To summarize for everyone who won’t read through the entire article (it isn’t that short actually, so I would encourage you to just skim it… it’s actually probably shorter than this blog post will be), this news piece unconsciously demonstrates some really interesting dynamics when it comes to Ranciere’s politics. I’m a bit of a mess when it comes to Ranciere, so I’ll attempt to keep this simple and hope I don’t derail too much…
In the recent Russian parliamentary elections (a few days ago) the people ended the supermajority that United Russia (Vladimir Putin’s political party) has held for quite a few years. This supermajority was so absolute that it allowed United Russia complete control of politics to the point of being able to make constitutional amendments without having to acknowledge opposition parties or opposing opinions. This is an obvious example of denying political discourse and squashing the opinions of others to the point of not having to even acknowledge that they have a “voice”. However, while it has been difficult for the people (and opposition parties) to even be noticed by the government, this is a sign that they have found a successful way of having their voice heard (though they have been trying some rather unsuccessful methods as well).
Recently Putin’s popularity has been denied prominently in public in ways that haven’t been successfully censored. For example, at a recent event he was booed by the people attending and in the Russian Parliament (the Duma) many of the opposition leaders chose not to stand when he entered, a very rare and offensive display of resistance. However, similar to the class walking out of the Harvard professor’s class because of his exorbitant textbook prices, this was not the most effective way of protesting. These two ways of protesting were seen more as whining, as opposed to an argument by Putin. It’s very easy for the party in authority (whether that party is a Harvard Professor or United Russia) in completely ignore that their opponent is attempting to make a valid point when the attempt to be heard comes off as a shout, not an expression.
Probably unconsciously, the opposition of United Russia just utilized a more effective type of protest than the others I just noted above in voting against the current government. Again, while the people probably weren’t thinking of creating politics through disagreement by voting, the government is now forced to acknowledge their ideas and presence because they did something truly forceful in a non aggressive or petty way that prevents the rulers from having justification to strike back. In simply overturning United Russia’s enormous majority, the former minorities in Russia have now become a majority and while this new majority is made up of separate groups, this forces United Russia to acknowledge these minority groups in two ways. First, because United Russia legally cannot filibuster and make laws without the other’s consent and, two, because they are forced to recognize that the people are involved in politics and they have to be consulted and concerned in order to get anything done (exactly in the way that it isn’t happening in Congress right now).
Now the bad news. Putin controls the media coverage of the upcoming Presidential elections so it is highly unlikely that he will be unseated, simply because most of his opponents are completely unknown. Regardless, now that parliament has been assured to be more balanced than it has been in many years, politics and disagreement (as defined by Ranciere) should hopefully begin to resume in Russia though we’ll have to watch to see what happens in the future. Will the people continue to disagree with United Russia and force politics or will this just be a small setback for Putin?
Again, I may just be reading to much into this, but it’s exciting to be seeing Democratic Theory in the news.