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Staging the People: The Proletarian and His Double

Rancière's classic essays from the 1970s, as he was developing his distinctive method.
These essays from the 1970s mark the inception of the distinctive project that Jacques Rancière has pursued across forty years, with four interwoven themes: the study of working-class identity, of its philosophical interpretation, of "heretical" knowledge and of the relationship between work and leisure. For the short-lived journal Les Révoltes Logiques, Rancière wrote on subjects ranging across a hundred years, from the California Gold Rush to trade-union collaboration with fascism, from early feminism to the "dictatorship of the proletariat," from the respectability of the Paris Exposition to the disrespectable carousing outside the Paris gates. Rancière characteristically combines telling historical detail with deep insight into the development of the popular mind. In a new preface, he explains why such "rude words" as "people," "factory," "proletarians" and "revolution" still need to be spoken.

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  • 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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  • Jacques Rancière and Étienne Balibar: Solidarity with the Tolbiac Occupation

    Jacques Rancière and Étienne Balibar expressed their solidarity with students protesting Hollande's labour reforms. The students have occupied the Tolbiac Faculty of the Pantheon-Sorbonne University since 22nd March. Workers, Students, High-Schoolers, Intellectuals – All Together!

    A convergence of struggles, and a meeting of minds as well. Such was the dual constellation shining over Wednesday night’s meeting at the Tolbiac Faculty [in Paris, occupied by students since 22 March]. 

    Two of the messages that were read out particularly caught the attention of the packed-out auditorium: those sent by Jacques Rancière and Étienne Balibar. 

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  • "Time is nothing other than intervention"—Jacques Rancière on Alain Badiou’s Being and Event

    Jacques Rancière, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII, provides a critical analysis of Alain Badiou's classic work Being and Event. Rancière's books include: The Intellectual and His PeopleStaging the People, and The Emancipated Spectator.


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Other books by Jacques Rancière Translated by David Fernbach