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«Don’t count me in» – Democracy, education and the question of inclusion

In this paper I take up the question of the relationship between democracy and inclusion. I present the deliberative turn in democratic theory as an attempt to overcome 'external exclusion' and discuss Iris Young's work as an attempt to overcome 'internal exclusions.' I argue that although attempts to make democracy more inclusive are laudable, they are ultimately based upon a colonial conception of democratisation, one in which inclusion is seen as a process whereby those who are already on the inside include others into their sphere. I use the work of Jacques Rancière to argue for an understanding of democratisation as the interruption of the existing political order from the outside in the name of equality. This can not only help us to think differently about the role of inclusion in democracy. It also urges us to see that there are opportunities for the democratisation of education that lie beyond the inclusion of 'newcomers' into the existing democratic order.

Keywords:democracy ,education,inclusion,emancipation

The guarantee of democracy is not the filling up of all the dead times and empty spaces by the forms of participation or of counterpower: it is the continual renewal of the actors and of the forms of their actions, the ever-open possibility of the fresh emergence of this fleeting subject.
Jacques Rancière

Democracy and inclusion

In this article I would like to go back to a rather fundamental question: the question how we might best understand the idea and ideal of democracy. Some might argue that there is no need to go back to this question because we already know what democracy is or should be. At the end of history, so we were told about a decade ago, there is only one viable form of democracy left, viz., liberal democracy (Fukuyama, 1992). But the triumph of liberal democracy has been short-lived and from where we stand today the end of history seems a long time ago.

This is not to suggest that in the intervening years the discourse on democracy has become more refined and sophisticated. The opposite seems to be the case. In the world of George W. Bush it looks like one is either a democrat or a terrorist, and it is this binary way of thinking which has even been used to justify military intervention in the name of democracy. What we are witnessing here, to use a slightly odd phrase, is the

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politicisation of democracy, i.e., the use of democracy for particular political aims. At the very same time this is also a de-politicisation of democracy, at least from the point of view of those who would argue that politics can only ever exist as democratic politics.

For educators, and particularly for those who wish to support and promote democracy through education, it is important to be aware of such displacements of the meaning of democracy. How different, after all, is the wish to ‘bring democracy’ to the classroom from the wish to ‘bring democracy’ to countries that are not – or as some would emphasise: that are not yet – democratic? Also: if at one level democracy seems to have become the new name for imperialism, what might this imply for democratic education in the 21st century?

The key issue here, so I wish to argue, concerns the relationship between democracy and inclusion. The attempt to ‘extend’ democracy to those who are not yet part of it – either through education or by other means – is, after all, an attempt to include more people into the ‘sphere’ of democracy. But the relationship between democracy and inclusion is not merely an instrumental one. It could well be argued that inclusion is one of the core values, if not the core value of democracy (e.g., Allan, 2003; Gundara, 2000; Young, 2000). The ‘point’ of democracy, after all, is the inclusion of everyone (the whole demos) into the ruling (kratein) of society. This is why Pericles defined democracy as the situation in which «power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people» (Held, 1987, p. 16) and it is why Aristotle wrote about democracy as the «rule of all over each and of each by turns over all» (Held, 1987, p. 19).

It is also reflected in Abraham Lincoln's definition of democracy as «the government of the people, by the people, and for the people» (Torres, 1998, p. 159) and in Beetham’s and Boyle’s more precise definition of democracy as entailing «the twin principles of popular control over collective decision-making and equality of rights in the exercise of that control» (Beetham & Boyle, 1995, p. 1, emph. in original). All this, however, is not only a question of definition but also affects the legitimacy of democracy. As Iris Young (2000, p. 5 f.) points out, the normative legitimacy of democratic decision-making precisely depends «on the degree to which those affected by it have been included in the decision-making processes and have had the opportunity to influence the outcomes».

Inclusion is not only the main point and purpose of democracy; it is also one of its main problems. The question that has haunted democracy from day one (and in a sense already troubled democracy before it took off) is the question ‘Who are the people?’ – or, to put it differently: ‘Who are to be included in the (definition of the) demos?’ This is the question of democratic citizenship and we know all too well that in the city-state of Athens, the birthplace of modern democracy, citizenship was a highly restric-ted affair. Only Athenian men over the age of 20 were eligible for citizenship. Women, children, slaves (who made up about 60% of the population) and immigrants, even from families who had settled in Athens several generations earlier, were simply excluded from political participation (Held, 1987, p. 23).

