The inclusion of the excluded

Judith Butler, in Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015), argues that marginalized or ignored populations performatively establish “the right to have rights” by participating in mass demonstrations. They appear, or assemble, in public and claim/occupy that space.  They don’t have to say or write a word. Their amassed bodies alone make a claim to the right to have rights. This right cannot be granted by law; it has to be claimed performatively.

Moreover, the excluded populations serve as the support for the included populations. For example, undocumented hotel workers make the lives of the guests possible. So the excluded are already included. If the guests of the hotel form a social system, then the undocumented workers who clean and cook inhabit the environment. However, (from the system’s perspective) the separation of system from environment, or the border, must be policed; it isn’t a natural given. Every system depends on its environment, yet it must maintain its formal separation from its environment. This is autopoiesis.

But when those hotel workers and others amass in the streets, they delegitimize those borders.

Valentinov argues that as a social system increase in complexity it risk cutting themselves off from its environment. This is the complexity-sustainability trade-off.


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