NOTES ON : Rancière, J. (2004) The Philosopher and His Poor. Trans John Drury, Corinne Oster, and Andrew Parker. Durham and London: Duke University Press

by Dave Harris

Chapter one: Plato's Lie

[I am no philosopher, and I don't want to intrude on private grief.  I recognize some of this criticism after reading Deleuze on Plato—the idea that the notion of an essence had an important political function in separating out those with genuine claims to participate as Athenian citizens from mere impostors.  That is the line I'm going to go with in reading this, and I'm going to keep it brief]

The Republic begins with considering relations between four or five particular persons or roles, so it is a founding text for sociology.  The philosophical task is to develop the notion of justice, to separate out greater or lesser tasks and natures in the name of the common good.  The first issue turns upon whether there are some roles that are more indispensable than others [the four original roles were farmers, masons, weavers and shoemakers].  There is an initial hint that shoemakers are probably not that necessary, and the shoemaker takes on particular negative roles in Plato's argument therafter.  Overall, the argument is that artisans can only do one thing at the time, that it is more efficient to specialize.  This is not just for economic reasons, because a division of labour is probably not actually necessary in a subsistence economy.  There is some notion of the rightful way to spend one's time.  There is also an argument that we all have different natural aptitudes and our occupations should express this. There are still problems, for example with farmers, who have to synchronise their labour with growing cycles.  Again Plato knows this, but sees something dangerous in the notion of leisure, goes on to develop an idea of the social nature of human beings.  We can see that 'another game is being played' (5).  We have to be able to differentiate natural differences between the trades.  These natural differences underpin the division of labour even if it is 'economically improbable' (6).  Implicit in all this is a theory about how time should be allocated.

For Plato, there is a notion of appropriate time regulating social, economic and political life.  It is related to the issue of exclusion and prohibition as well as compulsion.  This is the importance of discussion of leisure.  Leisure, its type as well as its absence, has always been seen as a way of deciding social worth—for example, farmers were seen as the best defenders of the city because their outdoor life left them with enough leisure to focus on public affairs, while artisans worked indoors which left them only the leisure to worry about their own work and family.  Alternatively, artisans had too much leisure which meant they could participate in civic life indiscriminately, and even pose as thinkers.  Neither version sees the artisan as a good citizen.  So which occupations provide the best sort of participation in political life?  Plato particularly noted that it was impossible to do more than one job at a time, linked to the idea that any sort of dualism is evil, and he had in mind 'the imitators' (8).

The ideal society of only four or five roles was egalitarian and functional, but what of modern cultured cities?.  These are disordered and unjust, and require new forms of sociability [initially based on the table manners at banquets,apparently].  However, these arrangements risk confusion and merely simulated discourse.  There is no longer the simple notion of roles and functions, but a whole range of new needs, including luxuries.  In particular, there are those that still produce goods, but a new group that produce images or imitations.  It is not that luxury goods themselves corrupt cities, since the pursuit of them is a major source of the war and the development of specialist warriors.  However, imitators corrupt, and introduce excess.

The theatre is a particularly corrupting form, especially since even artisans can participate as an audience.  Artisans no longer have simple and positive roles which can be demonstrated to them, and no longer a simple relation to functional objects.  Painters, for example can imitate the appearance of objects, and are not confined to material ones: the theatre can imitate works of nature as well.  Artisans do not possess enough leisure to become corrupt, or even to be sick.  They are living embodiments of the virtues of necessity.  They can even act as models for warriors,although they can never be warriors.

The notion of leisure has changed in these discussions, to become a matter of time devoted to professional training, as in apprenticeships, but also in persisting quality of workmanship.  Skill requires practice and therefore specialization again.  The division of labour is no longer just a functional one as a result, but turns on persistence and quality which indicates a particular nature, aptitude or gift.  Relative social immobility confirms this view [apparently few champion draughts players came from humble origins, for example -- which shows the importance of practice and skill improvement].  Justice is now a matter of conforming to nature, and there are additional qualitative dimensions to the notion of social rank.  Some philosophers awarded warriors the highest rank, for example, not because warriors were socially indispensable, but as a matter of the warrior's nature.  Warriors can do something else, they can attack members of the community as well as enemies, and so they require a special education.  This education is to be left to philosophers.

Philosophers also depend on luxury and excess, and need to seek an adequate function.  They claim to have a particular nature.  They are also threatened by imitators, 'rhetoricians or sophists, false politicians or false experts'(15).  They can claim to be more effective in their particular work, preparing people for instruction, practicing dialectic.  They are like dyers and weavers, preparing and interlinking elements of the social order.  However, they need to be able to sort and select, to distinguish pure thought from the views of mere artisans, and also from the simulations of  fine language.  These comparisons lead to attempts to welcome the arts of the artisan, but also to distinguish it from thought, which can only be the product of 'philosophical breeding' (16).  Artisans are also welcome in attacking imitators, and philosophy as artisan technique dignifies it: yet art is not philosophy, and only sophists would say that it was.

Everything depends on the ends to which technique is put.  Technology itself when ignorant of its ends is counterfeit, falsely universal and just as likely to be involved in the production of appearances.  The impact has to be regulated by a social rule that insists that artisans must not play or lie, in principle.

The point of hierarchies [social and referring to knowledge] is to regulate the simulacrum.  The threat arises from the productivity of work, away from the original simple production of use values, and the development of leisure.  Growing technology threatens a democracy, where tradesmen become equal to every one else.  Excesses can be soaked up in luxurious lifestyles, war and philosophy, but additional philosophical criteria are needed to regulate hierarchy.  It is to depend on differences in nature.  These are not simply something irrational, not even ideological concealing social interests.  Differences in nature have to be made explicit and to be the object of education.  Only philosophers can analyze differences in nature, in terms of relations between means and ends.  Ironically, for a project that aims to expose lies, philosophy must begin with one as an axiom, 'a noble lie' (18).  This particular lie involves the three metals [gold, silver and bronze] mixed in human souls by god.

Plato did not invent this myth, but he develops it.  It is egalitarian in its way, since children do not always have the same mixtures as their parents, and some can be elevated and others dropped, as a kind of meritocracy.  Of course, not everyone will have the leisure to reveal their true souls, and not everyone attends school.  As a result, the main task is to exclude pretenders from the elite,although it also prevents the newly rich from joining the elite.  The philosophers who guard the whole system must not be corrupted by becoming rich, and could not even handle ordinary gold or silver, or engage in business which might distract them.  They do not deny that other people can also become citizens, but warn that their ordinary commercial activities can corrupt them.  Trade itself involves 'egotism and the war of all against all' (20).  Modern political theorists might also consider that 'work and community are strictly antagonistic' (21).  Those at the top of a hierarchy, out of the daily struggle, can claim to be the only ones capable of acting for the common good.

At least some ranked as worthy will be permitted some privileges, but these have to be compatible with their natures.  Work is still essential in order for people to recognize these natures.  It is more difficult for the philosopher-guardians, though, who might be pretending.  Artisans can pretend as well, but only if this helps them develop their specialities.  This becomes a notion that true shoemakers never pass themselves off as anything else, but remain fundamentally as shoemakers, even when they are pursuing leisure and idleness.  The most threatening is the artisan turned philosopher [apparently, one sophist, Hippias, was exactly one of those], who will never leave behind artisans' values and ways of thinking.  Philosophers must be completely separate from artisans, even to the extent of having none of their virtues, and artisans must also be excluded from anything else: this becomes more important as a principle than competence in shoemaking.  Indeed, incompetent shoemakers are useful to philosophers in demonstrating the ultimate insignificant of such specialisms.

We have developed a system that sees virtues as distributed neatly with social categories.  These virtues are not just defined by skill and competence in practice, but by nature, defined independently.  There is even a virtue in accepting one's nature even if it leads to a lower rank, a virtue of obedience or of acceptance.  Slaves can be bullied into accepting their place, but artisans are different, not exactly free men but not slaves.  This leads to an unacceptable hybridity, seen as having a dangerously ambiguous nature which is unreliable when it comes to producing virtues.  Warriors can be educated to their virtue, but labourers have no virtue, no self mastery, no natural wisdom.  Their wisdom lies only in accepting the social order, and that can only be defined by philosophers.

Justice turns out to be an easy matter after all—it is the wisdom of the state in preserving different natures, including courage for warriors and moderation for artisans.  This is seen as simply functional, but it is also supported by a convenient fiction, although one that is also common sense.  It becomes the working ideology of autocrats, better politically than claiming that the elite are very different from everyone else, possessing an unusual kind of wisdom, or advocating a state of permanent hierarchy and division.  This would produce order but not happiness: the issue is how to live well.  Happiness lies in remaining in your own place, not even developing your skills and competences.  Philosophical wisdom that argues this is also not just a matter of competence.

However, there are still problems, for example those presented by the sexual division of labour.  Does this also reveal genuine differences of nature?  Sexual differences are easily noted and apparently natural, certainly more easily recognized than differences in the metal content of souls.  It is not that artisans have differences among themselves, however, since they can pursue different trades, but this is another thing that makes them untrustworthy and liable to confusion.  It is the big social differences that are important [and big enough to look natural?], and these do not permit interchange.

So after a long attempt to define social orders initially as functional, all we have now is the philosophical distinction based on a lie.  'All that remains is the prohibition' (29), and existing practice confirms the lie.

Chapter two: The Order of Discourse

The real enemy of the philosopher is the parvenu, driven by the interest in promotion, which philosophers do not have.  Parvenus are also dualist, but so too is the philosopher -guardian.  Philosophers are also likely to be corrupted by their sponsors and leaders, or pupils, and they can also be tempted to be imitators.  Sticking to pure thought also risks exclusion from city life.  We have already seen that philosophers lie, but the argument is that they are specializing in a particular kind of imitation and lie, and this is where normal liars, especially sophists who look like philosophers.  We have already seen that some are artisans made good.

Sophists deny that there is a truth.  They are parvenus par excellence, claiming the freedom of proper philosophers.  They are usurpers, dwarfs acting like men, recognizable from their artisan bodies. Plato uses these physical characteristics to make his point, an old imagery in Greek philosophy, not present in distinguishing artisans from warriors say, but brought to bear here, to emphasize 'the argument from nature' relating to philosophers specifically (32).  Philosophers need this extra support to claim they are not just workers of another kind.  Manual laborers bodies are a sign of their servitude, and servitude itself becomes a justification for the dignity of the philosopher, no longer just an economic necessity.

Similarly, philosophy claims to free people from slavery, but Plato also argues that slaves do not always want to be freed, and if they do, it is for the wrong reason.  Slaves also attracted by the wrong things in philosophy, 'fine titles, beautiful forms, and new clothes' (33).  The philosopher's role becomes one of selecting suitable slaves who are not seeking these popular forms of prestige.  Warriors show they are worthy by renouncing wealth and ownership, and philosophers say they are worthy because they do not desire power but are forced to acquire it.  It follows that those who are interested in power, or in making a surplus, or gaining some pleasure do not have a suitable nature to be a philosopher.

Instead, it is a matter of establishing people's natures as the only reliable test.  Aspiring to be a philosopher just shows 'the native infirmity' (34) of the aspirant [is this the first example of catch - 22?], confirmed by their bodies and soul marked by manual labour.  The product of any thinking is necessarily a bastard, sophism.  Bastardy is discursively necessary to prove purity and the dignity of real philosophy.  The difference between the highborn philosopher and the aspirant is a difference of bodies, a matter of 'moral hygiene'(35).  There may have been real rival philosophers involved here who were bastards or jumped up artisans. 

Amalgamating the two categories is particularly effective against those who would extend the possibility of virtue to the common people.  Philosophy is forbidden to crippled spirits, bastards, twisted souls, or those with congenital defects, and they are suspected particularly of simulating rather than simple ignorance—they 'will to know nothing of science' (36).  Cynics say that anyone can be a philosopher, but this is simplistic.  Real philosophy requires initiation. The real problem with cities is that they support the power of the people.  Sophists themselves and other pretenders are dangerous in that they are popular with the people who can shout down reasoned opposition and flatter tyrants. Oligarchs support particular kinds of philosophers who are populist.

Only a philosophical elite practicing proper dialectics can exercise real democracy [as meritocracy], and not populism.  Ordinary knowledge is already widely available—the sophists have got that right—but not philosophy.  In practice, the possibility of proletarians being able to philosophize once having been selected 'exists only by philosophers decree' (38), but the possibility disqualifies autodidacts and those who merely reflect on their knowledge [sounds quite like Bourdieu on the dissimulation of the education system here].  Philosophical virtue cannot be taught, and cannot be comprehended nor transmitted.  If virtue is to be liberated, practical opinions of artisans have to be confined.  Divisions in knowledge harmonize with divisions of the social order, and only one discourse and group can exercise real freedom rather than mere improvement.  There is no popular philosophy, except as an imitation, supported by the opinion of crowds.  Philosophers claim to be kings not because they separate social groups, but rather modes of discourse.

Another myth makes this understandable, on the origins of writing.  Writing is seen as an inferior medium, removing the need to memorize, strengthening appearances.  Writing is a simulacrum which cannot engage in discussion or defend itself.  It is the opposite of the dialectic method and resembles rather rhetoric.  It is also excessive and can be taken from context and distributed to the wrong people.  It cannot keep quiet, and speaks even to the uninitiated.  [So it will inevitably confirm popular opinion?].

Proper philosophy must separate itself from the doxa and the sensible world, and must resist copies and [normal] dualisms as well as technique.  The Idea has to be separated from the normal world.  Rhetoric does not do this, but 'only mirrors the relationship of the rhetorician with his public' (41), and rhetoric is also aimed at a mass public, at numbers. The pleasure of rhetoric arises from the people's  pleasure—it caters to popular tastes.  It is not even a set of useful techniques.  Rhetoric can undermine philosophers but not philosophy.  It is business as usual—'it does, in short, its own business' (42).  It cannot grasp the higher pleasures like delirium or love, which is divine [especially when expressed as a passion for philosophy] and not grasped by technique and routine, despite a number of popular discourses about it.  Artisans are too bound up with the utilitarian to access it.  Poets and philosophers can grasp it, if only imperfectly, as a kind of superior imitation.  False poets and counterfeits, like painters, remain in the popular world.  False poets are even worse since they refer to the divine. In Plato's hierarchy of souls, non philosophical poets appear as sixth, above only artisans and sophists, below the barrier that separates the utilitarian from the divine.

The notion of a divine delirium separates out the world of imitation and leads to intelligibility of the One, while false delirium falls back to populism and persuasion.  The theatre has an ambiguous role, though.  It was once confined to educated people who witnessed the performance in silence, but the audience now consists of the people and pedagogues.  This follows the path of music that is both divinely inspired, but also open to public judgment.  Now, everyone thinks they are able to charge music and performance, but the real issue is divine delirium.  Talented performers are suspected of imitating divine inspiration, but really manipulating the audience, through spectacle. Theatre has become theatrocracy.  The people can only love beautiful things, not the Beautiful.  Applause from the multitude is self congratulatory.  Spectacle becomes a matter of numbers.

Of course artisans have no choice [and here the shoemaker becomes a generic term].  Populist philosophers, specially writers, cater for populism.  Populist versions of philosophical argument are understandable, in giving people a break from 'the aridity of the reasoning' (48), but this raises the spectre of inappropriate leisure again.  Leisure should properly be used to pursue true pleasures, not populist or bodily ones.  Philosophers should not over indulge in populist pleasure, especially sleeping amicably in the sun, since it will enslave them.  Philosophers must ceaselessly think and speak, one meaning of the dialectic is an endless conversation. 

It is appropriate for philosophers to isolate themselves from the popular and from the city to head for sanctuary in the 'theatre of the green world' (49).  The role of the philosopher is not to regulate systems, but pursue the divine.  The city offers only imitation pleasures.  There is even a justification for driving out imitators, so they might also mend their ways outside.  Only in sanctuary can philosophers meet with real poets, avoiding fabrication and flattery, and further justifying social divisions [as an example of how everything must be divided into two].  Knowledge differs between philosophers and artisans, so does memory and discourse, and love of theatre and of bodies.

The real fear is not that artisans will get to the truth, but more that 'artists will get hold of appearance' (51).  The real problem is to isolate the artisan from the deceptive world of appearances.  He has to be kept in his place, to discharge his proper functions, and also confined to suitable aesthetics and leisure, so he can avoid sophistry [also produced by one who has departed from his role].  At least this is all out in the open with Plato, less so with later 'epistemologies and sociologies' (52).  It's not just a matter of division of labour, but an exclusion from aesthetic realms as well.  Philosophy is based on an noble lie, but artisans have to be excluded from artistic lies, from simulacra masquerading as philosophical and cultural truths.  Philosophy claims all this is in the interests of slaves and artisans.  It doesn't so much want to exclude them as safeguard its own exclusivity.  However, philosophical autonomy depends on 'an arbitrary discourse on nature and nobility' (53).  This is never free from imitation, however.  [The chapter ends with a discussion of Nietzsche which I didn't really understand, although I think the argument is that Nietzsche's criticism of the elitism and pomposity in classic philosophy and culture is still limited by an unwillingness to acknowledge 'the modest poetic pretension of the shoemaker']

[I can see how this is going to produce link with Bourdieu as an ultra left Platonist or whatever it is, but some substantial differences have to be obscured first, especially the one that turns on whether social divisions are underpinned by nature or not.  Divisions heavily underpinned by capitalism and its need to reproduce are precisely non natural.  By contrast, Plato seems to bend over backwards to root his division in several overlapping operations which he takes to be natural.  I suppose Rancière would argue that it amounts to the same thing in the end?]

Chapter three the Shoemaker and the Knight

[This starts the section on Marx. It is really good, and very well written -- so I have vulgarized it a good deal. I have a gloss on it here]

[We carry on with Nietzsche and others and then a critique of Wagner, and his acc9unt of the fate of the fictional shoemaker Hans Sachs.  It is all about the transgression of shoemakers crossing boundaries into arts, as a continued awareness of the Platonic notion that shoemakers should only make shoes.
Rancière makes a connection with his work on French 1830s workers who also transgressed.]. 

This has been inherited by workers from Plato, and it has an effect, becoming 'the role of their internal hierarchy' (58) which valorizes themselves, but at the expense of making the shoemaker a pariah [very apologetic way of describing hierarchies of craft].  The carpenter instead is the 'geometer-king', who organizes all the other crafts, and preserves his status, and there is a whole hierarchy ending in the shoemaker at the bottom.  This hierarchy is disturbed in the 19th century, although low status persists for the shoemaker.  Internalized social judgment replaced external constraint, although some shoemakers rebelled against the hierarchy.  There was more swapping of trades.  There was more criticism of work, by workers, as oppressive and growing interest in culture and philosophy.  Socialist organizations also enabled mixing between workers and nobility, especially with Saint-Simon.  This hybridity was still widely condemned, even by some socialists.  The figures of the shoemaker and the imitator are still prominent in this condemnation, even the spread of literacy and writing. Aesthetic, political, social, and  symbolic disorder combine together, and the answer was to restore confines of trade.  Even Karl Marx was denounced as a shoemaker!  (61).

[More on this theme in Wagner, where artistic shoemakers are denounced, and their aspirations seen as a brief day of carnival.  Women likewise.  This time, the artist is seen as a popular spokesperson, not to be imitated, transferring authority for social division to the democratic masses in the modern age.  However, both Nietzsche and Marx objected to this populist turn.  Even popular artists are still imitators, and populism is still conservative].

Marx had nothing but contempt for German sentimentality, and the farcical revolutions of 1848, which added militarist adventure.  In correspondence, he refers to past combinations of cultural elements in the petty bourgeoisie.  The later critique of ideology was to be read as the struggle between authentic and farcical, modern and traditional histories, those who want to move beyond capitalism, those who want to return to the state before it. 

He offers no materialist analysis of this bastardized culture in Germany, but saw it instead as 'the mixture of two contradictory natures, industrial activity and artistic creation' (65), and argued that this mixture had been thoroughly commercialized.  Rancière thinks that this hybrid culture actually has more potential for developing socialism, than Marx's own pastoral nostalgia, which even when achieved will not include industry.  However Marx saw revolutionary potential in the industrial workers of England or Holland, in large scale industry, which had made redundant the old crafts like shoe making.  Mechanization is the way forward to socialism, and that will completely destroy the bourgeoisie—but also first ruin proletarians and deprive them of any autonomy.  However, sentimentality and philistinism persist for a long time, as a bastard mixture, which accounts for its very survival.  Marx has always been in favour of separation, the classics, conventional children's upbringing. Modern production in fact depends on imitation and bastardy.  Marx's disdain for German sentimentalism did not realise this [he saw it as a decadent version of production].

Marx saw all history as a matter of tragedy, but tragic heroes struggling to resist only show 'tragic grandeur and comic pettiness' (68) [the example is Don Quixote].  However, for Marx, Panza is the one who battles windmills and wants to defend common sense.  Even his debunking of chivalric illusions is ideology, which does not understand nobility and its tragic role.  Panza is the foolish worker.  Marx had no time for artisans and then dreams, except as bad history, preserving hybridity instead of contradiction, unwilling to sacrifice petty matters of status.  The future lay with workers prepared to forsake leisure in the interests of mechanization, 'science, and combat' (69).  Marx preferred tragedy to comedy, contraries to mixtures.  As a result, the history and the dialectics of revolution are disconnected ['never meet' -- a dig at what Marx said about Feuerbach].

Chapter four The Production of the Proletarian

It looks as if there is one principle of history, in The German Ideology, where everything turns on production of the means to live.  Marx has an echo of Plato by insisting that production must take up most of our lives, even for knights and philosophers.  History is nothing but a history of production and its accompanying class struggle, ruling ideas are nothing other than the expression of a 'dominant material relations' (70), and proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains, in the Manifesto.  Production therefore appears as a positive principle to explain history—but it also has a dark side.

Production is the essence of all activity, the defining characteristic of human beings.  Since it involves cooperation, we have to begin with that before we get to individual consciousness.  There is no link between natural and urban societies—both are products.  All interests and ideas have a material base in production.  Bourgeois philosophy can be seen as imitation of the process of production.