On the one hand the history of democracy can be written as a continuous quest for inclusion. Some of the most powerful and successful social movements of the last century – including the women’s movement and the labour movement – have precisely mobilised «around demands for oppressed and marginalized people to be included as full and equal citizens» (Young, 2000, p. 6). But

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the history of democracy is not only a history of inclusion; it is at the very same time a history of exclusion. In some cases exclusion is justified in the very name of democracy. This is, for example, the case with liberal democracy where the democratic principle of popular rule (expressing the principle of equality) is qualified by a set of basic liberties – the freedoms of thought, speech, press, association and religion, the right to hold personal property, the freedom to vote and hold public office, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law – that take priority over popular rule in order to make sure that popular rule does not restrain or obstruct individual freedom (thus expressing the principle of liberty) (see Gutmann, 1993, p. 413).

Whereas liberal democracy seeks to exclude certain outcomes of democratic decision-making (and thus would exclude those who would argue for such outcomes), there is also a more direct link between democracy and exclusion. The overriding argument here focuses on those who are deemed not to be ‘fit’ for democracy, either because they lack certain qualities that are considered to be fundamental for democratic participation – such as rationality or reasonableness (see below) – or because they do not subscribe to the ideal of democracy itself.

As Bonnie Honig (1993) has argued, this is not only an issue for communitarians who wish to see democratic politics organised around particular political identities. It is also an issue for liberals since they tend to restrict political participation to those who are wil-ling and able to act in a rational way and who are willing to leave their substantive conceptions of the good life behind them in the private sphere. Such strategies not only result in the exclusion of those who are considered to be ‘sub-rational’ (e.g., certain categories of psychiatric patients) or unreasonable.1 They are also used to justify the exclusion of those who we might call ‘pre-rational’ or, in a more general sense, ‘pre-democratic,’ and children are the most obvious example of such a category. It is here, then, that there is an important link with education, because democratic education is often seen as the process that should make individuals ‘ready’ for their participation in democratic decision-making (for a critical discussion of this view of democratic education see Biesta, 2003; Biesta & Lawy, 2006; Biesta, 2006; Biesta, 2007).

In what follows I wish to take a closer look at the relationship between democracy and inclusion. I wish to ask what it means for democracy to be inclusive and I wish to explore how democracy might become more inclusive (although I will argue that, in a sense, this is the wrong question). I am not only interested in these questions because they are fundamental for our understanding of democracy. I am also interested in them against the background of the developments at the global political level where people seem to be ‘forced’ into democracy and where inclusion seems to be done to people rather than by them. At one level this signifies a remarkable reversal of the relationship between democracy and inclusion. Yet we shouldn’t forget that at least some forms of democratic education can be said to operate along similar lines, i.e., ‘bringing democracy’ to those who are not yet democrats. 2 Let me start from where we are: How does inclusion figure in recent understandings of democracy?

A brief history of inclusion

The question of inclusion plays a central role in discussions about political decision-ma-king. In contemporary political theory there are two main models of democratic decision-making: the aggregative model and the deliberative model (see Young, 2000, p. 18 ff.;

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Elster, 1998, p. 6). The first model sees democracy as a process of aggregating the pre-ferences of individuals, often, but not exclusively, in choosing public officials and policies. A central assumption of this approach is that the preferences of individuals are taken as given and that politics is only concerned with the aggregation of preferences, often, but not exclusively, on the basis of majority rule. Where these preferences come from, whether they are valid or worthwhile or not, and whether they are held for egoistic or altruistic reasons, are seen as irrelevant questions. The aggregative model assumes, in other words, «that ends and values are subjective, non-rational, and exogenous to the political process» and that democratic politics is basically «a competition between private interests and preferences» (Young, 2000, p. 22).

