Proletarian Nights: The Workers' Dream in Nineteenth-Century France

A classic text by Rancière on the intellectual thought of French workers in the 19th century.

Proletarian Nights, previously published in English as Nights of Labor and one of Rancière’s most important works, dramatically reinterprets the Revolution of 1830, contending that workers were not rebelling against specific hardships and conditions but against the unyielding predetermination of their lives. Through a study of worker-run newspapers, letters, journals, and worker-poetry, Rancière reveals the contradictory and conflicting stories that challenge the coherence of these statements celebrating labor.

This updated edition includes a new preface by the author, revisiting the work twenty years since its first publication in France.


  • “With its innovative approach, Rancière's difficult and provocative interpretation is essential reading.”
  • “Rancière’s brilliant book … locates the nineteenth-century origins of European socialism not in the noble desire of artisans to control their own labor but in the utopian visions of working-class poets who wanted to be free of labor altogether ... This is a powerful, piercing, and radical argument ... Rancière has merged his philosophical and historical interests into a profound commentary on the possibilities of human freedom and of the violence done to those possibilities in freedom’s name.”
  • “Drury's translation puts it into English as directly and comprehensibly as possible. It's a difficult job to do well, and the translator's work goes a long way toward making the book more readable.”


  • Getting Beyond Hatred: An Interview with Jacques Rancière

    The philosopher Jacques Rancière reviews the causes of the identitarian (and more particularly religious) drift we are currently seeing France. This is a catastrophe that must be fought with politics. Interview by Éric Aeschimann, published in L’Obs 28/01/16, translated by David Broder.

    One year after the Charlie Hebdo shootings and two months after the attack on the Bataclan, how do you see the state of French society? Are we at war?

    The official discourse says that we are at war because a hostile power is waging war against us. The attacks perpetrated in Paris are interpreted as the operations carried out by detachments executing acts of war for the enemy, in our own country. The question is one of knowing who this enemy is. The government has opted for Bush’s logic, that of a war that is simultaneously both total (aimed at the destruction of the enemy) and circumscribed to a precise target, namely the Islamic State. But according to a different response, related by certain intellectuals, Islam has declared war on us, and is implementing a global plan to impose its own law across the planet. These two logics converge insofar as in fighting Daesh the government has to mobilise a national feeling, which is an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. The word ‘war’ itself speaks to this conjunction.

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  • Jacques Rancière: The Front National’s useful idiots

    According to the philosopher Jacques Rancière, a number of so-called French ‘republican’ intellectuals have been opening the door to the Front National for some time now. In an interview with Éric Aeschimannm, Rancière shows how universalist values have been perverted to the benefit of xenophobic discourse.


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  • The Politics of Art: An interview with Jacques Rancière

    In the following interview, author of Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art Jacques Rancière speaks with Anna Wójcik about the politics of art, the meaning of democracy, and the state of art today. Does contemporary art still have the potential to disrupt society and 'redistribute the sensible'? 

    Paul McCarthy's 'L'Arbre' - provocative or commodified?

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Other books by Jacques Rancière