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Le Partage du sensible : Esthétique et…
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Le Partage du sensible : Esthétique et politique (original: 2004; edição: 2000)

de Jacques Rancière (Autor)

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The Politics of Aesthetics rethinks the relationship between art and politics, reclaiming aesthetics from the narrow confines it is often reduced to. Jacques Ranciere reveals its intrinsic link to politics by analysing what they both have in common- the delimitation of the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, the thinkable and the unthinkable, the possible and the impossible. Presented as a set of inter-linked interviews, The Politics of Aesthetics provides the most comprehensive introduction to Ranciere's work to date, ranging across the history of art and politics from the Greek polis to the aesthetic revolution of the modern age. Available now in the Bloomsbury Revelations series 10 years after its original publication, The Politics of Aesthetics includes an afterword by Slavoj Zizek, an interview for the English edition, a glossary of technical terms and an extensive bibliography.… (mais)
Membro:Nebuleuse
Título:Le Partage du sensible : Esthétique et politique
Autores:Jacques Rancière (Autor)
Informação:La Fabrique (2000), 74 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
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The Politics Of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible de Jacques Rancière (2004)

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Late twentieth century French philosophy is a very puzzling beast, particularly for non-Europeans. Anglophones often denounce it as fashionable nonsense on the one hand--and other Anglophones then complain that these denouncers just don't get it, which is true. In fact, this latter group argues, French philosophy is a wonderful attempt to revolutionize thought. And then the first group suggests that this latter group is simply following a trend that has no real content. This is also true.

Because, at least as I understand it, French philosophy is neither a fashion industry, nor a wonderful attempt to revolutionize thought. It is a response to an incredibly specific set of historical and intellectual circumstances, that are more or less unique to France:

i) The French Communist Party, which was both powerful (insofar as it had a lot of members) and powerless (it's possible that the party never stood up to anyone in the twentieth century, rolling over for anyone, whether the French government, the USSR, or capitalism itself). It was also intellectually moribund.

ii) 1968: most recent French philosophy is a response to May 1968 and the problems it raises for social thought. Most importantly, the key questions are not "What is true?" or "What is just?", as in the arid desert of analytic philosophy, but "How can there be a revolution?", "Why, given the state of the world, is there not a revolution?", and "What would a legitimate revolution look like?"

iii) Structuralism, which in the U.S. really was an intellectual fashion, but in France somehow became *the* dominant mode of thought. The problems with structuralism are fairly obvious, viz., it ignores historical change, and it ignores agency/contingency. So structuralism simply cannot answer the revolutionary questions listed above.

iv) French intellectual history also plays an important role. The odd anglo philosopher might pop his (always a man, since this is real, pointless, my-cock-is-bigger-than-yours territory) head up and make a big deal about the Death of God or something. And then nobody cares. But in France, serious thinkers are almost always deeply opposed to any possibility of the transcendent, because the French church has, historically, been ultra-reactionary, and the left has been anti-clericalist. (This leads, of course, to some people wondering if this is really the right approach, and so you get phenomenologists explicitly turning to religion). Also: Descartes, not Locke; that is, rationalism, not empiricism.

With that out of the way, I knew nothing about Ranciere before reading this little book, and now I feel little need to learn more about him. He fits very nicely into this history of French philosophy: he's reacting against Althusser (an arch-structuralist, and arch-communist), trying to explain what a 'real' revolution would look like, and to explain why there hasn't been one.

STRUCTURALISM: I'm tempted to say that his work is *just* a response to structuralism. As he puts it, "what I try to do really is to target certain topic that both create some kind of discourse of political impotence and, on the other hand, either generate an idea that art cannot do anything or what you have to do is reproduce this stereotypical criticism of the commodity and consumption," (78). This is in the context of garbage art that just reproduces commodification, which is a fair point. But it's obvious that Ranciere's understanding of Marx is entirely structuralist, which means he doesn't actually understand commodities. So his rejection of ideology-critique (see below) is a rejection of a bad form of ideology critique, and has nothing to do with better forms of it (i.e., Frankfurt school). I'm not sure he knows that, though.