There is also a criticism of backwardness in the criticism of philosophy, specially with German philosophy which is limited by its cultural traditions, including vulgar appetites. It doesn't even produce anything.  It can easily be denied as self sufficient once we discover the empirical conditions from which it emerges.  This reduces the whole notion of a philosophical order which is to be replaced by materialist science—but somehow, this has to escape material determinations of production itself.  Marx initially believed that it is possible to simply observe empirical conditions to see this development of history, but how can this actually be done?

In fact, 'there is no German ideology' (74), since German philosophers are simply expressing their experiences of a backward Germany.  Marx claimed to be able to see this only after he had left Germany, although he was to discover further forms of ideology in France and England.  It looks like he is arguing that ideology is simple business as usual, as before, although some people do not see this clearly, or see it upside down.  People like Proudhon are too limited to what is, and cannot see the future, especially the positive role of mechanization.  Vision is limited by having to toil, as Proudhon did, before he became a philosopher.  If you want to change things, it is not enough to see them [in the sense of recognizing them via ideology or common sense]—hence Proudhon can never climb the ladder to knowledge.  Marx is arguing that the commonsense of the worker is virtuous, but it becomes a vice with philosophers!  [Rancière is arguing almost the opposite, at least when it comes to Marxist philosophers]

Bourgeois philosophy simply shows us how ordinary knowledge works, no differently from commonsense - 'Ideology is just another name for work' (76).  Reality is hard to penetrate, although industry and commodities are everywhere.  'Hieroglyphics' preserve the mystery of the commodity.  Worker philosophers and artists can do as well culturally as bourgeois ideologues, as some heroic socialists showed, but their ideas are still fabrications.

What is needed is a new kind of philosopher, who is both scientist and proletarian, a free floating one having escaped from the commonsense of particular societies.  But what makes it science?  It is not just a matter of accumulating empirically verifiable evidence.  The Manifesto offers a different test—social polarization will enable everyone to see the workings of history.  Ideology is overdetermined, both buying culture and by the realities of work.  Science is almost an accident, and begins with criticism.  The Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right shows how we can criticize German thought by demonstrating the real role of modern history, even if that  is found only in England or France.  It can't be seen in Germany, but the proletariat is emerging there, ready to dissolve the social order altogether. 

This notion of science now runs the risk of looking like positivism, the science of things as they really are.  It is useful to criticize philosophers like Feuerbach who take developments as abstract rather than as having an actual history, but there is a risk of seeing history as evolutionary.  Instead, Marx wants to see history as offering a story of decadence.  It is not enough to demystify, because that can preserve existing arrangements.  It is necessary to criticize to destruction.  This change is detectable in this shift from The German Ideology, to the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, turning on the notion of labour.

Only ideologues, including Proudhon, want to take the point of view of labour, act as a spokesman, but he risks joining those who see the development of Labour's creative powers as the development of capitalism.  This notion of development is why Feuerbach finds it hard to explain revolutionary change.  The bourgeoisie are very good at transformations, and have a role in developing the forces of production.  This is a materialist counterpart to Hegel's notion of the Absolute Spirit—the 'absolute Bourgeoisie'(78).  It is a kind of self improvement demonstrated in the master/slave dialectic, and it will lead to seeing constitutional monarchy as the key to the reconciliation of interests.  Marx saw there was no negative impulse in labour itself, and turned instead to Hegel's Logic, the dialectic, the change from quantity to quality, the anticipation of destruction.  However, materialist dialectic requires a distinctive philosophical break [an epistemological one?  Soon to be rebuked].

Production shows itself to have two aspects, the accumulation of transformations, and a revolutionary tendency.  The latter will end with the abolition of labour and so on transformation.  Labour itself is not the point, rather its appropriation and subsequent reappropriation, first in the form of a worker, then as an agent of history.  Labour needs to lose everything first, including its creative artistic powers, whether labourers realize this or not.  Extolling the virtue of labour is what sentimental capitalists do and there needs to be a complete break if the real role of labour can occur—the revolution.  This break requires proletarians not to do something different, but to lose what they already have, so they can experience the contradictions between owning nothing and owning everything.  We see here the same uncompromising division that we saw with phrases like 'nothing else' earlier.  The proletarian is 'the negation of the worker' (81), and workers who are not yet proletarians can be condemned, as petty bourgeois, or as lumpenproletarians, as some inconsistent group with no role.  It is not enough to say that the revolution has been delayed by history, because it is a matter of consciousness which is not entirely dependent onobjective conditions [for those with a world historical role?].

This still has echoes of Plato, even though production replaces divine commandment.  Proletarians still cannot see what Marxists can see, but they will if they can only overcome the barrier of the revolution.  However, [catch - 22 beckons again], the artisan's own status prevents him from becoming the subject of the revolution.  This time, the artisans are responsible for this barrier themselves, but the division also depends on a notion of different times—of the early history of production, of the revolution, and of the communist future.

Heterogeneity simply shows the persisting weight of the past, and backwardness.  The old style artisans were known in Germany as Straubinger.  But Marx knows that hybrid workers were not just nostalgic.  They wanted something more positive, besides just work.  Marx originally saw this as a sign of their nobility [EPW], but later realized that nobility should not have emerged until after the revolution.  Straubinger were not particularly keen to have the revolution before heading for communism.  They had to be convinced that what they thought was socialism was in fact illusory, through a new 'aesthetic education of humanity' (83).  There is a danger that the wrong kind of education will simply increase the numbers of Straubinger.

The idea of a future world where machines do the work was actually particularly popular.  This was the communism enthusiastically embraced by some workers in London, including one CP member who set off to propagandize in Scandinavia [some of his letters home are reproduced]. He did not urge the development of proletarian organization, though, so this was not the right sort of communism for Marx, even though it opposed the nostalgia of some artisans.  Engels criticized the wanderer as mistakenly operating in the barbaric and backward territory of Scandinavia, as if there were some parallel between enthusiasts for mechanism and pre-industrial societies [and Engels has some very harsh and elitist things to say about the Norwegians and Icelanders].  In this form London communism itself shows the backwardness of the Straubinger [and their failure to grasp Marxist theory properly], and they came to be seen as a drag on the development of Marxist politics.  Rancière says Marx and Engels saw it as too much to try and 'prove to communist proletarians that they are not communist proletarians' by comparing them to some future proletariat that did not actually exist as yet!  (85).  So London communists had to be abandoned, while the mechanisms of history worked to produce the correct future. However, this might also make Marxism redundant as a separate force, unless the point is to develop the [currently not existing] proletariat that will end classes.  The episode certainly shows that the alleged fusion of Marx's theory and the labour movement [say in Althusser] was far more complicated!

Marx and Engels continue to produce the Manifesto with the London communists, yet there was never a unified communist party.  Some Straubinger might have been converted to Marxist theory, but then they were notoriously able to assimilate 'every idea that comes to hand' (86).  The real purpose of the Manifesto was not to unite but to divide, to recommend working classes be divided into proletarians and others. The communist party takes on the role of the [abstract] negative in the future.  Again the philosopher dominates the discussion.  Eventually Marx and Engels were to split with their old comrades, and come to rely on themselves—and Engels' 'jubilation' at the demise of the London party is recorded: they are 'a herd of jackasses' (87).

The International seemed more promising, and developed against existing national working class organizations.  Spokespersons went off to police and criticize national worker associations [ineffectively, Rancière tells us scornfully] .  They acted in the name of the people but as a kind of 'burlesque' (88).  [They are less representative than those in bourgeois  plays criticized by Marx and Engels {
but then, Marx liked bourgeois art and even fairies} leading to some clever remarks about various plays, and rhetorical flourishes like accusing Marx of replacing Hegel's cunning of reason with the subterranean mole of revolution!].

Chapter five: The Revolution Conjured Away

[Full of clever tropes and allusions, most of which I have vulgarized]

Marxist discourse has to keep going despite all its setbacks and disappointments, and we find term such as 'we see' or 'we witnessed', still the notion of an underlying motor of history that would generate contradictions.  Optimism is also gathered from the shift of emphasis to the bourgeoisie as the developers of their own gravediggers, rather than the disappointing proletariat.  The communist party still gets a role, but mostly as something to frighten the bourgeoisie, taking on the existence of something opposed by the authorities.  If there is a spectre, there must be a subject, but not an abstract Mankind as in Feuerbach.  The German Ideology talked about living individuals.  The Manifesto could not refer to 'the sad reality of actual communists' (91).  A suitable revolutionary subject must be one that also alludes to a totality.  The Party comes to take on this role as the unifying totality opposed by all sectional interests.  The proletariat becomes a kind of double of the all-powerful bourgeoisie, the only agent of the universal in capitalism, something which sweeps away all the old forms.  The only hope was that it would eventually undermine itself. The proletariat only now have bit parts, gravediggers.  Even their unification is imposed by industrialization.  They only represent nothingness, stripped of everything, because they have even lost their old consolations like family and religion.

The bourgeoisie have a positive role of demystifying and concentrating, but this received a particular blow with the revolutions of 1848, and the rise of Napoleon III.  It looked from the outside as if this was the final stage of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, with no illusions, but instead, there emerged 'a troupe of substitute comedians…  The clown Louis Napoleon' (93), the return of conjuring and mystification.  This challenges the whole shift from classes in to classes for themselves politically.  The proletariat could be forgiven as inadequately developed, but 1848 showed the incapacity of the bourgeoisie.  It's possible that 1848 represented a sudden vision of the future of class struggle for the bourgeoisie, the dangers of its own rule.  Nevertheless, this does not square with the notion of the dialectic of history and the radical role to be played by social class.  The bourgeoisie seems to have been timid at the start of its career not the end.  Napoleon was just to be a figurehead, but he also grasped the reality of power.  He restored order but denied political power to the bourgeoisie.  He also forestalled capitalist development, such as delaying investment in railways.  Overall, this is a serious challenge to the notion of social class, and indicates 'a process of decomposition attacking every class' (95).

Decomposition had already been noticed with the lumpenproletariat.  Marx thought that the lumpenproletariat were the main recruits to the Mobile Guard in 1848 that put down the proletariat, but Rancière says this is mistaken, and that the Mobile Guard were drawn from the elite of the proletariat.  Marx was simply rehearsing an older myth, of troublemakers challenging social order, 'the phantasmal image of a vagabond army in the pay of the bourgeoisie' (96).  This was similar to the bourgeois fear of the rabble.  Marx might even have got the term lumpen and the idea itself from Heine.  Such decomposition could be good if it helped polarize the classes, but it can also hold classes back, disaggregating the proletariat.  Marx saw the same betrayal and undermining in later compromises following industrial prosperity in France.

Bourgeois timidity can be seen as the same kind of reformism, sacrificing class interests for immediate material interests.  Again, there is an inner 'double' or stratum,  this time a 'finance aristocracy, a class of conjurers that lives off productive wealth' (97).  This is the group encouraged by Louis Philippe, despite being thought of as a bourgeois monarch.  Finance capitalism simply bred greed and parasitism, and Marx explicitly refers to it as a version of the lumpenproletariat, in bourgeois form.  The revolution of 1848 did not disturb it.  Indeed, finance capitalism was now quite significant for a number of people including semi bourgeois.  The effect has been such as to disaggregate the bourgeoisie and divert it from its productive role.  Individuals now pursue their own affairs, acting as vampires, glad to be permitted to act like this by the state and even to draw state salaries.  The bourgeois class has become 'only a band of speculators' (98).  The Communards were to seem heroes by comparison.

