A Quote on Equality

I’ve been crisscrossing reading lists, making my way between this list and a small pile of political books I’ve plucked from the bookcases. From the latter, I am reading Hatred of Democracy, by French philosopher Jacques Rancière. If I’m honest, it is only halfway through this small, 97-page book that I feel I am making confident sense of what is being said. Although I’m reading it out of genuine curiosity, it is far and away one of the most difficult-to-follow books I have ever read. Given its length though, I shall persist. It is on page 48 where something I feel I have made sense of has particularly stood out to me. I find it, if too abstract to be entirely convincing, nonetheless inspiring, and I wanted to share it.
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Equality is not a fiction. All superiors experience this as the most commonplace of realities. There is no master who does not sit back and risk letting his slave run away, no man who is not capable of killing another man, no force that is imposed without having to justify itself … From the moment obedience has to refer to a principle of legitimacy … commanding must presuppose the equality of the one who commands and the one who is commanded. Those who think they are clever and realist can always say that equality is only the fanciful dream of fools and tender souls. But unfortunately for them it is a reality that is constantly and everywhere attested to. There is no service that is carried out, no knowledge that is imparted, no authority that is established without the master having, however little, to speak ‘equal to equal’ with the one he commands or instructs.
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Jacques Rancière, Hatred of Democracy (trans. Steve Corcoran), London & New York: Verso, 2014 [2005], p. 48.

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