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Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art

Rancière’s magnum opus on the aesthetic
Composed in a series of scenes, Aisthesis–Rancière’s definitive statement on the aesthetic–takes its reader from Dresden in 1764 to New York in 1941. Along the way, we view the Belvedere Torso with Winckelmann, accompany Hegel to the museum and Mallarmé to the Folies-Bergère, attend a lecture by Emerson, visit exhibitions in Paris and New York, factories in Berlin, and film sets in Moscow and Hollywood. Rancière uses these sites and events—some famous, others forgotten—to ask what becomes art and what comes of it. He shows how a regime of artistic perception and interpretation was constituted and transformed by erasing the specificities of the different arts, as well as the borders that separated them from ordinary experience. This incisive study provides a history of artistic modernity far removed from the conventional postures of modernism.

Reviews

  • “Exhilarating... Rancière’s most thoroughgoing polemic against the received idea of modernism.”
  • “Jacques Rancière’s Aisthesis transforms the field of aesthetic philosophy.”
  • “French philosopher Jacques Rancière is a refreshing read for anyone concerned with what art has to do with politics and society.”
  • “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.”
  • “Far from the grand narratives of modernism that claim the language of art progresses in the search for purity ... modernity breaks down the hierarchy between spheres of culture, disturbing the boundaries between art and life ... [Rancière] analyzes a series of moments from this other history that could only be written in proliferating fragments ... this aesthetic ‘regime’ conditions the forms of art and democracy in an era of the permanent emergence of new sovereign subjects.”
  • “Since The Division of the Sensible … Rancière has been reminding those who would separate the wheat from the chaff in contemporary creative practices that art only exists as an unstable boundary that must be continually crossed. In Aisthesis the philosopher develops his thinking, drawing fifteen scenes of a counter-history of artistic modernity.”
  • “Such is the clarity and complexity of Rancière’s thought here, and so intimate is he with the writings excerpted and the works to which they refer, that one has to conclude that this is a fundamental test of his broader conceptions of artistic, literary, and political history.”
  • “Such is the clarity and complexity of Rancière’s thought here, and so intimate is he with the writings excerpted and the works to which they refer, that one has to conclude that this is a fundamental test of his broader conceptions of artistic, literary, and political history.”
  • “... a magisterial book of great scope and ambition that has the capacity to alter how we understand the artistic culture of the past 200 years.”

Blog

  • Representation Against Democracy: Jacques Rancière on the French Presidential Elections

    For the philosopher Jacques Rancière, France’s strange presidential election campaign is no surprise. He thinks that a French system that entrusts all power to professional politicians mechanically churns out candidates who claim to represent a "clean break." Éric Aeschimann spoke to Rancière for the 9–15 March 2017 edition of L’Obs. Translated by David Broder.


    Emmanuel Macron at a March 2017 press conference. 

    From François Hollande’s decision not to stand, to François Fillon’s legal woes, the current presidential campaign has been a succession of dramatic twists. And you, Jacques Rancière, are a unique observer of this spectacle. For years you have denounced the impasses of representative democracy, which you see as incapable of producing a genuine democracy. How would you analyse what is happening?

    "Representative democracy" is a more than ambiguous term. It conveys the false idea of an already-constituted people that expresses itself by choosing its representatives. Yet the people is not a given that pre-exists the political process: rather, it is the result of this process. This or that political system creates this or that people, rather than the other way around. Besides, the representative system is founded on the idea that there is a class in society that represents the general interests of society. In the minds of the American founding fathers, that was the class of enlightened landowners. This system creates a people that identifies its legitimate representatives as coming from within this class, periodically reconfirming as much at the ballot box. The representative system gradually became an affair for professionals, who then reproduced themselves. But in so doing this system generated its own reverse, the mythical idea of a people not represented by these professionals and aspiring to provide itself with representatives who really do incarnate it. This is the piece of theatre — of constantly declining quality — that each election now reproduces.

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  • Verso's Art and Aesthetics Bookshelf


    Portraits: John Berger on Artists
     
    by John Berger. Edited by Tom Overton

    “A volume whose breadth and depth bring it close to a definitive self-portrait of one of Britain’s most original thinkers” – Financial Times

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  • Verso's Philosophy and Theory Bookshelf


    A reading list of selected books from our Philosophy and Theory shelves, including two of our biggest books this year - Grand Hotel Abyss and Reading Capital - now back in stock!

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Other books by Jacques Rancière Translated by Zakir Paul