Decomposition can be seen in two mythical forms—'the smallholding peasant and the Napoleonic mobster'.  It is not that Marx applied class analysis to the peasantry, rather the opposite—the politics is no longer explicable in terms of class.  Marx is driven more by his personal scorn and distaste.  Some of this is misapplied again [one example is that Marx derided the peasantry for living in houses without windows, and used tax declarations for his data, but this might simply have been a way of fiddling tax returns].  Marx sees the peasants as represented by Napoleon, and adds in all sorts of 'images of medieval decay' (99).  There is no materialist analysis of different social classes here.  Every member of a class seems to have a lurking residual identity.  Napoleon's gift was to express this class corruption.  Somehow, he managed to add together all these corrupt doubles, ruined bourgeois together with jailbirds, swindlers, tinkers and beggars.  Again, this was an imaginary list, not one produced by analysis, going back to Plato and the fear of the polloi, a world upside down, hybrids and mixes.

There is no analysis of this backwardness or its history, simply an announcement of the unworthiness of the bourgeoisie.  There is a hint of an analysis of the state as a regulating parasite, an agent of decomposition, but the analysis mostly turns on the notion of unavoidable comedy and corruption.  Social contradictions are caricatured in the Republic, political discourse is 'an ironic reversal of science' (101).  Economic reality dawns in the form of needing to escape creditors.  A clown-king has come to power not a philosopher-king, a crowned conjurer.  Individual interests are the only things that matter, although this can also be accompanied with the masquerade with costumes and postures.

There is still a problem with materialist science.  Marx and the revolutionaries can also be seen as an artificial class, in exile as Napoleon once was.  A similar figure in exile apparently haunted Marx in London, a certain Kinkel, who loved the old 'artisanal junk' (101).  There were other 'fauna of bohemians' (102), [a lovely list on 102] including Marx's own associates, his Secretary and his brother in law, former members of the Party who ended up mad or alcoholic, or dying of consumption.  Even Engels was an eccentric, and did little to recruit any one to the International.  Even Marx had to fight off his creditors.

There seemed to be no material base for Marxist science, which led Marx and Engels to hope for future crises, world wars, new worlds, and sacrifice in order to bring about a better world.  While Napoleon tinkered and posture, Marx would wander through his own desert like the Jews, and labour to produce a new science for the new men.  Science now represents the totality.  Only science sees real contradictions underneath social and political delay and corruption.  But it now also runs the risk of not belonging to the real world, of being quixotic.  There is an odd alliance between this status and the claims to be on the side of rationality.  Indeed, not belonging now becomes science's only guarantee, as a 'pure non-place' (103) [shades of Adrono on totally negative dialectics etc. Or Deleuze's lonely journey away from normal society into pure critique].

Marx and Engels had no time for those who wanted to reconstitute the Party, and they designated themselves as direct representatives of the proletariat.  It was increasingly difficult to sustain the view that the cunning of reason had produced all the decomposition and disaggregation that they saw around them.  Instead, the comedy of Napoleon can be seen as a kind of Shakespearean tragedy.  The double nature of materialist science makes it right for the times after all.  This is still likely to be seen as revolutionary fantasy, as vulnerable to bourgeois social order as it is potentially critical.  We can even see this in the personal circumstances of Marx and Engels, who both depended on capitalism, Marx explicitly so—Engels' workers were funding a scientist who would bring about workers like them as the proletariat, 'the pure subject of the destruction of capital' (104).

Chapter six: The Risk of Art

The revolution of 1848 was not really a classic development of the productive forces in the Marxist sense, nor did the rise of Napoleon do any more than reintroduce 'the normal temporality of economic cycles and crises' (105).  The Austro-Prussian war of 1866 was the real force behind the modernization of capitalism in Prussia.  So 'imperial parody', and 'nationalist comedy' respectively were responsible for developments which confirmed Marx's model of normal progression.  The singular events are rendered as a universal process by Marxist science.

The expansion of economic contacts with the new world lead to Marx and Engels to prophesy substantial competition with the old, leading to an unprecedented crash [initially focused on Russia].  However, opening up the new world instead reproduced 'all the old rubbish of peasants and lumpenproletarians' (106), Californian speculators and Australian convicts.  Colonization eased some of the crises in the old world, and also modernized Europe [sheep farming moved to Australia].  But the familiar degeneration was rapidly apparent, decomposition into individuals, the emergence of a calculative social order between these individuals crossing class boundaries.

The European working class lost some of its leaders to the gold rush, but, worse, the British working class were prepared to compromise in growing affluence at home, especially as capitalism seemed to have absorbed its crises, much to Marx's bafflement.  There were still crises affecting investment in things like railways, and an emergence of finance capital to replace the risks of productive capital.  The English proletariat was now seen as thoroughly conservative [here and elsewhere, letters are referenced, this one between Engels and Kautsky in 1882].  England becomes uniquely dominant as a colonial power, and this meant it was less open to revolution. In 1884, Engels has to explain [in letters] that the industrial revolution in France and England has happened, but that this has only stabilized living conditions for the proletariat, but revolution might still be possible in Germany because of the uneven development of industrialism there: industrialism still has an effect on the old handicraft workers and peasantry, producing a general social revolution.

The relative calm of England was seen as beneficial in permitting Marx to develop his science, and there was still hope that a fundamental crisis would erupt, say in Prussia, permitting even more devotion to pure theory.  However, Prussia won the war, and Marx was soon forced to interpret that victory to fit—by arguing that superior Prussian military technology [the needle gun] confirmed materialist theory.  Engels was apparently a military expert, but he got that wrong too, predicting an increased role for the cavalry!  Marx meanwhile gets diverted into a blind alley by admiring a book that suggests that soil structure is the basis for evolution! Rancière argues that these examples show that it is wrong to think of Engels as the corrupting devotee of science—Marx had the unbridled enthusiasm.  The Dialectics of Nature is a way of defending revolutionary thought from science.  Marx flirts with geological determinism [here and elsewhere, with all the stuff about earthquakes, and classes springing from the soil].

Science attempted to bring a little seriousness to stave off the great 'threat of comedy' (111), in the form of ridicule or satire as well as farce.  However, the science is not one of military strategy, or even of geology once revolution occurs, more a matter of 'the spectacular physics of whirlwinds'.  It is important to avoid being dragged in, another reason for not being tied to a party.  It is important to attempt to remain more objective, although it easier to be so afterwards.  This produces the cautious waiting that characterizes Marxism, and suspicion of spontaneism [supported by a remarkable quote from Marx in a letter to Engels 1858, which derides those agitators pressing for revolutionary change— '"the revolution will only make things worse"'(112)].

Everything had become bourgeois, even revolutions.  Science was now the only way to maintain something outside capable of 'negation of the bourgeois world'.  Sciences developed at leisure were now equated with 'the total dedication of the militant' [spot the links with Plato, of course].  Science is now separated absolutely from popular opinion, and Marx argues that the masses only deserve contempt.  Devotion to science is a matter of sacrifice.  Apparently, Flaubert agreed with this view, despite his reactionary politics, leading Sartre to see him as a militant for the bourgeoisie [an ideologue?].  Rancière sees both Marx and Flaubert as quixotic.  Similarities with Flaubert show that Marx is not just devoting himself to the cause of the proletariat, however, because by then he had decided that there was no proletariat outside the bourgeois order— it now has to be brought into being through science.  Marx proceeds to draw upon the British government's Blue Books to describe the conditions of work, a descent into proletarian hell.  Marx can even see the similarity to his own overwork.  He ploughing through the Blue Books as something to occupy his time, 'when illness and fatigue do not permit him to pursue his scientific investigations' (114).  Fact gathering is the myth of science, the real work is to descend into proletarian hell in order to give them a voice, to reconstruct them as active agents not just a 'motley crowd'[Rancière's own historical writing could be seen in the same way?]

Marxist science really turns on an argument that capitalist production contains explosive contradictions, as 'the identity of opposites'.  It does not turn on the revelation of the secret of surplus value, since 'everyone knows that secret' [even Ricardo didn't, surely?] .  The point is to argue that reforms like Proudhon's cooperative exchanges between labourers will not work.  That would merely reduce the whole logic of production and contradiction into 'the baseness of the economy of labour' [the creativity of labour is not the only reasons for revolution, indeed it is a bourgeois and humanist perception -- in Critique of the Gotha Prog I think, cited in Althusser's attack on humanism]  .  Marx wants to preserve instead a contradiction between notions of value, united in the commodity.  This makes 'Proudhonism...impossible'.

The proletariat, the party, and science have become united.  Marx's work is now an infinite task of making this unity unassailable, showing it can analyze every crisis and every document that seems to preserve capitalism.  Capitalism has shown that it can exhaust all the possibilities, so Marx must attempt to deal with them all.

Marx's physician urged devotion to the the task of completing the book, although young Jenny wanted him to put his health first.  Marx saw himself as devoted to the practicalities of writing a book, and saw Capital as '"an artistic whole"', requiring a grasp of the entirety (115).  He contrasted his technique with other writers, including Jacob Grimm the philologist, who eschewed dialectic.  Marx's work was then endless.  He had to learn Russian to read Russian documents.  He did not want to conclude the book, although he could have done so, as Engels discovered after his death.  Marx sought pretexts for continuing.  He admired Balzac's notion of an eternally incomplete masterpiece, an absolute work.  He wanted to write a book that would be his, not a Marxist book, something that might be written by a party hack [Rancière's gloss on Marx's statement that he was not a Marxist].  This explains why he was so pedantic and obsessed with matters such as the Gotha Programme: it did not really matter what the formulation was, because it would have been altered on application any way.  Marx's purpose was to 'guarantee the programme through all "applications"' (117).  The text must be respected for its own sake, while politicians will always make a mockery of it.

Marx was always particularly irritated by discussions of labour, constantly patrolling political texts to make sure that no one confused labour power with labour.  It is a matter of 'principle, of ontological dignity' (117).  Just as art is a pure form of labour, Marx's theory also disengages pure production from actual production, and sets itself beyond [vulgar] price as a result.  [There is a hint of Barthes' distinction between works and texts here].  Marx wants to contrast works produced to express the artist's nature with those produced for the market, artists from mere artistic workers. We can see an underlying critique of productive labour as opposed to the pure labour of artists.  This underpins Marx's admiration for the Paris Commune, where workers replaced paid state functionaries as an expression of themselves.  We can also see the old notion of leisure as the most important form of work.

A new relation is established between the work and the actual revolution, independent of economic development or the emergence of classes, not dependent on politics, not aimed at mastering any particular object.  The notion of production involved effectively separates it from any mere techniques or practices, an ironic separation for a materialism.  Instead of offering guidance, it offers interpretation, after the event.  Radicals are now artists, free of the wage system, distant from and opposite to mechanical workers.  Marxism takes on the 'absolute risk of art confronted with the density of the bourgeois world' (118).

