Thursday, December 17, 2009

Friends in High Places

Via Causeur I learn that Carla Bruni has a homeless friend, Denis, with whom she chats about "books and music." As it happens, I've just finished translating the chapter on "the politics of presence" in Pierre Rosanvallon's latest book, La légitimité démocratique. There couldn't be a better illustration of Rosanvallon's point than this little anecdote about the First Lady. Here is Rosanvallon:

Politics can end up being subsumed by representation. In a democracy of presence, the procedural and therefore programmatic aspect of democracy recedes into the background, and there is a tendency for “democratic representation” to be whittled down to little more than a way in which people can express their concerns to their leaders. ... It is not simply “identity politics” in the usual sense: giving minorities a chance to make their voices heard or to promote their own projects and demands. At a deeper level, what is involved is the construction of a vast mirror of civil society. It is as if the only purpose of government were to eliminate everything that is harsh or oppressive in daily life. In this sense, the politics of presence serves as a kind of social exorcism. It has a cathartic dimension. By inducing leaders to take notice of misfortune, it seeks implicitly to make misfortune more tolerable.

As François-Xavier Ajavon says, "On reste pantois devant cette orgie miniature de communication élyséenne, bien plus glaçante, en vérité, que l’actuelle vague de froid."

1 comment:

satchmo said...

That's an interesting graf from Rosanvallon, and the Bruni illustration is striking. One can only imagine the badinage about books and music.

A vision of Marie Antoinette playing at shepherdess dances through my head. Let them eat Ipods.