Toward the measure of Politics

Is there a relationship between politics and number? Is politics founded in our ability to measure? These questions are very important because we in India are facing an important predicament today. The supreme court has outlawed electoral bonds. The way resistance is being built to their public disclosure has raised the question of relations between politics and numbers. Democracy has a very deep relation with numbers and is often is viewed as a game of numbers. Enumerating , holding something to account is profoundly political. It will have its impact on the number game of our democracy. This is why there seems to be strong reluctance and resistance to the disclosure of the secret of the electoral bonds made mandatary by the supreme court. Here let us try to unearth this complex relation of politics and numbers.

From the abstract geometry of understanding a territory (demarkable, controllable, calculable space) to the numbers and statistics that measure our economic , demographic , health parameters etc., politics is definitely a game of numbers. Numbers offer patterns and repetitions that gives us insight into politics as well as open possibilities to become political . To be in politics is to be calculable. Today we have come to the politics of the crowds. Large groups of people come to the streets and generate politics. This is why a term multitude is being used to understand this crowd politics.

Multitude challenges our uncritical and blind understanding as the rule of the one . This is evident in the case of monarchy. But in the case of democracy it is a bit complex. Democracy has to be based on one coherency of thought. Everything has to some hang together. Identity politics is centered around one identity or nation, or leader. Differences are subsumed into a single body. Multitude, interrogates this uncritical submission to the reign of one. Multitude is composed of different singularities. These different singularities are individuals who cannot be bundled into sameness. Plural singularities of the multitude stand in contrast with the undifferentiated identities that we think generates our politics. This is the politics that counts people as same/ one. We can see that the measuring and counting of people as one or against one is the main stay of identity politics.

Politics today brews through the politics of calculation. Politics is generated through speaking against numbers. At this point several people among us are waiting to speak against the numbers put into the public domain after the secrets of the electoral bonds are revealed in response to the order of the supreme court. Politics is produced by speaking against numbers by us as beings-in-the-world as well as beings-in-the-polis. Thus, speaking is political. Both Aristotle and Martin Heidegger agree that it is language that makes us political. It can orient us to think politics as a polemos or struggle.

Within this struggle , Heidegger sees politics as overdetermined through its relation to calculation. Heidegger taught us that the Greek did not have the notion of space. They had the notion of place (Khora). He indicates that it is Rene Descartes who abstracted space and manifested that it is measurable, Therefore, controllable. Moreover it lends itself to be dominated. Hence Heidegger sees the reduction of the world to calculability and measurability as a malaise that gave us modern (science and) technology. He steadily came to see Nazism as a symptom of that malaise. We may be able to get a measure of politics through its relation with numbers/ calculations.

Humans are calculative beings. They measure, reckon, design , plan and execute. With the mapping of space, we are also able to map values, measure their growth in our lives, homes and our societies. We do map the present from the point of the delivery of the promises of the government. Thus, the political becomes and moral. Non-delivery of the promises is then enumerated and rendered political. Thus, speaking against the government becomes speaking against numbers.

The abstraction of space and its divisibility, measurability, controllability enables us to extend it and further abstract it and use it to present important elements of our society and life that can be thus being spacialized divided, measured and used politically. Thus, numbers become the way of exposing or asserting the geometry of governance and development under taken by the government. We have heard about too much democracy laments of BJP. This is why governments either hide or manipulate numbers so as to not to be found out.

To come to gauge or measure politics, we look at the surveys, statistics, tables , maps etc. We also use these numbers and calculations to generate politics. Sometimes our opponants also uses numbers to level down our position. We can indeed condense politics as an art of speaking against numbers. Numbers here is not just mathematic numbers. Numbers in this context is an abstraction. They stand for the measurable, the calculable , the valuable . Perhaps almost all politics today has become a politics of numbers in the above sense.

We employ calculative understanding of everyday affairs to do politics. We measure the state of affairs of our society and rate it as failures and thus, speak against number. In other words, we claim that the measurements of the different elements in our society do not reach the required standards. This is a different order of measurement. It is not reducible to numbers of mathematics. In a very deep sense, therefore, all politics is a politics of speaking against numbers. Numbers or measurements are behind or underneath our politics. Understanding the politics of numbers , will makes us emancipatively political. We will understand the language of politics and will be able to speak the same courage of conviction.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao