Jacques Rancière

History, Politics, Aesthetics

Jacques Rancière

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: Published: August 2009

Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

The French philosopher Jacques Rancière has influenced disciplines from history and philosophy to political theory, literature, art history, and film studies. His research into nineteenth-century workers’ archives, reflections on political equality, critique of the traditional division between intellectual and manual labor, and analysis of the place of literature, film, and art in modern society have all constituted major contributions to contemporary thought. In this collection, leading scholars in the fields of philosophy, literary theory, and cultural criticism engage Rancière’s work, illuminating its originality, breadth, and rigor, as well as its place in current debates. They also explore the relationships between Rancière and the various authors and artists he has analyzed, ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Flaubert, Rossellini, Auerbach, Bourdieu, and Deleuze.

The contributors to this collection do not simply elucidate Rancière’s project; they also critically respond to it from their own perspectives. They consider the theorist’s engagement with the writing of history, with institutional and narrative constructions of time, and with the ways that individuals and communities can disturb or reconfigure what he has called the “distribution of the sensible.” They examine his unique conception of politics as the disruption of the established distribution of bodies and roles in the social order, and they elucidate his novel account of the relationship between aesthetics and politics by exploring his astute analyses of literature and the visual arts. In the collection’s final essay, Rancière addresses some of the questions raised by the other contributors and returns to his early work to provide a retrospective account of the fundamental stakes of his project.

Contributors. Alain Badiou, Étienne Balibar, Bruno Bosteels, Yves Citton, Tom Conley, Solange Guénoun, Peter Hallward, Todd May, Eric Méchoulan, Giuseppina Mecchia, Jean-Luc Nancy, Andrew Parker, Jacques Rancière, Gabriel Rockhill, Kristin Ross, James Swenson, Rajeshwari Vallury, Philip Watts


“It contextualises Rancière's work in a way that one cannot achieve through reading him directly, offering a companion to his core writings. In addition nearly all of the pieces infuse Rancière's work with a sense of urgency and timelessness that can often be lost in volumes focused on a single thinker. . . . An impressive and much-needed discussion of Rancière’s thought and should prove invaluable to those with an interest in his work.” — Robert Glover, Political Studies Review

“Each chapter in this volume is an engaging and valuable critical engagement with Rancière, and, while the book as a whole makes a persuasive case for a thorough and urgent reading of Rancière’s work, it is also a useful critical supplement to it.” — Patrick French, French Studies

“This timely collection of essays should finally jump-start the English-speaking conversation about the work of Jacques Rancière, one of the most innovative political philosophers now writing. His method of equality, his contrast of a stable ‘police’ order with ‘the political’ as an interruption of that order by those invisible within it, and his idea that both politics and art involve modes of distributing/partitioning the sensible together form a unique constellation of radical political thinking.” — J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research

“What makes this volume the book that everyone interested in Jacques Rancière has to have is its incomparable roster of contributors. Rancière himself sets a standard of intellectual seriousness, and the contributors honor him by wrestling strenuously with his thought. They illuminate the trajectory of that thought and the connections between the historian of class and the philosopher of equality, the thinker of politics and the thinker of aesthetics. You can see why Rancière is one of the few French thinkers creating an ever greater excitement in North America.” — Bruce Robbins, author of Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Garbiel Rockhill is an assistant professor of philosophy at Villanova University. He is edited and translated Jacques Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics. Philip Watts is an associate professor of French at Columbia University. He is the author of Allegories of the Purge: How Literature Responded to the Postwar Trials of Writers and Intellectuals in France.

Philip Watts is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University. He is the author of Allegories of the Purge.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction: Jacques Rancière: Penseur de l'envers / Gabriel Rockhill and Phil Watts
Part One: History
1. Historicizing Untimeliness / Kristen Ross
2. The Lessons of Jacques Rancière: Knowledge and Power after the Storm / Alain Badiou
3. Sophisticated Continuities and Historical Discontinuities, Or, Why Not Protagoras? / Eric Méchoulan
4. The Classics and Critical Theory in Postmodern France: The Case of Jacques Rancière / Giuseppina Mecchia
5. Rancière and Metaphysics / Jean-Luc Nancy
Part Two: Politics
6. What is Political Philosophy? Contextual Notes / Étienne Balibar
7. Rancière in South Carolina / Todd May
8. Political Agency and the Ambivalence of the Sensible / Yves Citton
9. Staging Equality: Rancière's Theatrocracy and the Limits of Anarchic Equality / Peter Hallward
10. Rancière's Leftism, Or, Politics and Its Discontents / Bruno Bosteels
11. Jacques Rancière's Ethical Turn and the Thinking of Discontents / Solange Guénoun
Part Three. Aesthetics
12. The Politics of Aesthetics: Political History and the Hermeneutics of Art / Gabriel Rockhill
13. Cinema and Its Discontents / Tom Conley
14. Politicizing Art in Rancière and Deleuze: The Case of Postcolonial Literature / Raji Vallury
15. Impossible Speech Acts: Jacques Rancière's Erich Auerbach / Andrew Parker
16. Style indirect libre / James Swenson
Afterword: The Method of Equality: An Answer to Some Questions / Jacques Rancière
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4506-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4493-3
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