In this short book, Jacques Rancière takes stock of the state of contemporary politics and examines current developments in the light of his writings. Rancière takes issue with what he sees as the consolidation in recent years of an increasingly oligarchic class of professional politicians within the system of representative democracy, while simultaneously objecting to leftist animosity towards electoral politics. He discusses a wide range of contemporary political movements and figures, from Nuit debout and Marine le Pen to Occupy, Trump, Syriza and Podemos, and he offers a trenchant critique of a variety of ideas and thinkers associated with radical politics, such as the ideas of immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism and the concept of insurrection put forward by the Invisible Committee. But above all he talks about the time in which it makes sense to talk about all this, a time for which history has made no promises and the past has left no lessons, only moments to be extended as far as possible. In politics, there are only presents. It is at every moment that the bonds of unequal servitude are renewed or that the paths of emancipation are invented.
Presented in the form of a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Eric Hazan, this timely reflection by one of the most influential radical thinkers writing today will be of interest to a wide readership.
The development of Rancière's philosophical work, from his formative years through the political and methodological break with Louis Althusser and the lessons of May 68, is documented here, as are the confrontations with other thinkers, the controversies and occasional misunderstandings. So too are the unity of his work and the distinctive style of his thinking, despite the frequent disconnect between politics and aesthetics and the subterranean movement between categories and works. Lastly one sees his view of our age, and of our age's many different and competing realities. What we gain in the end is a rich and multi-layered portrait of a life and a body of thought dedicated to the exercise of philosophy and to the emergence of possible new worlds.
In this important new book the leading philosopher Jacques Rancière continues his reflections on the representative power of works of art. How does art render events that have spanned an era? What roles does it assign to those who enacted them or those who were the victims of such events?
Rancière considers these questions in relation to the works of Claude Lanzmann, Goya, Manet, Kandinsky and Barnett Newman, among others, and demonstrates that these issues are not only confined to the spectator but have greater ramifications for the history of art itself. For Rancière, every image, in what it shows and what it hides, says something about what it is permissible to show and what must be hidden in any given place and time. Indeed the image, in its act of showing and hiding, can reopen debates that the official historical record had supposedly determined once and for all. He argues that representing the past can imprison history, but it can also liberate its true meaning.
What distinguishes fiction from ordinary experience is not a lack of reality but a surfeit of rationality - this was the thesis of Aristotle's Poetics. The rationality of fiction is that appearances are inverted. Fiction overturns the ordinary course of events that occur one after the other, aiming to show how the unexpected arises, happiness transforms into unhappiness and ignorance into knowledge.
In the modern age, argues Rancière, this fictional rationality was developed in new ways. The social sciences extended the model of causal linkage to all spheres of human action, seeking to show us how causes produce their effects by inverting appearances and expectations. Literature took the opposite path. Instead of democratizing fictional rationality to include all human activity in the world of rational knowledge, it destroyed its principles by abolishing the limits that circumscribed a reality peculiar to fiction. It aligned itself with the rhythms of everyday life and plumbed the power of the "random moment" into which an entire life is condensed.
In the avowed fictions of literature as well as in the unavowed fictions of politics, social science or journalism, the central question is the same: how to construct the perceptible forms of a shared world. From Stendhal to João Guimarães Rosa and from Marx to Sebald, via Balzac, Poe, Maupassant, Proust, Rilke, Conrad, Auerbach, Faulkner and some others, this book explores these constructions and sheds new light on the constitutive movement of modern fiction, the movement that shifted its centre of gravity from its traditional core toward those edges in which fiction gets confronted with its possible revocation.
In this book the influential philosopher Jacques Rancière, in discussion with Peter Engelmann, explores the enduring connection between politics and aesthetics, arguing that aesthetics forms the fundamental basis for social and political upheaval. Beginning from his rejection of structuralist Marxism, Rancière outlines the development of his thought from his early studies on workers' emancipation to his recent work on literature, film and visual art. Rather than discussing aesthetics within narrow terms of how we contemplate art or beauty, Rancière argues that aesthetics underpins our entire `regime of experience'. He shows how political relations develop from sensual experience, as individual feelings and perceptions become the concern of the community as a whole. Since politics emerges from the `division of the sensual', aesthetic experience becomes a radically emancipatory and egalitarian means to disrupt this order and transform political reality. Investigating new forms of emancipatory politics arising from current art practices and social movements, this short book will appeal to anyone interested in contemporary art, aesthetics, philosophy and political theory.