The Emancipated Spectator

The foremost philosopher of art argues for a new politics of looking.
The theorists of art and film commonly depict the modern audience as aesthetically and politically passive. In response, both artists and thinkers have sought to transform the spectator into an active agent and the spectacle into a communal performance.

In this follow-up to the acclaimed The Future of the Image, Rancière takes a radically different approach to this attempted emancipation. First asking exactly what we mean by political art or the politics of art, he goes on to look at what the tradition of critical art, and the desire to insert art into life, has achieved. Has the militant critique of the consumption of images and commodities become, ironically, a sad affirmation of its omnipotence?


  • “In this follow-up to his fruitful The Future of the Image, French philosopher Rancière argues forcefully against familiar critiques of the "spectacle" ... This persuasive argument is fleshed out through close readings of art, ­photography, literature and video installation, and a drily amusing analysis of leftwing "melancholy" and "rightwing frenzy" in critiques of ­capitalism.”
  • “What we see here is Ranciere developing a unique voice as a political theorist.”
  • “French philosopher Jacques Ranciere is a refreshing read for anyone concerned with what art has to do with politics and society.”
  • “Ranciere's writings offer one of the few conceptualizations of how we are to continue to resist.”
  • The Emancipated Spectator is intended to improve our comprehension of art and deepen our grasp of the politics of perception ... [it has an] impressive concern with the political analysis of art and the use of imagery”
  • “What we are given is, above all, a figure of the spectator whose capacities to sense and think are greater than we have been prepared to conceive.”
  • “His art lies in the rigor of his argument—its careful, precise unfolding —and at the same time not treating his reader, whether university professor or unemployed actress, as an imbecile.”
  • “In the face of impossible attempts to proceed with progressive ideas within the terms of postmodernist discourse, Rancière shows a way out of the malaise.”
  • “It’s clear that Jacques Rancière is relighting the flame that was extinguished for many—that is why he serves as such a signal reference today.”


Other books by Jacques Rancière Translated by Gregory Elliott