The real critique of the bourgeois order is not that it is ideological, since ideology only means business as usual anyway, and even labourers now agree with the main principles.  The important thing is to find a place outside the order.  This can no longer be guaranteed by the processes of crisis and development, or the development of productive forces.  Marx's writings do not support either reformism or revolution, but develop the notion of an outside science, a separate and antagonistic view of the world, distinct from the practicalities.  Capital is not to be seen as a list of practical recommendations, although some Marxists have seen it that way, and it written in an obscure elitist way to avoid the dangers of diffusing knowledge that we saw with Plato.  Any search for such recommendations is bound to be confused by the text itself, since the ends of the text are quite different.

The ends themselves are no longer the subject of agreement—'everything is a matter of individuals' (120).  Science offers 'not knowledge but a way of being'.  There are no laws, only models, and these are to be used so that people can decide whether to be scientists for themselves.  A nostalgia for the 16th century is apparent [the renaissance].  [Marx's admiration here actually looks like a celebration of hybrids like da Vinci after all? or are they totalizing artists? ].  Arts and reminiscence are to provide the training for the new giants.  They are to counter the weight of existing social relations, the obsession with utopias, the political comedians and conjurers.  Sciences to interpret and rebuke these lesser offerings.  Napoleon's pantomime must be contrasted with real theatre, a theme taken up by Brecht.  As he argued a pedagogy that merely raises consciousness 'by unveiling exploitation and its mystifications is a very impoverished virtue'(121), and the point was to show that performance is both everyday and contradictory, the notion of 'humour, the art of performing on stage where opposites never cease to interchange themselves'.

People have to become suitably sophisticated historical agents, not just bearers of forces.  This is how they will resist the bourgeois order, seeing them as fakes and impostors.  The problem is the irony of history and how to overcome it with new authentic actors, 'the young proletarian…  Endowed with humour'.

Humour requires distance, and Marx and Engels wanted to maintain such distance, even from the International.  Science is to exploit this distance to develop itself ready to properly educate the new agents.  Engels inherited the task, assembling Marx's notes and hieroglyphics into publications, enrolling Bernstein and Kautsky as the only two assistants, and publishing a few of the initial works, including the Manifesto—'fine for copying as long as they cannot be understood [and corrupted]' (122).  He must preserve the authorized versions and continue to oppose any pretenders, including Dühring.  Bernstein carried on the task of representing theoretical purity on the International.

Chapter seven: The Marxist Horizon

[This is particularly beautifully written, so I have vulgarized it as usual]

Marx the artist knew that some of what he wrote was 'non - sense', dubious and best understood as produced by humour, but the work then solidified and became a theory of everything, the world 'defined by the laws of production and circulation', where everything had been produced and thus could be deciphered against these laws (127).  It is not that these are poor illustrations of Marxist science, but rather that technological machinery provides 'part of its founding myth', a necessary 'decor or setting' to define the new industrial world and its rationality against the feudal one.  It is a matter of developing a 'line of flight reduced to backdrop, from which we perceive the scene' (128).  It doesn't matter that these mythical creations are not themselves scientific.

Production comes to the fore, not human nature, and not science or humanity.  The precision of the machine was what appealed, liberating analysts from having to deal with 'the sluggish digestions of consciousness and syrupy musics of the soul'.  Now, human consciousness is a machine like any other, it works productively to create meaning [a footnote suggests that the notion of the machine has always appealed to French philosophers, including Deleuze and Guattari on desiring machines].  Philosophy is now redundant in the face of 'the democracy of productive bodies'.  This is a democratic conception, but at the price of losing a claim to humanity featured among radical shoemakers.  Instead, nonproductive notions like the soul are now seen as backward, without value.  Cultural activity [with the metaphor of philosophical music] means that the concept will eventually become a workshop or studio where nothing overflows, 'where "all musical doing will be absorbed into a praxis with nothing left over"'[the reference is to Barthes] (129).

A new issue for philosophers arises from an old debate about whether perspectives on the world are of equal value.  People like Berkeley wanted to 'validate each gaze in its place', and to oppose any superimpositions—what had become visible depended on the activity of divine speech [and a footnote refers to Lenin on Berkeley, saying that empiricism also conferred this relativist status on perception.  Rancière argues that an additional problem for Lenin was in trying to see scientific materialism as a creative and dynamic force, not just a matter of recording, which would restore the balance between what looked like the exclusive activity in idealism].  Science looked as if it would replace this sort of debate with the notion of scientific truth and permanence, enabling us to denounce nonscientific perceptions as dealing with illusions.  This became a new element of the doxa, leaving philosophy to attempt to justify these distinctions, even explaining the differences between illusion and science, even accepting that philosophy itself might be 'the great optical illusion clouding the work of science and enjoyment of appearance'(131).

The emergence of social theory adds another dimension.  It began as 'a thinking of the poor, an inventory of illegitimate modes of thinking, or a science having for its object the thinking that has no time to be thought' (131), aiming to expose philosophy as the vain pursuit of the leisured.  Philosophy was forced to attempt to accommodate this discourse too, and does so in the form of 'the permanent exchange 'between limited notions of truth and 'social knowledges of acculturation'.  The latter offer 'a philosophy of misrecognition'. 

Modern social science in particular necessarily interacts right back with philosophy even while denouncing it as a matter of illusion.  It does this by claiming to be able to research social positivities, using privileged methods, but, a note tells us, even while pretending to critique philosophical illusions, social scientists 'interiorize, as given or rules of methods, notions of principles that are merely commandments ... [dealing in]... philosophical prohibitions whose origins efface themselves' (n9 240).  This makes social sciences into a kind of Platonism, reproducing the distinction between those who produce by nature and those who develop science at leisure from their nature, with a necessary notion of the misrecognition of the history that human beings make, and with a necessary tribunal of theorists to decide whether people are being true to this divided nature.

Marx's early rebuke of the need to see technology as an effective break with rural conceptions appears in the Theses: Feuerbach's critique cannot escape the limits of classic philosophical contemplation, rather than breaking radically into a new conception of scientific knowledge.  Here, it is practice, transformation, that become central, both to producing the social events and the perceptions of the actors of them.  Actors produce their social world and the decor, although they do not realize that they do—they make history, but it goes on behind their backs.  Producers produce the world, but simultaneously produce a knowledge that misleads them, that misrecognizes, and this in turn becomes another horizon or decor, or spectacle.  Paradox reappears, just as it was once a central to rhetoric and sophistry.  [I think that Rancière goes on to argue here that rhetorical tricks which often depend on 'simple wordplay based upon the deliberate vagueness of ...words' (133) also underpins a lot of the ambiguity of words such as making, doing or history in Marxism].  However, it is not tricksters but the machines themselves that produce these paradoxes, 'illusion machines that turn technical demystification into generalised simulacra' [back to the issue that skilled crafstmen could simulate art etc].

Marx recognized this paradox and chose to opt for science and truth rather than demystification, classical rather than popular culture.  He was never that interested himself in how popular thought emerges, but noted buffoonery and irrational elements in the political universe of France.  A particular problem arises for his disciples, especially those who want to elevate praxis to a central role.  They wanted to safeguard against a particular notion of decadence that might threaten productive modernity [trivial consumerism?] , and a reduction of the notion to the mere 'labour of engineers and the prestidigitations of politics' (134).  They are also aware that the notion of praxis could serve the needs of autocrats [and some actively collaborated].

The real issue is that the world itself cannot be separated from its simulacra.  This may not matter as an abstract issue of truth, but it is crucial to the notion of justice, and to those who fear deep manipulations.  It is the notion of justice that fuels the notion of misrecognition, and it has also led to [Stalinist] terror directed against saboteurs 'who are recognizable by virtue of the fact that they do not sabotage to hide all the better their sabotage' (135) -- not true but just.  Philosophers who want to both celebrate praxis and criticize Stalinism have to develop particularly complex justifications, which will turn on philosophical generalizations [and this chapter ends with some quotes from Sartre].

Chapter eight: The Philosopher's Wall

[This is all about Sartre, and I have never really studied him, so much of it seems to be obscure to me.  The style is also particularly allusive, with lots of references to Flaubert, sometimes in terms of where Flaubert lived, who seems to have been a particular figure in Sartre's work—an earlier chapter suggests that he has been compared to Flaubert much to his annoyance.  There is also some discussion on painting, and luckily I have been able to find the paintings being discussed on the web—what on earth would we do without it?  The only theme I can relate to immediately concerns the Marxist notion of praxis is the foundation for a politics.  I remember it being used in Britain at least to describe a number of activist forms of politics, virtually any kind of activity, but then mere 'practice' being contrasted with some notion of a superior kind of praxis based more rigorously on theory.  I think that dilemma at least, including how you tell the difference, and how the two are related, is at stake in some of these discussions. I use the distinction between practice and praxis now and then to show this link]

There is the usual problem of trying to find a place for philosophy and to relate it to politics.  Sartre wants to be more than just a rhetorician, but instead to serve to analyze and report historical trends and concrete political movements.  Again the issue is that it is hard to see in the current working class any kind of subject behind any of the processes involved.  We can see already that Sartre has to speak on behalf of workers as some universal subject, 'the worker', and it is hard to make this figure actually appear [fancy French way of saying it is hard to find actual examples] .  It is no longer possible to say  that the universal worker is some kind of essence displayed in empirical workers.  That would be too speculative, and there is a need to find some material flesh and bone subject that is still not just a collection of empirical individuals.

By now, there is no need to ask actual workers for their views, because they do not have the time to formulate adequate political analysis, nor the leisure: Sartre talks about the crushing weight of fatigue in actual work.  This problem is exacerbated in the age of mass production.  It is only these circumstances that stop workers becoming politically active, but that is enough.  Workers themselves cannot and do not think freely, but need a party to do it for them.  Free thinking and intellectual activity looks like a luxury for those with leisure.  There is no room for an anarchosyndicalist optimism about skilled workers.  The activist political worker is no more.  The bourgeoisie have increasingly eliminated them, by 'regressive productive structures' (139).  Some still exist but as endangered species.

The party must now actively negate this notion of the worker, and constantly assert the notion of the proletariat, even in its nonbeing, as a pure concept or act.  There is the usual [catch 22] logic: those actual workers who want to criticize this view only show their separation from their real class.  Purity opposes dispersion.  It is no longer possible for workers to criticize the Communist Party.  However, this also means that real workers do not have to follow the Party.  All sorts of paradoxical consequences follow, for example that the Party serve to represent the workers, but not actual workers who are dispersed and passive.  Similarly, actual workers can cheerfully disregard the Party which expresses their needs.  Increasingly, actual workers do not support demonstrations and activities organized by the Party, which forces Party activists to organize 'street theatre: a demonstration put on by party hardliners for the masses about what they should have done if they had not remained precisely what they are - the masses' (140).  Nonparticipation only confirms the extensive fatigue experienced by actual workers.  There can be no positive reasons for nonparticipation. The Party becomes the only mechanism to combat such fatigue.  Now however, given the pure mission of the Party and the concept of the 'pure nonbeing of the proletariat.  Only the philosopher knows why the party is right' (141). Philosophers are in an equally difficult position, however,  unable to speak to the masses, but also unable to add anything to the reasons of the Party.  Only other philosophers are suitable targets who can be demonstrated to be wrong.

