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The Politics of Aesthetics (Continuum…
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The Politics of Aesthetics (Continuum Impacts) (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Jacques Ranciere (Author)

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286160,390 (3.55)3
Member:Samuel.Sotillo
Title:The Politics of Aesthetics (Continuum Impacts)
Authors:Jacques Ranciere (Author)
Info:Bloomsbury Academic (2006), Edition: 1, Paperback, 112 pages
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The Politics Of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible by Jacques Rancière (2004)

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Here's a book that I had a lot of trouble understanding. This may have been partly due to its form. The philosopher answers a series of questions that relate to the distribution of the sensible, that is, the way that society decides how to perceive things, or how to classify aesthetic/sensory experiences. It's not the kind of book where a thesis is presented then illustrated through examples that support the initial claim, and the author also affirms in his foreword that the arguments in this book are "inscribed in a long-term project that aims at re-establishing a debate's conditions of intelligibility." I was told that this is something of a constant in Rancière's work: his books don't necessarily answer questions so much as push a discourse forward and enter into dialogue with other conceptions of art and politics. I'm also a poor student of philosophy, and the classes I took as an undergraduate are so far in the past that the little I did read, I've almost entirely forgotten. In any case, I'd like to write down a few of the things that did impress me about this challenging book.

For Rancière, "aesthetics refers to a specific regime for identifying and reflecting on the arts: a mode of articulation between ways of doing and making, their corresponding forms of visibilty, and possible ways of thinking about their relationships." He furthermore asserts that "if the reader is fond of analogy, aesthetics can be understood in a Kantian sense--reexamined perhaps by Foucault--as the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience. It is a delimitation of spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience. Politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time."

So our sensory/aesthetic experiences are determined by a set of previously established conditions. But these conditions have changed over time: we don't have the same "a priori" conception of the world that we used to, and Rancière's book documents two important shifts (revolutions) in our aesthetic sensitivities by illustrating three aesthetic regimes that have held sway over the occidental world and its artistic output. The first one is an ethical/Platonic regime in which representative art is often looked at suspiciously due to the imitative quality of painted/poetic/dramatic images. This was the regime that I had the greatest difficulty in understanding. What is art in the Platonic community? Is there good art/bad art? The poets are supposed to be banished, right? Why, exactly? Because art is imitation and the simulacra created by artists is nothing more than a great number of falsities? I don't have a good answer to those questions (I read the Republic once, but many years ago), so I'll just go on to say that eventually a second, representative/Aristotelian regime was established. This is the regime that assigns specific forms to specific representations: comedy is the appropriate form for representing the lower strata of society; tragedy is the most noble of all forms and is appropriate for telling the "great" stories of kings and nobles. Finally, a third regime replaced this Aristotelian regime: an aesthetic/Democratic regime in which the Aristotelian hierarchy of representation, and the different "arts" by which different subjects can be represented are replaced by one overarching Art. The advent of this regime is best understood in the works of writers like Balzac, Flaubert and Hugo. They saw that the small stories can be as grand as the big stories, that the history of one common person can be as compelling as the History of a Great Hero. Art was freed of the Aristotelian division of art into arts.

Identifying the major shifts in the distribution of the sensible, the seismic shifts in the "a priori" conditions that humankind utilizes when perceiving the world around us, gives Rancière the opportunity to revisit some commonly-held views on subjects like modern art and the mechanical arts. I'd always thought of modern, anti-mimetic art to have been a 20th century phenomenon, but the author shows how the aesthetic revolution, whereby you no longer had to use a certain form to represent a certain social class or to tell a certain type of story, set the stage for the later ruptures that the different -isms of the early 20th century produced in mimetic art. He also shows how this aesthetic revolution in art paralleled the democratic revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. On the political side of things, our perception of the organization of society changed quite a lot too: people who were previously "invisible" to the political order came forth to demand rights that they had previously not possessed. Another section of the book discusses the role of the mechanical arts in the democratization of art. As I understand it, some have opined that photography and cinema expanded the realm of potential subjects that could be considered worthy of art. But if you incorporate these new forms into this history of aesthetics, they too can be seen as part of this larger revolution.
7 vote msjohns615 | Jan 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0826489540, Paperback)

The Politics of Aesthetics rethinks the relationship between art and politics, reclaiming "aesthetics" from the narrow confines it is often reduced to. Jacques Rancière reveals its intrinsic link to politics by analysing what they both have in common: the delimitation of the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, the thinkable and the unthinkable, the possible and the impossible. Presented as a set of inter-linked interviews, The Politics of Aesthetics provides the most comprehensive introduction to Rancière's work to date, ranging across the history of art and politics from the Greek polis to the aesthetic revolution of the modern age.
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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:20 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Politics of Aesthetics rethinks the relationship between art and politics, reclaiming "aesthetics" from the narrow confines it is often reduced to. Jacques Ranci re reveals its intrinsic link to politics by analysing what they both have in common: the delimitation of the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, the thinkable and the unthinkable, the possible and the impossible. Presented as a set of inter-linked interviews, The Politics of Aesthetics provides the most comprehensive introduction to Ranci re's work to date, ranging across the history of art and politics from the Greek polis to the aesthetic revolution of the modern age. Available now in the Bloomsbury Classics series 10 years after its original publication, The Politics of Aesthetics includes an afterword by Slavoj Zizek, an interview for the English edition, a glossary of technical terms and an extensive bibliography.

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