Interview with Étienne Balibar
The following interview was conducted over the course of several meetings,
both in person and through e-mail, between November 13, 2005, and Septem-
ber 1, 2006. The questions were composed by the editors.
In ‘‘Three Concepts of Politics,’’ you state that in the political
scene today, resistance to the ‘‘communications, control, and consump-
tion mega-machine’’ can no longer viably take the form of either ‘‘becom-
ing majoritarian,’’ or ‘‘becoming minoritarian.’’ In the absence of a theo-
retical choice of this kind, you reframe the problem by stating that ‘‘it is a
conjectural question, a question of the art of politics—and perhaps
simply of art since the only means civility has at its disposal are state-
ments, signs, and roles.’’∞ Several questions emerge from this assertion.
Could you elaborate on how a ‘‘politics of civility’’ conjoins specifi-
cally with a question of art? If the means that a politics of civility has at
its disposal are statements, signs, and roles, how would this politics be
transmissible or translated to a broader range of subjects without resort-
ing to the aestheticized mass politics of the last century? How could this
politics of civility be enacted in the expanded field of social experience?
What material processes are at its disposal in order to translate it, and
therefore to enact it at a broad level?
I think that the best way to answer your question is to insist on
the equivocity of the category of art in our modern languages. It encom-
passes the two meanings of tekhnè and poièsis, ‘‘technique’’ and ‘‘cre-
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