in 1875, in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme.
  62. The term is used following Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s sentence ‘democracy is démopédia’, quoted by Pierre Rosanvallon, Le peuple introuvable: histoire de la représentation démocratique en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1998), p. 127.
  63. The original sentence is as follows: ‘Blessedness is not the reward of virtue but is virtue itself’ (Karl Marx, ‘Hefte zur epikureischen, stoischen und skeptischen Philosophie’, in MEW, xl, pp. 13–258 (p. 155)). Marx quotes Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics v, 42; CWS [The Collected Works of Spinoza, see abbreviations], i, p. 616.

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