Philosophy is limited to a discourse on particular circumstances.  [Circumstances here seem to be events that affect mundane activity, that is most activity].  Philosophers opposed to circumstances some notion of 'continuous creation', incorporating the pure proletariat and the pure party.  Sartre was criticized for this view [by Merleau-Ponty] for abandoning the dialectic, simply opposing the limited empirical perceptions of the disadvantaged with the pure act of the party, with only the philosopher able to reveal the link between them [with the party showing how the masses misrecognize their position, and offering the truth instead].  Such a view unites the idealism of the revolutionary future with extreme confidence in material circumstances producing politics, with the former 'indefinitely pushed back to the horizon' (142).  Philosophical rigour involves rejecting any 'universe of mixture lying between the two', or of any open or incomplete and techniques and actions.  For Merleau-Ponty, it is precisely this 'realm of hybridity and ambiguity' which is the realm of the dialectic, the dynamics between the effects of things which inscribed people, and the awareness of their relations.  For Ranciere, Sartre's subsequent book Critique of Dialectical Reason is 'merely a long response'.

Sartre addresses this 'interworld' in that book,  trying to show how passive syntheses result in group dialectics.  He also wants to show that these processes are related to the status of worked matter itself, which can also be seen as a kind of synthesis of a multiplicity.  Interacting with such work matter provides a springboard to the development of group consciousness [maybe].  Dialectical praxis shows us how things can be reclaimed as human, and how political action can become realized and thing-like in its turn.  A key role is played by signification, which is inscribed in matter, and this is how human projects become opaque and permanent, they 'become Being' (143).  It is not a matter of rethinking fixed matter to resolve it back into knowledge.  Material activity is required, in labour.  Labour enables us to act on matter and change our lives.  Future prospects become possible only when we can labour on things.

For Rancière, Sarter has developed an 'entirely materialist dialectic, an entirely dialectical materiality'.  There is no gap between nature and history, merely a series of transformations between subjects and things.  But it is the relations between things that provides the key to understanding this and developing further transformations.  However, problems arise.  The [normal practical] activities of subjects on things 'is in fact only a simulacrum of dialectic', and [normal or at least capitalist] human projects involve only repetition.  Here, Sartre developing the distinction between praxis and ordinary practice.  In the latter, human reason has been stolen or distorted.

Practice is as inevitable as the fatigue of the work is, however.  Ordinary things are needed to sustain working subjects, and also to organize social relations in a clear way, as opposed to the old mystifications and conservative contentment.  Sartre has already rejected this misleading past of 'rustic and peasant happiness' (144), using a story about himself observing a worker and a gardener separated by a garden wall, unaware of each other's presence, working separately and in mutual ignorance.  The philosopher observer also suggest there must always be a third person or term which objectifies and can see relations in social objects: it also justifies the role of the philosopher.  Sartre has to rapidly deny that he is arguing for any sort of transcendental subject or privilege.  However, we can say that the philosopher needs to build a wall between the workers in order to restore the right sort of relation between them. He does not intend to break down the wall, because that would permit mere reciprocal relations between the workers rather than a proper relation mediated by material things.

The wall is the Idea materialized, an essential or categorical element.  Another example is provided by discussing working women who cope with the dullness of mechanical labour by pursuing erotic reveries.  What they don't realize that this is a suitable way of permitting them to act mechanically, something really imposed from outside, by the machines themselves.  The same critique can be applied to anarcho-syndicalists, who failed to realise that worker autonomy is provided by and limited to the operations of the machine, and to the potentials of worked matter [it sounds an awful lot like actor network theory here!] This limited freedom really serves to crush and reduce the skilled worker to matter.  Rancière says this provides workers with their own particular fatalism.

This is the simulated dialectic operating at the level of practice, producing 'the enchantments have worked matter, the whirlpools of seriality that they orchestrate, the dreams of freedom reflecting it' (146).  Fully group practice is required for serious social change, and the point is to explain how this might develop from ordinary practice.  Happily, there is some prior fundamental free praxis exercised by individuals, before 'opacity' sets in.  Individuals do exercise free choices, even if the meaning of those choices is provided from the outside.  For example, strong social pressures arising from Malthusian ideas have long operated on family life.  For Sartre, this is the main form of aggression against workers' bodies.  There can be no resistance to it, 'no place for vulgar freedom', since there is no space for thought and leisure.  There can be no choice about having children, no artistic pursuits, no worker societies.

The main problem actually is not just hybridity but autodidacticism.  There are only limited kinds of freedom, and leisure activities must be removed in favour of those that must be devoted to the party.  Only the party offers proper emancipation, so we should not waste our time pursuing various other 'pathways and dead ends' trying to become human.  Only philosophers possess true freedom, and this is defined precisely against 'the impotence of serialized individuals' (147).  Only serious philosophical work leads to freedom.

This time, philosophers are observing ordinary life in cities as workers themselves, this time in order to try and clarify the collective—'" the two-way relation between a material, inorganic, worked object and a multiplicity which finds its unity of exteriority in it"'[147, quoting Critique of Dialectical Reason].  Apparently isolated individuals are already linked by many kinds of interior relation, not just the gaze of the observer, but a number of market forces, social arrangements like work schedules and so on.  Again there is a hint that this confirms the power of the philosopher himself in conveying some potential or power to the social collectives.  This is in effect a version of the philosophical specialism of the negation of the negation, a contradiction of apparent fixed relations, one which workers themselves can never developed.  Here, the claim is that impotence can be negated by this power.

In normal life, people are unified in their impotence, their passive participation in a collective,the 'seal on their multiplicity' produced by the object [many hints of Deleuze here].  However, this unity also has a potential contradiction, or realization of potency [shades of Hardt and Negri now].  A mere serial unity of oppositions escalates into a contradiction between same and other '"demanding a unifying praxis"' (148) [Critique].  This is rather like what happens in street theatre and demonstrations, when the party shows the power of the masses.  Now however, it is the philosopher, 'the royal dialectician working at the heart of words' who conveys this power [through wordplay including formulations such as '"( once," "at the same time," at the very same moment"), and through the action of the formative verbs conjugated in the reflexive form' (148-9)].  This wonderful insight is still not available to the fatalistic workers, however who can never grasp the idea of the negation of the negation.  They can only mimic it by referring to the notion of a glorious death as an alternative to living like a slave.  Thus groups have constituted themselves as political agents, when they are directly threatened by necessity, when they come to see the need for a fundamental negation of what looks impossible, but they tend, like the silk workers in Lyons, to see this in terms of negating the impossibility of living by dying.  Instead, only this particular philosophical notion of freedom can provide the real practical unity, as a necessity, as the very inversion of what exists.

If the silk workers revolt of 1831 showed only the impotence of worker collectives, the storming of the Bastille is more promising to show the emergence of a revolutionary group.  Sartre is not arguing for spontaneism—the gathering of the Parisian mob was as a result of outside forces, especially the threats of the King to encircle the city with troops.  Parisians were then united in being equally threatened by extermination, and the only solution was to take collective armed action.  In this way, an active group emerges from a gathering, and the Bastille became a clear symbol of the external threat.  In this way, each member of the group acts as a constituting third party for the others.

Generalizing from this example, royal praxis can be seen as having the same power as worked matter to constitute groups.  It also presented no alternative, appearing as a constraining Other, something purely in opposition, not emerging from the mob with all the compromises that that entails, but offering a choice between activity or extermination.  The emergence of the group as a rational actor therefore depends upon the 'absolute subjectivity of the sovereign individual' (151).  The Revolution arises to negates the counter revolution.  This royal sovereignty may have been imaginary, but that does not matter as long as it provides a suitable myth of origin.  Stalinism is also capable of being understood as the embodied negation of royal power, 'As the negation of the negation.  As the Terror'.  Apparently, Sartre leaps over all the intervening struggles to move from 1789 to Stalin, and all the intervening struggles for worker groups to become active political groups.  There is a lurking apology for terror here as necessary to preserve the group and to unite it in the face of further dispersions.  The major theme is the need for sovereignty to prevent bureaucratic organisation and dispersions, to preserve the group as an actor rather than a mere collective, to work a series of negations and negations of negations.

However, it is not as black and white as this rather mechanistic 'functional analysis'.  Politics has become much less certain since this earlier work.  The main actors remain as the bourgeoisie dominating and exterminating the proletariat, fatigued labourers, anarcho-syndicalist ideologues, the need for pure social bonds and pure acts, however, Sartre no longer speaks with the Party, but rather 'from the interior of Marxism' (152) to which Party activity must be subordinated and integrated, made to serve the pure negation of the negation.  The Party certainly cannot represent the working class directly, nor can the proletariat become an effective dictatorship, until it becomes a pure group.  The usual apology for Stalinism, as a substitute for the dictatorship of the proletariat, a first stage, can no longer be maintained—Stalinism reappears as an absolute will of the sovereign.  Possibly, he is still best seen as a positive force of the proletariat, or even as some spokesperson for the future of humanity.  However, these arguments make philosophy redundant, and all the lofty aims of a rational end to history and a society based on human hopes would look unnecessary [I think the problem is that if Stalin can be seen in any way as representing Marxism, then it looks as if Marxism can be achieved through the conventional political mechanisms of dictatorship].

Dilemmas emerge in discussing events like the Hungarian uprising.  As a moralist, the position is clear, but Sartre as a philosopher also has to show that the Soviet intervention was not actually necessary, that Hungarian communists could have fought off their own bourgeois opponents.  This analysis followed the actual events, of course, but Sartre pursued it in terms of a struggle between petty bourgeois and workers: confusion arose because some petty bourgeois were sent off to be reeducated as workers, and so appeared as if they were workers, which made it difficult for true workers to deal with them, until it was too late.  By then the tanks were on the street.  Sartre claims to have done research by asking '"trusted witnesses"', but Rancière suggests all this was worked out in advance.  It is also contradictory, because there can be no pure working class group to be diluted, nor could Hungarian workers effectively ever turn themselves into a pure party—they had no leisure, after all.  They might at best have been able to achieve consciousness in response to petty bourgeois politicians ordering the police to fire on the demonstrators.  And petty bourgeois infiltrators could also have acted as a stimulus to cement real worker organization.  Nevertheless, this is a justification of the Soviet invasion as somehow acting on the part of what the working class would have done had they had time.

The analysis links to the general philosophy [although this is a very dense part of the argument, 154-5].  The whole thing seems to depend on the emergence of important simulacra—worked matter as a false synthesis, normal practice which simulates the dialectic, fictional royal orders, fleeting group unities, a focus on ends as somehow implicit within things, and on organizations as containing a potential.  This makes the philosopher himself a parasite, first explaining the reasoning of the party, and then of Marxism itself, illustrated with a quote from Sartre saying that Marxism needs a philosopher like him to fill in its voids [fleshing out the notion of praxis as central to labour and politics].

However, for Rancière, Marx chose not to develop bridging notions like praxis. [Some very dense argument follows] Marx, 'by instinct rather than by cold calculation…  rejected a world defined completely by practice, a world in which everyone would be right' (155).  This is seen by the role played by buffoonery in Marx's analyses, and there are also the excursions into a dialectics rooted in nature.  Sartre wants to oppose both tendencies to restore ' a history grounded completely impractical rationality'.  This is sufficient to see off Engels, but it makes theoretical critique of Stalin impossible [as we saw above, since Stalin might well be seen as helping things along a bit, to overcome any residual bourgeois, so the critique can only be made in terms of whether it was necessary to do so].  This also imposes a practical necessity on philosophy, to see the whole history of liberation as a matter of technique.