REVOLUTION: A real revolution, on his understanding, will involve a change in what it is possible to sense and therefore understand. Where Kant puts forward an unchanging set of conditions for the possibility of knowledge, Ranciere suggests that the conditions change and can be changed; when they are changed, the kinds of knowledge possible will also change. This is very much like Badiou, except where Badiou feels the need to use set theoretical language to make his point, Ranciere feels the need to use the language of aesthetics to make his, while fudging the lines between politics and aesthetics: "Politics and art, like forms of knowledge, construct 'fictions', that is to say material rearrangements of signs and images, relationships between what is seen and what is said, between what is done and what can be done," (35).

THE LACK OF REVOLUTION: There hasn't been a real revolution because the dominant mode of politics doesn't allow for it. This comes out in Zizek's afterword, which somewhat confusingly doesn't come at the end of the book. Again, like Badiou, Ranciere likes to schematize things; here, he posits three kinds of politics, roughly, communitarian, liberal, and Marxist. All of them deny the possibility of a real revolution in various ways. Today, Zizek suggests (possibly describing Ranciere, it's impossible to tell, as is Zizek's wont) we live post-politics, which is even worse. So our first revolutionary act must be an assertion of the importance of politics once again.

Along the way, Ranciere makes some nice points: he describes how postmodernism quickly becomes nihilistic (24), and tries to move past the idea that artworks and 'real' life can be separated off easily. Instead, the work of art functions in material reality just as, say, an apple functions in material reality. See: Deleuze.

On the other hand, he takes the worst tendencies of French philosophy (and no, I do not mean the silly jargon-mongering) to absurd lengths. I've mentioned his rejection of ideology critique. There are plenty of reasons not to reject ideology critique entirely, including the fact that it seems fairly clear that people act against their own interests, that people don't vote for emancipatory parties, nor act emancipatorily, nor seem to have too much of a problem with massive oppression. Given all this, why would you want to get rid of ideology critique?

Because, Ranciere suggests, "where one searches for the hidden beneath the apparent, a position of mastery is established," (46). In other words, one should not set oneself up as having a better understanding of the world than the illiterate field worker in Kansas, because that would be undemocratic. The fact that the actually existing world *is* very much undemocratic--which is why there are illiterate field workers in Kansas--has no purchase here. The fairly glaring problem with Ranciere's argument (and those like it) is that just acting *as if* human beings were genuinely equal does nothing to promote the creation of actual equality. Or, as Propagandhi put it, "And yes, I recognize the irony: the system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds. That's exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream, until everyone has everything they need." Which is very different from pretending that privilege has no effects on human behavior.

This is not democratic thought; it's the dei- and reification of democracy. Zizek notes something similar, though in a far friendlier way (71), when he points out that the options for French philosophy appear to be a rejection of politics, on the one hand, or a rejection of economics, on the other: either you can be a pure soul making only perfectly democratic claims, like Ranciere; or you can sell out and pay attention to poverty and commodification, on the other. This is a false dichotomy. Economic injustice makes it almost impossible for people to support revolution, because why would a Kansan field worker support a revolution? They won't see that they have anything to gain, and will see that they have almost nothing left to lose--but that almost nothing tends to be their family, and their life.

It's pretty petty after these objections, but I'm also heartily sick of French philosophers 'interpreting' French literature to make it revolutionary, when it is *SO BLEEDING OBVIOUSLY* not revolutionary. No, Jacques Ranciere, Balzac, Flaubert, Mallarme etc... are not revolutionaries. Yes, they are wonderful writers. That is the progressive aspect of their work: that it's really freaking good, even though everything in the world tries to force us to make things that are crappy for the sake of a dollar. But of course, that would be a sell out to the economic point of view.

If you care after all of that, know that this is a quick read, that Ranciere's writing is as horrific as you'd expect, as is that of the editors and translators; that putting Zizek at the end of all this horrific writing explains his popularity (because it's like putting a chapter from any moderately comprehensible novelist in the middle of a book by Kant), and that after the revolution nobody will print books in sans serif font. WHY? THE PAIN! THE PAIN! ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Here's a book that I had a lot of trouble understanding. This may have been partly due to its form. The philosopher answers a series of questions that relate to the distribution of the sensible, that is, the way that society decides how to perceive things, or how to classify aesthetic/sensory experiences. It's not the kind of book where a thesis is presented then illustrated through examples that support the initial claim, and the author also affirms in his foreword that the arguments in this book are "inscribed in a long-term project that aims at re-establishing a debate's conditions of intelligibility." I was told that this is something of a constant in Rancière's work: his books don't necessarily answer questions so much as push a discourse forward and enter into dialogue with other conceptions of art and politics. I'm also a poor student of philosophy, and the classes I took as an undergraduate are so far in the past that the little I did read, I've almost entirely forgotten. In any case, I'd like to write down a few of the things that did impress me about this challenging book.

