The Politics of Aesthetics

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Paris, While his new book reviews some of the theories developed earlier in The Aesthetics of Politics , translated into English in , it extends his reflection with the discussion of specific examples drawn from recent art exhibitions. His departure point is a reworking of the notion of aesthetics, a term, he argues, that has been under attack in recent French intellectual debates. In the representational regime the sculpture will be considered within the system of the hierarchy of genres and in relation to qualities such as skill and adequacy between subject matter and representation.

The aesthetic regime differs from the other two in that it no longer assigns to art a particular place in society, nor is art any longer defined by skill and practice: for this reason, the term art in the singular replaces the pluralized form of the fine arts. A paradox arises here, because this specific sensorium exists in a context in which art has not been attributed a specific place: the aesthetic regime rejects the distribution of the sensible.

As a result, in the aesthetic regime art is constantly caught in a tension between being specifically art and merging with other forms of activity and being. In the second politics of aesthetics — the resistant form — the political potential of the aesthetic experience derives from the separation of art from other forms of activity and its resistance to any transformation into a form of life.

These two politics of aesthetics, although opposite, cannot be envisaged separately, but exist in a tension with one another. This principle anchors the political at the heart of the aesthetic.

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It is this that makes it impossible to read in a simplified way the art of the s as politically committed, and by extension, annuls the idea of a postmodernity that acknowledged the impossibility of the political. Yet, the forms of these micropolitics developed by the artists of the s have changed in contemporary practices. Already translated into five languages, this English edition of The Politics of Aesthetics includes a new afterword by Slavoj Zizek, an interview for the English edition, a glossary of technical terms and an extensive bibliography.

Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published June 23rd by Bloomsbury Academic first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews.

Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Politics of Aesthetics , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Politics of Aesthetics. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Late twentieth century French philosophy is a very puzzling beast, particularly for non-Europeans.

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Anglophones often denounce it as fashionable nonsense on the one hand--and other Anglophones then complain that these denouncers just don't get it, which is true. In fact, this latter group argues, French philosophy is a wonderful attempt to revolutionize thought. And then the first group suggests that this latter group is simply following a trend that has no real content. This is also true.

Becaus Late twentieth century French philosophy is a very puzzling beast, particularly for non-Europeans.

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Because, at least as I understand it, French philosophy is neither a fashion industry, nor a wonderful attempt to revolutionize thought. It is a response to an incredibly specific set of historical and intellectual circumstances, that are more or less unique to France: i The French Communist Party, which was both powerful insofar as it had a lot of members and powerless it's possible that the party never stood up to anyone in the twentieth century, rolling over for anyone, whether the French government, the USSR, or capitalism itself.

It was also intellectually moribund. Most importantly, the key questions are not "What is true? The problems with structuralism are fairly obvious, viz. So structuralism simply cannot answer the revolutionary questions listed above. The odd anglo philosopher might pop his always a man, since this is real, pointless, my-cock-is-bigger-than-yours territory head up and make a big deal about the Death of God or something.

And then nobody cares. But in France, serious thinkers are almost always deeply opposed to any possibility of the transcendent, because the French church has, historically, been ultra-reactionary, and the left has been anti-clericalist. This leads, of course, to some people wondering if this is really the right approach, and so you get phenomenologists explicitly turning to religion.

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Also: Descartes, not Locke; that is, rationalism, not empiricism. With that out of the way, I knew nothing about Ranciere before reading this little book, and now I feel little need to learn more about him. He fits very nicely into this history of French philosophy: he's reacting against Althusser an arch-structuralist, and arch-communist , trying to explain what a 'real' revolution would look like, and to explain why there hasn't been one. As he puts it, "what I try to do really is to target certain topic that both create some kind of discourse of political impotence and, on the other hand, either generate an idea that art cannot do anything or what you have to do is reproduce this stereotypical criticism of the commodity and consumption," This is in the context of garbage art that just reproduces commodification, which is a fair point.

But it's obvious that Ranciere's understanding of Marx is entirely structuralist, which means he doesn't actually understand commodities. So his rejection of ideology-critique see below is a rejection of a bad form of ideology critique, and has nothing to do with better forms of it i. I'm not sure he knows that, though. Where Kant puts forward an unchanging set of conditions for the possibility of knowledge, Ranciere suggests that the conditions change and can be changed; when they are changed, the kinds of knowledge possible will also change.

This is very much like Badiou, except where Badiou feels the need to use set theoretical language to make his point, Ranciere feels the need to use the language of aesthetics to make his, while fudging the lines between politics and aesthetics: "Politics and art, like forms of knowledge, construct 'fictions', that is to say material rearrangements of signs and images, relationships between what is seen and what is said, between what is done and what can be done," This comes out in Zizek's afterword, which somewhat confusingly doesn't come at the end of the book.

Again, like Badiou, Ranciere likes to schematize things; here, he posits three kinds of politics, roughly, communitarian, liberal, and Marxist.

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  7. All of them deny the possibility of a real revolution in various ways. Today, Zizek suggests possibly describing Ranciere, it's impossible to tell, as is Zizek's wont we live post-politics, which is even worse. So our first revolutionary act must be an assertion of the importance of politics once again. Along the way, Ranciere makes some nice points: he describes how postmodernism quickly becomes nihilistic 24 , and tries to move past the idea that artworks and 'real' life can be separated off easily. Instead, the work of art functions in material reality just as, say, an apple functions in material reality.

    See: Deleuze.

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    On the other hand, he takes the worst tendencies of French philosophy and no, I do not mean the silly jargon-mongering to absurd lengths. I've mentioned his rejection of ideology critique. There are plenty of reasons not to reject ideology critique entirely, including the fact that it seems fairly clear that people act against their own interests, that people don't vote for emancipatory parties, nor act emancipatorily, nor seem to have too much of a problem with massive oppression.

    Given all this, why would you want to get rid of ideology critique? Because, Ranciere suggests, "where one searches for the hidden beneath the apparent, a position of mastery is established," In other words, one should not set oneself up as having a better understanding of the world than the illiterate field worker in Kansas, because that would be undemocratic. Or, as Propagandhi put it, "And yes, I recognize the irony: the system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds.

    That's exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream, until everyone has everything they need. This is not democratic thought; it's the dei- and reification of democracy. Zizek notes something similar, though in a far friendlier way 71 , when he points out that the options for French philosophy appear to be a rejection of politics, on the one hand, or a rejection of economics, on the other: either you can be a pure soul making only perfectly democratic claims, like Ranciere; or you can sell out and pay attention to poverty and commodification, on the other.

    (PDF) The Politics of Aesthetics (Jacques Rancière) | Gabriel Rockhill -

    This is a false dichotomy. Economic injustice makes it almost impossible for people to support revolution, because why would a Kansan field worker support a revolution? They won't see that they have anything to gain, and will see that they have almost nothing left to lose--but that almost nothing tends to be their family, and their life. Yes, they are wonderful writers. That is the progressive aspect of their work: that it's really freaking good, even though everything in the world tries to force us to make things that are crappy for the sake of a dollar.

    But of course, that would be a sell out to the economic point of view. If you care after all of that, know that this is a quick read, that Ranciere's writing is as horrific as you'd expect, as is that of the editors and translators; that putting Zizek at the end of all this horrific writing explains his popularity because it's like putting a chapter from any moderately comprehensible novelist in the middle of a book by Kant , and that after the revolution nobody will print books in sans serif font.

    View all 6 comments. Aug 29, Assem A. I think this a very powerful introduction to a very powerful and influential thinker. Not everything here is easy to chew especially that you follow a line of inquiry as endlessly ramified. The interruption here focuses on the gap between functionality and play, which is reflected and reshaped in several artistic renditions of dance, movement, and corporality.

    It is in this mode of analysis that the aesthetic becomes neither a stand-in nor an instigator of the political, but rather the political and its aporias are returned to politics precisely through the consideration of the aporetical claim to activity and activation in performance.

    Introduction to Ranciere: The Aesthetic Revolution and its Outcomes

    I must make a preliminary statement to avoid a possible misunderstanding of my title. I am not going to speak about the art of performance, viewed as a specific art. Therefore the remarks that I will present about performance belong to a wider investigation.

    The politics of aesthetics: Mussolini and fascist Italy

    They belong to the project of a genealogy of the categories that we use to perceive and conceptualize the relationships between art, aesthetics, and politics. That investigation is based on a hypothesis formulated in my book The Politics of Aesthetics :. The arts only ever lend to projects of domination or emancipation what they are able to lend to them, that is to say, quite simply, what they have in common with them: bodily positions and movements, functions of speech, the parcelling out of the visible and the invisible. So the question is not about the effects that an artistic performance can produce on political practice. It is about the very sense of action, community, freedom, or equality carried out by the positions and movements of the bodies and by the mode of their visibility.

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