Over the past two decades an increasing number of political theorists have argued that democracy should not be confined to the simple aggregation of preferences – democracy as counting and adding up – but should involve the deliberative transformation of preferences. Under the deliberative model democratic decision-making is seen as a process which involves «decision making by means of arguments offered by and to participants» (Elster, 1998, p. 8). Crucially, this includes decision-making both about the means and the ends of collective action. As Young explains, deliberative democracy is not about «determining what preferences have greatest numerical support, but [about] determining which proposals the collective agrees are supported by the best reasons» (Young, 2000, p. 23). The reference to ‘best reasons’ indicates – and this is very important – that deliberative democracy is based upon a particular conception of deliberation.

Dryzek, for example, acknowledges that deliberation can cover a rather broad spectrum of activities but argues that for authentic deliberation to happen the requirement is that the reflection on preferences should take place in a non-coercive manner (Dryzek, 2000, p. 2). This requirement, so he explains, «rules out domination via the exercise of power, manipulation, indoctrination, propaganda, deception, expression of mere self-interest, threats ... and attempts to impose ideological conformity» (ibid.). This resonates with Elster’s claim that deliberative democracy is about the giving and taking of arguments by participants «who are committed to the values of rationality and impartiality» (Elster, 1998, p. 8) and with his suggestion that deliberation must take place between «free, equal and rational agents» (Elster, 1998, p. 5).

In one respect the ‘deliberative turn’ (or re-turn; see Dryzek, 2000, p. 1 f.) is an important step forward in democratic theory and democratic practice. On the one hand the deliberative approach seems to be a more full expression of the basic values of demo-cracy, particularly the idea that democracy is about actual participation in collective decision-making. In the aggregative model there is, after all, little participation, and decision-making is almost algorithmic. On the other hand, the deliberative approach seems to have a much stronger educational potential. In the deliberative model «political actors not only express preferences and interest, but they engage with one another about how to balance these under circumstances of inclusive equality» (Young, 2000, p. 26; emph. added).

Young argues that because this interaction «requires participants to be open and attentive to one another, to justify their claims and proposals in terms of [being] acceptable to all, the orientation of participants moves from self-regard to an orientation to what is publicly assertable. /.../

[Thus] people often gain new information, learn different experiences of their collective problems,

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or find that their own initial opinions are founded on prejudice and ignorance, or that they have misunderstood the relation of their own interests to others. (Young, 2000, p. 26)

Or, as Warren (1992, p. 8) has put it, parti-cipation in deliberation can make individuals «more public-spirited, more tolerant, more knowledgeable, more attentive to the interests of others, and more probing of their own interests». Deliberative democracy, so its proponents argue, is therefore not only more democratic but also more educative. A third asset of deliberative democracy lies in its potential impact on the motivation of political actors in that participation in democratic decision-making is more likely to commit participants to its outcomes. This suggests that deliberative democracy is not only an intrinsically desirable way of social problem-solving but probably also an effective way of doing this (see Dryzek, 2000, p. 172).

The deliberative turn can be seen as an attempt to bring democracy closer to its core values and in this respect represents an important correction to the individualism and ‘disconnected pluralism’ (Biesta, 2006) of the aggregative model and of liberal democracy more generally. However, by raising the stakes of democracy, deliberative democracy has also brought the difficulty of democratic inclusion into much sharper focus, and thus has generated – ironically but not surprisingly – a series of problems around the question of inclusion. The main issue here centres on the entry conditions for participation in deliberation. The authors quoted above all seem to suggest that participation in democratic deliberation should be regulated and that it should be confined to those who commit themselves to a particular set of values and behaviours.

Young (2000, p. 23; emph. added), for example, argues that the deliberative model «entails several normative ideas for the relationships and dispositions of deliberating parties, among them inclusion, equality, reasonableness, and publicity» which, so she claims, «are all logically related in the deliberative model.»

Most of the proponents of (versions of) deliberative democracy specify a set of entry conditions for participation, although what is interesting about the discussion is that most go at great pains to delineate a minimum set of conditions necessary for democratic deliberation rather than an ideal set (see, e.g., the contributions in Elster, 1998). Young provides an interesting example with her distinction between reasonableness (which she sees as a necessary entry condition) and rationality (which she doesn’t see as a necessary condition).

For Young being reasonable doesn’t entail being rational. Reasonableness refers to «a set of dispositions that discussion participants have [rather] than to the substance of people’s contributions to debate» (Young, 2000, p. 24; emph. added). She concedes that reasonable people «often have crazy ideas,» yet «what makes them reasonable is their wil-lingness to listen to others who want to explain to them why their ideas are incorrect or inappropriate» (Young, 2000, p. 24). In Young’s hands reasonableness thus emerges as a communicative virtue, and not as a criterion for the logical ‘quality’ of people’s pre-ferences and convictions.

