Excess Words, Surplus Names: Rancière and Habermas on Speech, Agency, and Equality


  • Michael Feola Lafayette College




Rancière, Habermas, Critical Theory, citizenship, democracy, speech, deliberative democracy, language, subjectivity


Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Rancière treat speech as the medium for politics and, likewise, both diagnose the pathologies that follow from blockages on civic speech.  That said, these broad commonalities give rise to significant divides regarding the social ontology of language, the forms of power that attend linguistic exchange, and how speech informs democratic agency. Ultimately, the essay will argue that Rancière highlights the political deficits within deliberative commitments to democratic values. In doing so, his challenge yields broader insights for a democratic politics of speech and the linguistic resources that facilitate such a politics.

Author Biography

Michael Feola, Lafayette College

Michael Feola is an associate professor in the Government & Law Department at Lafayette College.  He specializes in critical theory and has published on a variety of its central figures, including Hegel, Adorno, Marcuse, Foucault, Rancière, and Judith Butler. Most recently, he published The Powers of Sensibility: Aesthetic Politics through Adorno, Foucault, and Rancière with Northwestern University Press.  He is currently working on a monograph on the political pathologies that attend neoliberal practices of liberty.