It cannot be ordinary technique, however, since this involves detachment from ends, simulations, and collective rather than group efforts.  Sartre refers to artisans who inhabit these worlds as '"amphibians"'.  They are not responding to the pressure of the Nothing that produces a response to construct the All. Some notion of 'great technique' is required, something unconditioned except by 'the single absolute of the End'. This 'super technique' offers continuous creation and also a limit to ordinary technique.  Freedom lies only in the former.  Super technique responds to exigency rather than to the mundane.  However, there is still the risk of imitation, and philosophical dialectic can only counter with some kind of rationality, which 'is exactly like magic'(156).

It is no longer possible simply to take the position of the most disadvantaged, for example, as some principle of historical development.  Siding with the proletariat is a matter of only 'moral exigency'.  This clearly runs the risk of finding philosophy in alliance with tyranny which also claims to speak in the name of the disadvantaged, and may actually act on their behalf.  The alternative is to abandon philosophy in favour of moral discourse and judgment, and this is what Sartre goes on to do.  He ends up by saying that the crimes of capitalism [and he was a member of some high powered international tribunals] were [simply] not necessary, and he separate himself philosophically from any concrete political position like maoism—he can advocate it  but 'he will be very careful not to be their philosopher'.

We are still not told why history will move from series or collectivity to group, except by force.  There are no reasons except moral and ethical ones to favour groups as the necessary agent to pursue proper ends.  There might be a nostalgia for the universal.  More likely, it is a way to defend philosophy in a technological world.  Rancière suspects that there is a 'fundamental aversion' to mundane practice, to artisans and their culture and freedom, an echo of the old worry about 'the artisan - king' (157).

Evidence for this can be found in some rather marginal stuff written about painters.  Painting could be seen as an example of a proper human relation to matter which avoids the banalities of representation and reified meanings, some pure relation of matter to itself.  However, purity can also be threatened if painters turn out to be artisans after all, and this is the criticism Sartre had directed at Tintoretto '("The Little Dyer")'.  Although Tintoretto broke with the conventions of representation, he did not paint in order to express anything—he produced things to sell.  He masters matter as does 'the worker in general', but for mundane ends.  Sartre's commentary here echoes Plato's anxieties about sophistry, as Tintoretto shows that he 'executes Veroneses and Pordenones better than nature'(158).  It is a disenchanted picture of the world, emotionally numb, 'excessively calm' (161) [the example here is his Massacre of the Innocents—available to view online.  Sartre sees it as technically cold, with no sadism on the part of the soldiers, and no incipient rebelliousness on the part of the innocent], and representing social hierarchies [The Last Judgment is the example here] .  Tintoretto invents new perspectives, he works hard in arduous and difficult positions.  He produces a new 'perspectival space', apparently depicting figures as weightless.  Sartre thinks that the painting displays 'tricks of imitation to smooth over the new disturbances' (159).  He wants to work to earn his living, and severely limits his experimentation with space.  Mere 'optical trickery' (160) results.  Nothing else was possible until all the conventions of representation were called into question 400 years later.  Sartre sees this as a matter of emerging courage to confront reality, and sees this as unattainable by a mere artisan.  Instead we get a compromise between disenchantment and technical skill, production and imitation, a challenge to the mundane world and an acceptance of hierarchy and the need to ascend one.

This is the world that Sartre rejects, and prefers eternal fatigue for workers, and an exposure to death and nothingness.  He has no time for ordinary radical intellectuals, including Camus, but wants to preserve some abstract universal encounter between persons and things, 'an aesthetic universality in the Kantian style' (161) [I thought Rancière approved of this idea].  To achieve this utopia requires going beyond the usual notions of equality, practice, social relations and resemblance in art and design, a new relation to the world [actually 'the becoming - world' (162)—more shades of Deleuze].  Where individuals, whether workers or philosophers, 'will no longer be technicians but virtually, already, subjects of the group).  The example of painting that gets close to this is Lapoujade's Les Foules [also available to view online], where the unity of the demonstrating masses is indicated by nonrepresentational painting.  The painter can see the meaning of this sort of collective activity, using a pictorial language to translate it-- but the workers who took part no longer understand this language.

There is a lingering notion of the Kantian notion of 'the idea of the Beautiful as a promise of equality' (163), and Sartre use the idea when discussing literature.  However, the democratic notion of the aesthetic is replaced by some 'fascination with the kind of self organization in which matter tends to be identified with its own idea'.  Thus an abstract dream of matter replaces any active notion of democracy.  Rancière suggests that this was inspired as much by the need to distinguish his position against bourgeois artists, especially Flaubert.

This dream of self organization still runs the risk of supporting quietism, or a world without workers and material disturbances.  Sartre's real position, however, arises from a tension between a passion for justice and his philosophical analysis of Marxism, or recognition of an unjust world, but a reservation about worker activism.  This explains that he is able to be on the side of worker hopes sometimes, but take a more abstract and idealist stance on other occasions.  He wants to attack a dialectic of nature, for example in order to preserve the intelligibility of practice, but he also needs to condemn practice that leads to mere representation.  This might be an inherent double commitment whenever philosophers attempt to work with Marxism [which might be a very vulgar reduction of the argument on page 164].

Chapter nine.  The Sociologist King, 165-202.

[Understanding this critique is not easy, partly because it is full of elitist allusions of the kind we have come to expect of French sociologists and philosophers. I have a gloss on it here .  It also assumes a pretty extensive knowledge of Bourdieu and his work. Both Bourdieu and Rancière claim to be demystifiers and democrats, but both write in this extremely exclusionary style.

Meanwhile, here are some homemade definitions of some of the terms Bourdieu uses and Rancière criticizes or mocks.  You can already see perhaps why these are going to piss off a philosopher:

Allodoxia — apparently a particular kind of misrecognition identified by Plato.  The misrecognition specifically involves attempting to apply familiar categories to new situations, and the example usually given is ethnocentrism.  Used in the work on education, for example, in chapter four of Homo Academicus, to refer to the struggles to reorient one’s self and restore one’s career in the confused situation of the fundamental changes to universities in the 1960s.

Doxa — the set of taken for granted beliefs that seem to be a natural description of the social world, mostly because there is a deep integration between the subjective (perspectives, expectations, ambitions) and the objective (actual possibilities open to people, such as the sorts of careers available to people of particular kinds).  Again lots of references in the work on education, to refer to the mindset of academics and the way they adjust themselves to the objective possibilities on offer.

Illusio — based on Pascal, and referring to the total acceptance of rules of the game, so that one can play it as a full member, without critical reflection. In articualr, you think you are free (but really restricted by the rules andother constraints) or that it is the real you  ( but it is really what the systemt wants for you) -- so the objective and the subjective coincide.I think I chose to pursue my career in an odd little marginal place but that is exactly  where the system would fit me in This is also used to describe academic life, especially a philosophical perspective on it, and it is one of the things that prevents philosophy being able to analyze itself, according to Pascalian Meditations.
Philosophers are critical and free -- but not to criticize philosophy. I also like the connections with leisure. Academic life is literally a game -- we argue playfully and within the rules etc.Note the deep connection with skhole - leisured philosophy. The snag is -- isn't Bourdieu's sociology also an illusio? Free to criticize everything except its own rules? Reflexivity is limited to thinking about how the system has worked for us?]

One argument is that philosophers have not properly grasped events or their political consequences because they cannot understand their own place.  In particular, they are too absorbed with philosophy to worry about social hierarchies and boundaries, and they fail to realize that they are really occupying an aristocratic position (in thought).

Although Bourdieu can be read against the notion of freedom in Sartre [discussed earlier], views on the role of the elite in shaping tastes are very similar.  Sartre's views developed in the context of taste in the Soviet Union, and they argue that modern art frees itself from bourgeois taste but 'only at the price of cutting itself of radically from popular taste' (166)—hence Soviet to policy to discourage modern art.  However, this can be seen as a rationalization to privilege Stalin's own tastes, an imposition on revolutionary culture of a particular ethos. 

This is where sociology wants to argue with philosophy, that philosophers carry on in their usual operations, but unconsciously adapting to their own objects.  This can be seen as a further example of the Platonic notion of the right opinion  [also discussed earlier -- roughly that education is about imprinting the right opinion on people, but only some kinds of elite people warrant this —the masses do not need to worry about opinions as they just do their jobs]

For sociologists, it is now necessary to consider the opinions of the masses, how they are ranked, and what part philosophy plays in this ranking activity.  Philosophy is to be subjected to rigorous, positive practice, ending the old speculations.  However, becoming interested in the poor could be seen as pursuing the same philosophical approach, looking at the poor in their allotted place, providing useful empirical data, and only for the ends of sociologists.  This apparently is Sartre's judgement of sociology as well.

Marx also has to be rejected since he 'took sociology backward' by explaining civil society in terms of the relations of production and productive forces.  The study of these relations and forces, of ideology and of revolutionary politics leaves sociology 'only the leftovers' (168).  Sociologists seem constantly to be outstripped, Comte's positive science by a Marxist science, the critique of orthodoxy by its explanation in terms of productive forces.  The only object left for analysis is how truth gets misrecognized, how the doxa should be grasped—but only through the production of another doxa.  Revolutionary insights became knowledge of the inertia of collective thinking, and Marxist economics and philosophy were both recaptured by seeing them as elements of the doxa— [philosophy as the reproduction of aristocratic tastes] Marxism as a part of the general disenchantment of the bourgeois world, ideologies linked to the economy as a particular case 'of the economy of symbolic practices'.

Even so, sociologists can only use rather compromised devices such as statistics and opinion polls [not specifically designed methods?].  However, these seem self sufficient, not requiring any additional sociology.  For example there were already statistics showing that schools tended to promote bourgeois sons at the expense of proletarian ones, or that the patterns of consumption were already linked to class revenues [revenues but not tastes -- until Bourdieu].  Statistics already demystify and reveal domination [Bourdieu's statistics do more than just describe though] . Do they need further interpretation?  Only if these appearances themselves need to be explained in terms of exploitation and domination at least in the last instance, so that class variables in schools have to be seen as serving bourgeois domination.

Opinion polls raise another problem.  On the one hand, they seem to offer authentic opinions, but this was already questioned by Plato in terms of whether these were the right opinions.  The problem is always that surveys offer clichés to respondents for their reaction, 'a prefabricated doxa awaiting its subject without surprise' (169).  This point explains some of Bourdieu's responses [as we shall see], and leads to him interpreting ' vague anomie' as allodoxia [Rancière assumes he know what responses really mean] .  Sociologists are not inventing these opinions, they are actually out there independently, 'on the streets', but there is a circular quality to them when considered as responses to standard questions.  The only alternative is to argue that they are not the real truth: 'truth, by definition, does not roam the streets'.