This example not only shows why the issue of inclusion is so prominent in the deli-berative model. It also explains why the deliberative turn has generated a whole new set of issues around inclusion. The reason for this is that deliberation is not simply a form of political decision-making but first and foremost a form of political communication. The inclusion question in deliberative democracy is therefore not so much a question about who should be included, who should be ‘counted in’ – although this question

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should be asked always as well. It is first and foremost a question about who is able to participate effectively in deliberation. As Dryzek aptly summarises, the suspicion about deliberative democracy is «that its focus on a particular kind of reasonable political interaction is not in fact neutral, but systematically excludes a variety of voices from effective participation in democratic politics» (Dryzek, 2000, p. 58).

In this regard Young makes a helpful distinction between two forms of exclusion: external exclusion, which is about «how people are [actually] kept outside the process of discussion and decision-making,» and internal exclusion where people are formally included in decision-making processes but where they may find, for example, «that their claims are not taken seriously and may believe that they are not treated with equal respect» (Young, 2000, p. 55). Internal exclusion, in other words, refers to those situations in which people «lack effective opportunity to influence the thinking of others even when they have access to fora and procedures of decision-making» (Young, 2000, p. 55) which can particularly be the outcome of the emphasis of some proponents of deliberative democracy on «dispassionate, unsituated, neutral reason» (Young, 2000, p. 63).

To counteract the internal exclusion that is the product of a too narrow focus on argument, Young has suggested several other modes of political communication which should be added to the deliberative process not only to remedy «exclusionary tendencies in deliberative practices» but also to promote «respect and trust» and to make possible «understanding across structural and cultural difference» (Young, 2000, p. 57). The first of these is greeting or public acknowledgement. This is about «communicative political gestures through which those who have conflicts ... recognize others as included in the discussion, especially those with whom they differ in opinion, interest, or social location» (Young, 2000, p. 61; emph. in original).

Young emphasises that greeting should be thought of as a starting-point for political interaction. It «precedes the giving and evaluating of reasons» (Young, 2000, p. 79) and does so through the recognition of the other parties in the deliberation. The second mode of political communication is rhetoric and more specifically the affirmative use of rhetoric (Young, 2000, p. 63). Although one could say that rhetoric only concerns the form of political communication and not its content, the point Young makes is that inclusive political communication should pay attention to and be inclusive about the different forms of expression and should not try to purify rational argument from rhetoric.

Rhetoric is not only important because it can help to get particular issues on the agenda for deliberation (Young, 2000, p. 66 f.). Rhetoric can also help to articulate claims and arguments «in ways appropriate to a parti-cular public in a particular situation» (Young, 2000, p. 67; emph. in original). Rhetoric always accompanies an argument by situating it «for a particular audience and giving it embodied style and tone» (Young, 2000, p. 79). Young’s third mode of political communication is narrative or storytelling. The main function of narrative in democratic communication lies in its potential «to foster understanding among members of a polity with very different experience or assumptions about what is important» (Young, 2000, p. 71).

Young emphasises the role of narrative in the teaching and learning dimension of political communication. «Inclusive democra-tic communication,» so she argues, «assumes that all participants have something to teach the public about the society in which they dwell together» and also assumes «that all participants are ignorant of some aspects of the social or natural world, and that every

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one comes to a political conflict with some biases, prejudices, blind spots, or stereo-types» (Young, 2000, p. 77).

It is important to emphasise that greeting, rhetoric and narrative are not meant to replace argumentation. Young stresses again and again that deliberative democracy entails «that participants require reasons of one another and critically evaluate them» (Young, 2000, p. 79). Other proponents of the deli-berative model take a much more narrow approach and see deliberation exclusively as a form of rational argumentation (e.g. Benhabib, 1996) where the only legitimate force should be the «forceless force of the better argument» (Habermas). Similarly, Dryzek, after a discussion of Young’s ideas,3 concludes that argument always has to be central to deliberative democracy» (Dryzek, 2000, p. 71).

