What Is a People?

Written by Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Jacques Rancière, Pierre Bourdieu, et al | Columbia University Press | May 2016

These outspoken intellectuals seek to reclaim "people" as an effective political concept by revisiting its uses and abuses over time. Alain Badiou surveys the idea of a people as a productive force of solidarity and emancipation and a negative tool of categorization and suppression. Pierre Bourdieu follows with a sociolinguistic analysis of "popular" and its transformation of democracy, beliefs, songs, and even soups into phenomena with outsized importance. Judith Butler calls out those who use freedom of assembly to create an exclusionary "we." Georges Didi-Huberman addresses the problem of summing up a people with totalizing narratives. Sadri Khiari applies an activist's perspective to the racial hierarchies inherent in ethnic and national categories, and Jacques Rancière comments on the futility of isolating theories of populism when, as these thinkers have shown, the idea of a "people" is too diffuse to support them. By engaging this topic linguistically, ethnically, culturally, and ontologically, these scholars help separate "people" from its fraught associations to pursue more vital formulations.

Alain Badiou is emeritus professor of philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

"With contributions from leading philosophers and social theorists from France, Tunisia, and the United States, What is a People? is a must read for anyone interested in cutting edge work in the tradition of French and Francophone critical theory." --Amy Allen, Liberal Arts Professor of Philosophy and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

More information available on the publisher's website.

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