For Rancière, "aesthetics refers to a specific regime for identifying and reflecting on the arts: a mode of articulation between ways of doing and making, their corresponding forms of visibilty, and possible ways of thinking about their relationships." He furthermore asserts that "if the reader is fond of analogy, aesthetics can be understood in a Kantian sense--reexamined perhaps by Foucault--as the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience. It is a delimitation of spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience. Politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time."

So our sensory/aesthetic experiences are determined by a set of previously established conditions. But these conditions have changed over time: we don't have the same "a priori" conception of the world that we used to, and Rancière's book documents two important shifts (revolutions) in our aesthetic sensitivities by illustrating three aesthetic regimes that have held sway over the occidental world and its artistic output. The first one is an ethical/Platonic regime in which representative art is often looked at suspiciously due to the imitative quality of painted/poetic/dramatic images. This was the regime that I had the greatest difficulty in understanding. What is art in the Platonic community? Is there good art/bad art? The poets are supposed to be banished, right? Why, exactly? Because art is imitation and the simulacra created by artists is nothing more than a great number of falsities? I don't have a good answer to those questions (I read the Republic once, but many years ago), so I'll just go on to say that eventually a second, representative/Aristotelian regime was established. This is the regime that assigns specific forms to specific representations: comedy is the appropriate form for representing the lower strata of society; tragedy is the most noble of all forms and is appropriate for telling the "great" stories of kings and nobles. Finally, a third regime replaced this Aristotelian regime: an aesthetic/Democratic regime in which the Aristotelian hierarchy of representation, and the different "arts" by which different subjects can be represented are replaced by one overarching Art. The advent of this regime is best understood in the works of writers like Balzac, Flaubert and Hugo. They saw that the small stories can be as grand as the big stories, that the history of one common person can be as compelling as the History of a Great Hero. Art was freed of the Aristotelian division of art into arts.

Identifying the major shifts in the distribution of the sensible, the seismic shifts in the "a priori" conditions that humankind utilizes when perceiving the world around us, gives Rancière the opportunity to revisit some commonly-held views on subjects like modern art and the mechanical arts. I'd always thought of modern, anti-mimetic art to have been a 20th century phenomenon, but the author shows how the aesthetic revolution, whereby you no longer had to use a certain form to represent a certain social class or to tell a certain type of story, set the stage for the later ruptures that the different -isms of the early 20th century produced in mimetic art. He also shows how this aesthetic revolution in art paralleled the democratic revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. On the political side of things, our perception of the organization of society changed quite a lot too: people who were previously "invisible" to the political order came forth to demand rights that they had previously not possessed. Another section of the book discusses the role of the mechanical arts in the democratization of art. As I understand it, some have opined that photography and cinema expanded the realm of potential subjects that could be considered worthy of art. But if you incorporate these new forms into this history of aesthetics, they too can be seen as part of this larger revolution.
8 vote msjohns615 | Jan 19, 2012 |
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The Politics of Aesthetics rethinks the relationship between art and politics, reclaiming aesthetics from the narrow confines it is often reduced to. Jacques Ranciere reveals its intrinsic link to politics by analysing what they both have in common- the delimitation of the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, the thinkable and the unthinkable, the possible and the impossible. Presented as a set of inter-linked interviews, The Politics of Aesthetics provides the most comprehensive introduction to Ranciere's work to date, ranging across the history of art and politics from the Greek polis to the aesthetic revolution of the modern age. Available now in the Bloomsbury Revelations series 10 years after its original publication, The Politics of Aesthetics includes an afterword by Slavoj Zizek, an interview for the English edition, a glossary of technical terms and an extensive bibliography.

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