Although he acknowledges that other modes of communication can be present and that there are good reasons to welcome them, their status is different «because they do not have to be present» (Dryzek, 2000; emph added). For Dryzek at the end of the day all modes of political communication must live up to the standards of rationality. This does not mean that they must be subordinated to rational argument «but their deployment only makes sense in a context where argument about what is to be done remains central» (Dryzek, 2000, p. 168). Whereas all this may well be true, we shouldn’t forget where the importance of Young’s contribution exactly lies, because what she tries to do is address the particular forms of exclusion generated by deliberative democracy, i.e., those forms of internal exclusion that result from the fact that deliberative democracy specifies a particular form of political communication. To put it bluntly: internal exclusion is simply not an issue for the aggregative model because there it is only the counting that counts.

«Don’t count me in»

This ‘brief history of inclusion’ not only reveals that much important work has been done over the past two decades around the question of democratic inclusion. It also shows that some real progress has been made. But this is not to suggest that there are no problems left with the direction in which the discussion about democratic inclusion is moving – and these problems, so I wish to suggest, are not merely practical but have to do with more fundamental assumptions that underlie the discourse about democracy and inclusion. There are two assumptions which, in my view, are particularly problematic.

One assumption underlying the discourse is the belief that democracy can become a ‘normal’ situation. In the discussion about inclusion the main challenge seems to be perceived as a practical one, i.e., as the question how we can make our democratic practices even more inclusive (internal inclusion) and how we can include even more people into the sphere of democratic deliberation (external inclusion). The assumption here is that if we can become even more attentive to otherness and difference we will eventually reach a situation of total democratic inclusion, a situation in which democracy has become ‘normal.’

While people may have different views about when this situation might be reached (in the nearby future or in a very distant, utopian future), how it might be reached (by converting more and more people to the ‘gospel’ of democracy or by continuously adjusting and fine-tuning democratic practices and principles) and whether or not there will always be some ‘remainders’ (Mouffe, 1993), the idea that democratisation means including more and more people into the sphere of democracy reveals the underlying idea that the best democracy is the most inclusive democracy, and reveals the

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underlying assumption that democracy can and should become a normal political reality. Deliberative democracy is a good example of this, because many proponents of deliberative democracy do indeed want to make the deliberation all-inclusive and try to set up as few obstacles as possible for participation in the deliberation. Deliberative democracy ‘only’ asks people to be reasonable and to commit themselves to the force of the better argument. Anyone who is happy to do this is more than welcome.

This relates to a second assumption underlying the discussion about democratic inclusion, which is the idea that inclusion should be understood as a process in which those who stand outside of the sphere of democracy should be brought into this sphere and, more importantly, should be included by those who are already on the inside. The assumption here is that inclusion is a process which happens ‘from the inside out,’ a pro-cess which emanates from the position of those who are already considered to be de-mocratic (or who consider themselves to be democrats). The very language of inclusion not only suggests that someone is including someone else. It also suggests – and this, of course, is familiar terrain for those who work in the field of inclusive education – that someone is setting the terms for inclusion and that it is for those who wish to be included to meet those terms. Again, deli-berative democracy and the discussion about entry conditions for democratic participation more generally are a clear example of this. What this shows is that in the discussion about democratic inclusion, inclusion is understood as something that comes from the ‘centre’ and reaches out to the ‘margins’.

There is, of course, no need to throw out the deliberative baby with the bathwater of theoretical purity, and this is definitely not my intention. Deliberative democracy clearly has many advantages over other political practices and processes. But the question we should ask – and probably should ask in the very name of democracy – is whether the underlying assumptions about democracy result in the best and, so we might add, most democratic way to understand and ‘do’ democracy. The first step in answering this question is to ask whether democracy can be understood differently. One author who has tried to approach the question of democracy in a way that is indeed different from the prevailing discourse about democracy and inclusion is the French philosopher Jacques Rancière.

Whereas in the prevailing discourse democracy is seen as something that can be permanent and normal, Rancière argues for an understanding of democracy as sporadic, as something that only ‘happens’ from time to time and in very particular situations (see Rancière, 1995, p. 41, p. 61). To clarify this point Rancière makes a distinction between politics – which for him always means democratic politics (democracy as «the institution of politics itself»; Rancière, 1999, p. 101) – and what he refers to as police or police order. In a way that is reminiscent of Foucault, Rancière defines the police as

an order of bodies that defines the allocation of ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying, and that sees that those bodies are assigned by name to a particular place and task. (Rancière, 1999, p. 29)

It as an order «of the visible and the sayable that sees that a particular activity is visible and another is not, that this speech is understood as discourse and another as noise» (Rancière, 1999, p. 29). Police should not be understood as the way in which the state structures the life of society. It is not, in Habermasian terms, the ‘grip’ of the system on the lifeworld, but includes both. As Rancière explains, «(t)he distribution of places and

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roles that defines a police regime stems as much from the assumed spontaneity of social relations as from the rigidity of state functions» (Rancière, 1999, p. 29). One way to read this definition of police is to think of it as an order that is all-inclusive in that everyone has a particular place, role or position in it. This is not to say that everyone is included in the running of the order. The point simply is that no one is excluded from the order. After all, women, children, slaves and immigrants had a clear place in the democracy of Athens, viz., as those who were not allowed to participate in political decision making. In precisely this respect every police order is all-inclusive.

Against this background Rancière then defines politics as the disruption of the police order in the name of equality. This may sound simpler than what Rancière has in mind, so it is important to be clear about the kind of disruption politics represents. Rancière explains that he reserves the term ‘po-litics’ «for an extremely determined activity antagonistic to policing: whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that, by definition, has no place in that configuration» (Rancière, 1999, p. 30 f.). This break is manifest is a series of actions «that reconfigure the space where parties, parts, or lack of parts have been defined.» (Rancière, 1999, p. 31). Political activity so conceived is «whatever shifts a body from the place assigned to it» (ibid.). «It makes visible what had no business being seen, and makes heard [and understood; G.B.] a discourse where once there was only place for noise.» (Rancière, 1999, p. 31) As Rancière explains:

(P)olitical activity is always a mode of expression that undoes the perceptible divisions of the police order by implementing a basically heterogenous assumption, that of a part of those who have no part, an assumption that, at the end of the day, itself demonstrates the sheer contingency of the order [and] the equality of any speaking being with any other speaking being. (Rancière, 1999, p. 31)

Politics thus refers to the event when two ‘heterogeneous processes’ meet: the police process and the process of equality (see Rancière, 1999, p. 31).

There are two points to add to this account. The first is that for Rancière politics understood in this way is always democratic politics. Democracy, so he argues, «is not a regime or a social way of life» – it is not and cannot be, in other words, part of the police order – but should rather be understood «as the institution of politics itself» (Rancière, 1999, p. 101). Every politics is democratic not in the sense of a set of institutions, but in the sense of forms of expression «that confront the logic of equality with the logic of the police order» (Rancière, 1999, p. 101). Democracy, so we might say, is a ‘claim’ for equality.

But this raises a further question about Rancière’s understanding of democracy, which is the question about who it is that makes this claim. Who, in other words, ‘does’ politics or ‘performs’ democracy? 4 The point of asking the question in this way is not to suggest that there is no subject of politics, that there are no democratic actors involved in democracy. The point is that political actors – or subjects – do not exist before the ‘act’ of democracy, or to be more precise: their political identity, their identity as de-mocratic subjects only comes into being in and through the act of disruption of the police order. This is why Rancière argues that politics is itself a process of subjectification. It is a process in and through which political subjects are constituted. Rancière (1999, p. 35) defines subjectification as «the production through a series of actions of a body and a capacity for enunciation not previously

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identifiable within a given field of experience, whose identification is thus part of the reconfiguration of the field of experience».

Democracy – or to be more precise: the appearance of democracy – is therefore not simply the situation in which a group who has previously been excluded from the realm of politics steps forward to claim its place under the sun. It is at the very same time the creation of a group as group with a particular identity that didn’t exist before. Democratic activity is, for example, to be found in the activity of nineteenth-century workers «who established a collective basis for work relations» that were previously seen as «the pro-duct of an infinite number of relationships between private individuals» (Rancière, 1999, p. 30). Democracy thus establishes new, political identities, identities that were not part of and did not exist in the existing order. Or as Rancière (Rancière, 1999, p. 99 f.) puts it: «Democracy is the designation of subjects that do not coincide with the parties of the state or of society.»

This means that «the place where the people appear» is the place «where a dispute is conducted» (Rancière, 1999, p. 100). The political dispute is distinct from all conflicts of interest between constituted parties of the population, for it is a conflict «over the very count of those parties.» (Rancière, 1999, p. 100) It is a dispute between «the police logic of the distribution of places and the political logic of the egalitarian act» (Rancière, 1999, p. 100). Politics is therefore «primarily a conflict over the existence of a common stage and over the existence and status of those present on it» (Rancière, 1999, p. 26 f.).

For Rancière, therefore, democratisation is not a process that emanates from the centre and extends to the margins. It is not a process in which those who are already democratic – an impossible position from Rancière’s point of view anyway – include others into their sphere. Rather democracy appears as a claim from the ‘outside,’ a claim based upon the perception of injustice, or of what Rancière refers to as a ‘wrong,’ a claim made in the name of equality. Those who make the claim do not simply want to be included in the existing order; they want to redefine the order in such a way that new identities, new ways of doing and being become possible and can be ‘counted.’

This means that for Rancière democratisation is no longer a process of inclusion of excluded parties into the existing order; it rather is a transformation of that order in the name of equality. The impetus for this transformation does not come from the inside but rather from the outside. But it is important to see that, unlike in the prevailing discourse about democratic inclusion, this outside is not a ‘known’ outside. Democratisation is, after all, not a process that happens within the police order in which it is perfectly clear who are taking part in decision-making and who are not. Democratisation is a process that disrupts the existing order from a place that could not be expressed or articulated from within this order.

It is, finally, important to see that for Rancière the ‘purpose’ of the democracy and the ‘point’ of democratisation is not to create constant chaos and disruption. Although Rancière would maintain that democratisation is basically a good thing, this does not mean that the police order is necessarily bad. Although this may not be very prominent in Rancière’s work – which means that it is easi-ly overlooked; see, for example, (Thompson, 2003) – he does argue that democratisation can have a positive effect on the police order. Democratic disputes do produce what he refers to as «inscriptions of equality» (Rancière, 1999, p. 100); they leave traces behind in the (transformed) police order.

This is why Rancière emphasises that «(t)here is a worse and a better police» (Rancière, 1999, p. 30 f.). The better one

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is, however, not the one «that adheres to the supposedly natural order of society or the science of legislators» – it is the one «that all the breaking and entering perpetrated by egalitarian logic has most jolted out of its ‘natural’ logic» (Rancière, 1999, p. 31). Rancière thus acknowledges that the police «can produce all sorts of good, and one kind of police may be infinitely preferable to another» (Rancière, 1999, p. 31). But, so he concludes, whether the police is ‘sweet and kind’ does not make it any less the opposite of politics (Rancière, 1999, p. 31).


Is this article I have tried to address a fundamental question: the question how we might best understand the idea and ideal of demo-cracy. I have focused the discussion on the relationship between democracy and inclusion, arguing that inclusion is one of the core values if not the core value of democracy. I have not only tried to show how inclusion has been a theme throughout many discussions about democracy. I have also showed how the recent deliberative turn in democratic theory and practice has raised a whole new set of questions about inclusion; questions that stem from the fact that deliberative democracy is first and foremost a form of poli-tical communication. As a result, there are not only questions about who should be included in the deliberation; there are also more subtle questions about the exclusions brought about by particular communicative practices and processes. This is where the work of Iris Young is important, since she precisely addresses these more subtle exclusions.

Although all this is very important for our understanding of the relationship between democracy and inclusion and may even help us to make our educational practices more inclusive from a democratic point of view, I have also hinted at two problems with the way in which inclusion has been thematised in recent discussions. Both problems are related, since they both have to do with a particular understanding of the process of demo-cratisation. As I have shown, democratisation is basically understood as a process through which those who are not yet part of the sphere of democracy become included in it. This, as I have argued, suggests that the envisaged end-point for democracy is the situation in which everyone is included, the situation in which democracy has become the normal political situation. It also suggests a set up in which some are already inside the ‘sphere’ of democracy and where it is up to them to include others into their practice.

