Are the Oppressed ‘Weak’?: Emancipation and Hermeneutic Communism

  • Owen Glyn-WilliamsEmail author
Part of the Contributions to Hermeneutics book series (CONT HERMEN, volume 6)


One of the signature gestures of Hermeneutic Communism is to link what Gianni Vattimo has famously called ‘weak thought’ – thought deprived of its metaphysical and objectivistic vocation – to the ‘thought of the weak’, a modality of thinking suited to the emancipation of oppressed peoples around the globe. Whereas the global forces of domination marshal a fatalistic ‘politics of description’, which seeks to impose a developmental narrative that explains where history must go, Vattimo and Zabala argue that the historical vantage of the weak fundamentally resists the developmental ‘truths’ imposed upon them by insisting on alternatives to the ‘framed’ order of democratic capitalism. This paper problematizes the characterization of the oppressed – variously referred to as the discharge of capitalism and the losers of history – as the ‘weak’. Specifically, I argue that the emphasis on weakness results in a potentially lopsided vision of emancipation as the advent of more protective governors and representatives, who defend rather than attack the governed, an alternative to ‘framed democracy’ which, while not without promise, may not do justice to the anarchic and egalitarian force of the idea of hermeneutics that they articulate. Looking to the work of Jacques Rancière, I suggest that an account of the construction of alternative forms political subjectivity on the part of the weak themselves would strengthen the notion of emancipation at work in the idea of hermeneutic communism. This involves registering at the theoretical level, for example, the widespread efforts at collective self-organization and resistance taking place in the slums of Latin America in addition to the successes of figures like Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales.


  1. 1.
    Ciccariello-Maher, George. 2013. We Created Chavez: A People’s History of Venezuelan Revolution. Durham: Duke UP.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rancière, Jacques. 2010. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Ed. & trans. Steven Corcoran. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    ———. 2000 “Dissenting words”. Diacritics 30(2): 113–126. Print.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Vattimo, Gianni, and Santiago Zabala. 2011. Hermeneutic Communism. New York: Columbia UP.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zibechi, Raul. 2010. Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces. Trans. Ramor Ryan. Oakland: AK Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    ———. 2012. Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements. Trans. Ramor Ryan. Oakland: AK Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DePaul UniversityChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations