Democracy means the rule of the people, rule by ordinary people rather than by a privileged few. Political actors from Robespierre and Blanqui to Gramsci and Che recognized, in different ways, that genuine democracy can only apply in situations where the ‘will of the people’ becomes strong enough to over-power those few who might seek to exploit, oppress, or deceive them. As several recent political sequences across the world suggest, oligarchic resistance to popular power continues to reinforce the historic connection between democracy and revolution: although the notion of political will remains problematic and controversial (not least in Germany), this talk argued that analysis of what it entails remains the key to understanding both this connection and the defensive responses it so consistently provokes.
Peter Hallward teaches at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University London. He has written books on the French philosophers Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze, on postcolonial literature, and on contemporary Haitian politics. He is currently working on a book entitled The Will of the People, alongside brief studies of Rousseau, Blanqui and Marx.