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. When ignored populations gather in the streets to protest, it is harder to ignore them.

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 social system’s perspective) the border between system and environment must be policed; it isn’t a natural given. Social borders are policed by discouraging interaction between hotel workers and guests, similar to way, in past centuries, servants were ignored by guests at a “great house.” The great house could not function without the servants, but the servants were to be ignored (unless they did something wrong).

Every system depends on its environment, yet it maintains its formal separation from its environment.

Valentinov argues that as a social system increase in complexity it risks cutting itself off from resources that it crucially depends on. This is the complexity-sustainability trade-off.


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