9781844677610-the-emancipated-spectator-pb

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?

Reviews

  • “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.”

Blog

  • How can Democracy be Rejuvenated? Ideas for Transforming a Still-Oligarchic Society

    Democratic malaise, political disarray and panic: a year after Francois Hollande’s election, things aren’t looking good. Jacques Rancière and Pierre Rosanvallon, two major thinkers and theorists of democracy, attempt to understand our moral and political predicament.

    From the 7 May 2013 print edition of Le Monde

    Jacques Rancière is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII. His books include On the Shores of PoliticsShort Voyages to the Land of the PeopleThe Nights of LaborStaging the People, and The Emancipated Spectator. His next book, Aisthesis, is out in June by Verso.

    Pierre Rosanvallon 
    is a French center-left thinker, previously involved with François Furer in the Fondation Saint-Simon. His books in English include, amongst others, Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, ProximityDemocracy Past and Future; and The Demands of Liberty. In 2002 he founded the République des Idées. 

    How did you make democracy and equality the central axes of your political concerns, inquiries and research ?

    Pierre Rosanvallon: I became a full timer for the CFDT [union federation] when I finished at the HEC [business school] just after May ’68. At that time I began to read an enormous amount on the history of the workers’ movement. I had made contact with a publisher, Léon Centner, who had issued an impressive collection of hundreds of pamphlets on the building of the workers’ movement, Les Révolutions du XIXe siècle [‘The Revolutions of the Nineteenth Century’] in 48 volumes. Having got the CFDT to buy the lot, I dived into reading them. From that point on, I knew well that it is impossible to understand the tasks of the present – the project of self-management then being central – without a long-term perspective on the questions in hand. I wanted, besides, to understand the disorderly phenomena of democracy. To know why the structures of collective organisation did not work as well as expected. All these questions on the organisation of democratic life made for my first field of studies.

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  • "The People Are Not a Brutal and Ignorant Mass": Jacques Rancière on Populism

    Writing in Libération, Jacques Rancière talks about populism and French politics today.


    The People Are Not a Brutal and Ignorant Mass


    Not a day goes by without the risks of populism being denounced on all sides. But it is not so easy to grasp what the word denotes. What is a populist? Despite various fluctuations of meaning, the dominant discourse seems to characterize it in terms of three essential features: a style of speech addressed directly to the people, bypassing representatives and dignitaries; the assertion that governments and ruling elites are more concerned with feathering their own nest than with the public interest; a rhetoric of identity that expresses fear and rejection of foreigners.

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Other books by Jacques Rancière Translated by Gregory Elliott