Making Enemies pp 101-113 | Cite as

Enemies of the People



‘The people’ has always been an ambiguous title. Even the emblazoned SPQR comes in at least two versions, as ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus’ or ‘Senatus Populusque Romae’, in the first version making the people the Roman people, in the second, the people of Rome, a slightly more subordinate appellation. And even though the people are there on the standards of the legions, they do not by themselves compose the polity. There is the senate as well, so whoever ‘the people’ are, they are in one sense only what is left over, not so much a category, as all those who fall outside simple categorisation. That leaves it open to all manner of narratives which claim to describe who ‘the people’ are, and to invest their particular account with the authority of the polity in its entirety. But the claim is always that, a claim, the partiality of which is continuously challenged both by descriptions of the diversity which characterises all those outside the senate, or by the presentation of rival narratives of alternative popular identities. This provides a partial explanation for the fact that the role of subjects and citizens in the narratives of antagonism and enmity has so far been presented as sporadic and peripheral. The original accusations may have come from ordinary subjects, or from political actors outside governing or ruling groups, but the principal exponents of sustained narratives of enmity have been leaders and rulers. Yet instances recur of spontaneous, popular expressions of enmity, from witch hunts to lynchings to religious riots, which appear to challenge this order of things, and to place the initiative in the hands of groups of subjects or citizens, or of their chosen or self-appointed representatives, or of journalists, broadcasters, or the owners or controllers of newspapers, radio, or television.


Ordinary People Normal Politics Roman People Conventional Politics Superior Person 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Rodney Barker 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The London School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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