There are, however, several problems with this understanding of democracy and democratisation. The main problem is that it is premised on the idea that we – and the key-question is of course who the ‘we’ here is – already know what democracy is and that inclusion is nothing more than bringing more people into the existing democratic order. This is basically a colonial way to understand democratisation and it is precisely the logic behind what I see as the imperialistic expansion of (a certain definition of) democracy which is currently happening at the geopolitical level. The main problem with this approach is that the political order itself, the democracy in which others are being included, is taken for granted; it is the starting-point that itself cannot be questioned. This is not only a problem for international politics. It is at the same time a problem for those forms of democratic education which ope-rate on the assumption that it is the task of democratic education to include children and other ‘newcomers’ into the existing democratic order by facilitating a transition from a pre-rational and pre-democratic stage to a stage at which children have met the entry conditions for their future participation in democracy (see Biesta, 2003; 2007).

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The importance of Rancière’s work, so I wish to suggest, lies precisely in the fact that he puts this way of thinking about democracy and inclusion on its head. For him democracy is not a normal situation, i.e., it is not a way in which the police order exists, but rather occurs in the interruption of the order in the name of equality – which is why he says that democracy is sporadic. Furthermore, democratisation for Rancière is not something that is done to others; it is something that people can only do themselves. Rancière connects this to the question of emancipation. Emancipation, he writes, means «escaping from a minority» (Rancière, 1995, p. 48). But he adds to this that «nobody escapes from the social minority save by their own efforts» (Rancière, 1995, p. 48).

Thirdly, Rancière helps us to see that we should understand democratic inclusion not in terms of adding more people to the existing order, but rather as a process that necessarily involves the transformation of that order. As long as we focus our inclusive efforts only on those who are known to be exclu-ded, we only operate within the existing order. This, so I wish to emphasise, is definitely not unimportant because, as Rancière reminds us, there is a worse and a better police. But what Rancière provides is an understanding of the need for a different kind of inclusion: the inclusion of what cannot be known to be excluded in terms of the existing order; the inclusion of what I have elsewhere referred to as the incalculable (see Bie-sta, 2001; also 1998).

Why and how do these ideas matter for education and, more importantly, for democratic education? In my view it is first of all of the utmost importance in the current political climate to have ways of thinking and ‘doing’ democratic education that are precisely not informed by a colonial view of democratic education. Rancière at the very least shows us that it is possible to understand the relationship between democracy, democratisation and inclusion differently, in a way that is far less tainted by a colonial frame of mind. Rancière also helps us to see that there is a choice.

Democratic education can either play a role in the police order – and I wish to emphasise once more that there is important work to be done there as well – or it can try to link up with democratic experiences and practices. In my view there are ample opportunities for democratic learning because the lives of children, young people and other ‘newcomers’ are permeated by experiences of inclusion and exclusion, and of democra-tic success and democratic failure (see Biesta & Lawy,, 2006; Lawy & Biesta, 2006). Instead of teaching them to be ‘good democrats’ – which, in my view, is a strategy that basically remains within the police order – educators may have a role to play in utilising the learning opportunities in those incalculable moments when democracy occurs. That such moments might occur as the interruption of attempts to teach democracy – even if it is a teaching based on deliberative idea(l)s – is, in my view, something that goes without saying.

An earlier version of this article was presented as an invited keynote lecture at the Annual Conference of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NFPF) in Örebro, March 2006. I would like to thank the organisers of the committee for the invitation and the opportunity to present my work on education, democracy and inclusion.


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1As many cases around freedom of speech have shown, these are complicated matters. I am just highlighting the fact that both communitarians and liberals seem to reject the idea of an all-inclusive political community. This idea is taken up in a more ‘positive’ sense the work of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau who argue that political communities always represent a particular hegemony and can only exist because of a ‘constitutive outside’ (e.g., Mouffe, 1993).
2For an intriguing discussion of the idea that democracy necessarily has to be brought in from the ‘outside’ and by outsiders see Honig (2001).
3It should be noted that Dryzek refers to work published by Young before her Inclusion and Democracy. Several of the issues Dryzek raises about Young’s position seem no longer be part of the position she takes in Inclusion and Democracy.
4I am aware that this is a rather clumsy way of putting the question, but it is consistent with Rancière’s line of thinking. He himself writes at some point about «[t]he people through which democracy occurs» (Rancière, 1999, p. 99).
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