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Rancière Parallax 2009

Rancière Parallax 2009

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Published by Simon Labrecque

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Published by: Simon Labrecque on Sep 28, 2011
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This article was downloaded by:
[Canadian Research Knowledge Network] 
On:
2 March 2010 
Access details:
Access Details: [subscription number 783016864] 
Publisher
Routledge 
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Parallax
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713695220
A few remarks on the method of Jacques Rancière
 Jacques Rancière
To cite this Article
Rancière, Jacques(2009) 'A few remarks on the method of Jacques Rancière', Parallax, 15: 3, 114 — 123
To link to this Article: DOI:
10.1080/13534640902982983
URL:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
A few remarks on the method of Jacques Rancie`re
 Jacques Rancie`re
When it comes to the appreciation of a thinker, there are two levels of investigation.One can examine his/her ideas, test their consistency, compare them with otherthinkers’ ideas and judge the good or bad effects that they can produce when goingfrom ‘theory’ to ‘practice’. But, at another level, one examines the way these ‘ideas’are produced, the issues they address, the materials they select, the givens theyconsider significant, the phrasing of their connection, the landscape they map, theirway of inventing solutions (or aporias), in short their method.A method means a path: not the path that a thinker follows but the path that he/sheconstructs, that you have to construct to know where you are, to figure out thecharacteristics of the territory you are going through, the places it allows you to go,the way it obliges you to move, the markers that can help you, the obstacles that getin the way. Examining a method thus means examining how idealities arematerially produced. ‘Ideas are material forces’, Marx says, ‘when they take overthe minds of the multitudes’. The formula is only half-materialistic. Ideas always arematerial realities, taking over bodies, giving them a map of the visible andorientations for moving.This idea of what ‘method’ means should never be forgotten when it comes to Jacques Rancie `re. Let us look at the first paragraph of the preface of his first book,
La Lec¸on d’Althusser 
: what matters to me, he said, is to picture what ‘Marxism’ and‘being a Marxist philosopher’ mean today. And the first question he asks at thebeginning of the first chapter of the book is: who is this strange character thatAlthusser names by two initials ‘the M.L.’? In the same way, at the very beginningof 
The Nights of Labor 
, he tells the reader that the night is not a metaphor he uses todesignate the poor condition of the workers. The night is just the night, the part of the day when workers are supposed to sleep and that some of them, on a specific dayof a definite year, decide to use for something else: discussing the creation a workers’ journal.Those two examples give us two important hints of the method of Jacques Rancie `re.First his books are always forms of intervention in specific contexts. He neverintended to produce a theory of politics, aesthetics, literature, cinema or anythingelse. He thinks that there is already a good deal of them and he loves trees enough toavoid destroying them to add one more theory to all those available on the market.His interventions have always been provoked by situations in which the question‘where am I now?’ appeared to him able to overlap with a wider question ‘where are
parallax
ISSN 1353-4645 print/ISSN 1460-700X online
q
2009 Taylor & Francishttp://www.tandf.co.uk/journalsDOI: 10.1080/13534640902982983
parallax
, 2009, vol. 15, no. 3, 114–123
parallax114
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ C a n adi a n  R e s e a r ch  K n o wl ed g e  N e t w o rk]  A t : 16 :17 2  M a r ch 2010
 
we
now?’. ‘Where are we?’ means two things at once: ‘how can we characterizethe situation in which we live, think and act to-day?’, but also, by the same token:‘how does the perception of this situation oblige us to reconsider the framework weuse to “see” things and map situations, to move within this framework or get awayfrom it?’; or, in other words, ‘how does it urge us to change our very way of determining the coordinates of the “here and now”?’Let us take some examples that mark up the course of his work. It started after 1968as an interrogation of the type of Marxism that had previously provided him with atheoretical framework, namely Althusserian Marxism: it started with the question:how did it happen that this radical re-foundation of revolutionary Marxism endedup providing the restoration of the Academic order with its sharpest theoreticalweapons? What did this reversal teach us about Marxism in general, about the wayMarxism had linked together history, knowledge and revolution? In what way did itforce us to reconsider the traditions of the working class movement? The aspect of the battlefield changed when, in the mid-1970s, the so-called ‘new philosophers’took the floor in France, initiating the intellectual counter-revolution that graduallycalled into question, through the denunciation of Marxism, all the aspects of therevolutionary tradition. The re-thinking of emancipation, from
The Nights of Labor 
to
The Ignorant Schoolmaster 
was an intervention in that double-waged war. And it isthis investigation that brought about the understanding of emancipation andequality that lie at the ground of the rethinking of politics he pursued, from
On theShores of Politics
to
Disagreement 
. Now this rethinking itself came as a response to theprovocations of a new situation. In the 90s the context was no more that of thedebate on the virtues or crimes of Marxism. It was that of the collapse of the SovietEmpire, of the thesis of the ‘end of history’ achieved in the global triumph of consensual democracy. But it was also that of the new ethnic and religious wars informer communist countries and the new forms of racism and xenophobia in so-called ‘democratic countries’.
On the Shores of Politics
and
Disagreement 
wereelaborated as an investigation into this strange relationship between the assertion of the global triumph of consensual and peaceful democracy and those new forms of violence. They tried to construct the ideological paradigm able to account for it, byshowing that
consensus
meant in fact the contrary of 
democracy
and, by the same token,the erasure of politics itself. The opposition of politics and police was proposed as atool for understanding the logic of this process.The work on aesthetics was elaborated according to the same logic: firstly as aconsequence of the previous work, as the systematisation of a thinking of politics interms of ‘distribution of the sensible’, of polemics about the visible and the sayable,about who sees and who does not see, who speaks and who makes noise, etc.;secondly as a response to the effective encroachment of the aesthetic on the politicaland of the political on the aesthetic: on the one hand, the notion of ‘postmodernism’,first used as the name of an allegedly new artistic paradigm had become a form of global description of a time and a world deprived of any perspective of collectiveemancipation. On the other hand the statement of the ‘end of art’ and the failure of aesthetics, along with the statements on the ‘unrepresentable’ and the retrospectivedenunciation of the participation of the artistic utopias to the crimes of totalitarianism, had become part of the global reactionary discourse on the
parallax115
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ C a n adi a n  R e s e a r ch  K n o wl ed g e  N e t w o rk]  A t : 16 :17 2  M a r ch 2010

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