Strategies of distinction

Rancière's Aisthesis and the two regimes of art

RP 177 () / Article

At the root of Jacque Rancière's work lies a gesture of dissociation: to unfasten the people, the poor and the proletariat from the Marxist discourses to which they were so firmly fixed that one might think them to be sewn from the same cloth; to reveal the will to mastery and domination inherent in the speech of those who claim knowledge; to show that the love of the people dissimulates a hatred of democracy; to underscore workers' heterogeneity with respect to the discourse bearing upon them; and to defend the capacity of the dominated and the equality of intellects. It is a gesture born of a rupture, a rupture that happened in May 1968, whose evental content and scope, the young Rancière thought, had been disclaimed by its own actors:
Instead of militants - new or old - trying to think their histories, what we find are students reciting the old lessons they learned in their philosophy classes. They want to make us believe that they are talking about May '68, or about leftism, when in fact all they are doing is resuming the thread of an interrupted academic discourse, dressing up as 'facts' the phantoms of their speculations.1
It was in the experience of this slippage between grand philosophical discourse and the aspirations articulated in May '68 that his project took shape, a project devoted to crossing over to the other side of the discourse of mastery. An epistemological and political imperative thus came to light: let the others speak, give them back the speech that has been taken from them. [...]

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