Sociologists are always being told off for operating only with banality, at the same time as offering obvious untruths.  [If I have understood this properly, Rancière is agreeing that popular opinions can sometimes consist of prejudices and misunderstandings—it would be very strange to argue otherwise, of course -- a kind of democratic nominalism where there no hidden aspects to amything, and anyone can grasp the immediate truth of the objects they perceive]. So it is necessary to distinguish banality from falsehood, to qualify evidence, and this is done by assuming there is something hidden.  Only sociologists claim to be able to uncover this: 'because the law of the system is to hide things [from people]'[quoting Bourdieu Sociology In Question].  This looks like an innocent addition to the project to study popular opinion.  We do not need to justify sociology as a description of popular opinions any longer, or to worry why people deride it.  It follows that dissimulation must be roaming the streets as well.

Sociology proposes to study the doxa by arguing that it is paradoxical and two-old.  Everybody knows things, but this very universality is suspicious.  If people do not want to know about sociology and its findings, is because they do not want to know.  Thus 'all recognition is a misrecognition'.  The education system eliminates proletarian students but normal people do not know how it works—it dissimulates this process, and then, even more fiendishly, dissimulates 'the way that it dissimulates' (171).

Bourdieu and Passeron argue this in The Inheritors and in Reproduction.  They start with brute statistics, showing uneven class chances of entering higher education.  One popular explanation is that the parental income and conditions prevent working class kids from attending school.  An alternative is that school crushes such children because it is authoritarian, and at the time of writing Inheritors, this was the dominant view of left wingers in the student union, who were arguing for more egalitarian work groups instead of lectures.  Many of the latter were students of philosophy!

Attempting to break with the 'pincers of economy and ideology', sociology offered an alternative.  School does eliminate proletarians but not through explicit procedures.  Schools affect what people believe about schools.  They believe that schools do not eliminate, but that many people are not gifted and able to profit from study.  As we saw, school must then dissimulate its dissimulation, ironically, precisely by eliminating people. Thus it is not so much examinations that eliminate, more that there is a large drop out rate before taking the exam, with no need to submit to the judgement of school.  In this way, the exam plays a major part in dissimulation, or, as Rancière puts it sarcastically: 'the examination dissimulates, in its dissimulation, the continuing elimination that dissimulates itself in the school that pretends not to eliminate' (172).

This role for examinations is also seen as being contaminated by the overall need to eliminate proletarian kids while appearing not to.  This takes the form of smuggling in class bias into tests, especially in subjects where there are unclear criteria, the dissertation or the oral, and where matters of style and manners or posture, even clothing can be used in overall judgements.

However, this overemphasizes 'initiating ceremonies or ritual discourses' as the key to understanding education.  The evidence is used here backwards—comments of an assessor are used to describe 'the reality of its practice', and are supported by all sorts of other reports of experiences of examiners, comments about literature classes, and feelings of shame exhibited by proletarian kids.  [Surely, Rancière is not advocating any kind of better empirical procedure here?  What should we make of his work that uses comments of workers and reports of their experiences in this way?]

This shows how the demonstration of charisma, and the affectations of style transcend mere schooling, and make success depend on nuance or knowledge of classical works.  This involves a necessary distinction for those who already have such knowledge, or those who are gifted enough to transcend their background..

Rancière seems to be wanting to demand evidence [or he might be arguing that these arguments are actually untestable because they take such a paradoxical stance towards statistical evidence].  He suspects that these great mystifications only exist 'in the cutting words of the demystifiers' (173) [could we ever get to some sort of test of who is right?] .  He denies that public schools were ever interested in equal opportunity, but rather political equality, with the social mobility to be exercised marginally to separate out gifted kids of the common people.  In those circumstances, the notion of gift actually promoted the chances of proletarian kids.  There is also far too much placed on charismatic teaching, and some generalization taking place between explicit elitist allusion and simply teachers making judgements based on their own experience.  Real elite education is more mundane, and Bourdieu and Passeron are talking it up by exaggerating examples of witticism and allusion, or the puzzlement of students trying to predict topics for the exam. [Bourdieu et al. did do some empirical studies of actual lectures and student responses, noted here, while Rancière seems to be drawing on 'what everyone knows'. R is right to critique empirical knowledge, although he has only mentioned opinion polls.Is 'what everyone knows' more reliable though?]

Sociologists know that 'ordinary educational practice or bourgeois conversation' is far from riddled with literary allusions.  There is also some evidence that knowledge of elite culture is not significant in privileging bourgeois kids.  They are still suspicious about any attempts to break with elite culture, as when they say that teachers who want to encourage opposition to this culture are still complicit in it, still 'persuading the neophytes to worship culture and not the university' (174).

This stance rebuked those philosophy students who wanted to challenge authoritarian pedagogy and propose a collective alternative.  They are merely advocating some sort of laissez faire where 'inheritors' will profit most [still true].  They are refusing rational pedagogy [Bourdieu's particular version?] that would preserve academic content without a charismatic ideology.  Radical student critics also misrecognize.  Their case also reveals another fundamental claimed insight—the importance of leisure in developing 'the aristocratic values of dilettantism' (174). In the case of radical philosophy students, this reflects itself in the disdain for the need to organize time effectively, and to insist on their aristocratic freedoms.

The connections between school and leisure appear in the [Platonic]  notion of skolē, and reveal the importance of the freedom of the dominant class, especially in developing a suitably neutral and distant disposition to social events including the arts and the body [citing Sociology in Question].

Again this is improbable, since all school kids experience routine, rewards and punishments [seems like another empirical generalization to me].  It is a mistake that sociology lecturers make when talking to schoolteachers and assuming that the lecture room is the 'essence' of the class.  This myth of leisure is Platonic in origin, arising from freedom from the pressures of time leading to the myth of free choice [are we still paraphrasing Bourdieu?].  Schools must imitate this state in order to conform to the leisured elite.  This leads to an even more dark suspicion, that compulsory education [or maybe raising the school leaving age] will only expose working class children even more to this alien environment, and thus push them towards eliminating themselves [I said something similar for the Open University -- here].

This poses as anti Platonic, a scientific explanation for myths, but it is conservative.  It does not open the possibility for working class kids to enjoy the leisure provided to study.  Bourdieu wants to explain working class kids who do succeed as special cases—they have come from an unusual social circle, or they might actually have exceptional abilities, even if they are delude themselves that these are gifts.  This risks tautology, and features condemnation of the parvenu as a class traitor, accepting individual success but only by legitimating dominant notions [is this actually in Bourdieu, or is it an implication that Rancière draws?]

Bourdieu does offer something more collective in the form of rational pedagogy, taking implicit knowledge and making it 'an egalitarian apprenticeship' (176).  This still has risks, in replacing one arbitrary form of legitimacy with another, and it can only ever operate at the margins, for 'the better situated members of the dominated class'.  This too will perpetuate class relations, and it is 'as illusory a utopia as libertarian pedagogy'.

Sociologists cannot oppose this deep rooted logic of reproduction.  Even if rational pedagogy worked, it would only break the solidarity of the working classes.  It would also raises questions about the legitimacy of sociology as a science, since it would break through misrecognition. This misrecognition is already highly limited, because it cannot turn into Marxism with the dominant role given to the productive forces.  The sociology of reproduction is therefore forced [by some strange conditional argument—it would be forced if Bourdieu had drawn back from rational pedagogy because it saw the threats to scientific sociology] to transform educational misrecognition not so much in terms of content, but 'merely of itself'.

Bourdieu and Passeron need to add the notion of symbolic violence to prevent any undue precedence given to simple exercises of power.  Again, this is hidden, but rational pedagogy would threaten to expose it.  As a result, symbolic power must be 'irremediable', beyond any kind of recognition by normal agents.  This is seen in the discussion of education as arbitrary: the culture of the dominant class is reproduced, but this particular approach makes alternatives look impossible [I think this is what he is driving out here, 177].

It is possible to recognize the first kind of arbitrary, the link with the interests of the dominant classes, but not the second, at least not in any kind of rational pedagogy which must not denounce itself as arbitrary for fear of losing its right to be heard.  All pedagogy involves this necessary claim to legitimacy, which is a necessary misrecognition of its arbitrary nature.  [Rational, or critical] pedagogues cannot denounce this kind of misrecognition [probably cannot penetrate it either].

This involves an interesting paradox [traced back to Parmenides and earlier discussions in the book].  If everything is arbitrary, how come some of it became necessary?  Pedagogy authority bridges this gap, and is legitimated in its turn when the arbitrary appears necessary.  Prophets only speak to the converted, but markets also take something arbitrary and make it necessary, hence the endless reproduction of the conservative habitus.

For Rancière all this is paradoxical.  Sociology wants to be a science, and denounce the activities of markets, but can only be so on the grounds if it fails to acknowledge its own role in making the arbitrary necessary [maybe—178].

Bourdieu and Passeron have criticized Platonism in an uneven way, rightly exposing the myth of free choice, but leaving to one side 'the "pedagogic" myth of the three metals'.  This myth in fact would leave sociology with no place [I think because it already argues that the truth is dissimulated by the myth, but I would need to read more of the book].  The myth of free choice can be used to describe the workings of symbolic power [as ideology] , and criticizing it  [from science] can lead to the scientific claims of sociology against philosophy.  However, it would have been equally possible to start with the myth of the three metals to expose the true limits of the autodidact [a version of the same account of dissimulation]. 

[I think the point is that]  whereas Philosopher Kings approved of fixed ranks, sociologist take the side of the lowly ranked, but this still accepts the notion of ranks [this fits the critique of Althusser better] .  The difference is that we get to the [apparent] necessity of ranks starting with the illusion of freedom.  [I think the argument is that this will prove to be a less powerful critique of the necessity of ranks and their reproduction, than Plato's demonstration that the three ranks actually began with an arbitrary, a myth].  Bourdieu evidently thinks that the existing order will always perpetuate itself through its very existence [some notion of conatus here, later attributed to residual functionalism?], and thus will never be grasped as arbitrary in origin.  Sociologists have 'absolutized the arbitrary', fought off philosophy with sociologism  and turned Marx on historical  necessity into an eternal necessity.  Class struggle in fact now becomes banal [in the sense that it is widely known about, although its secret is ignored]: its banality doesn't generates class terror any more, and lends scientific status to sociology which can constantly claim to denounce 'eternal forgetting' (179).

The most lowly ranked have been ignored, or are particularly prone to misrecognition.  Sociology offers them nothing except an explanation about why philosophers have misinterpreted the world.  This amounts to an argument that 'in the long-term [sociological] science will be more useful to the lowly ranked than…  pedagogy' (180).  Only science liberates, not action.  Bourdieu leads to no political or pedagogical action, leaving 'only the position of the psychoanalyst' [bad if you are a real political activist like Rancière].  This in turn helps the lowliest rank adjust and accept their lot 'without guilt or suffering'.  There is a further paradox, in that only people with sufficient technical capital and interest can understand sociology [apparently admitted in Sociology in Question].  This admission points to a deeper collusion with the elite.  Elites, including university professors, like to analyze best the elitism of those below them, which is another kind of adjustment to social positions.

It is hard to know what would be gained by making elite knowledge accessible to the lowly-ranked anyway.  Would it lead to new claims to privilege?  Would elite culture be rejected on the grounds of its social foundations?  This is already an effect what is supposed to happen, from the pressure of necessity.  Or should the excluded stop wanting access because it only makes them miserable?  This is quietist, and seems to advocate remaining with what is your destiny.

Who is supposed to be the audience for this discourse any way?  With the end of Marxism, sociology has become 'the imaginary of the Sartrean communist party' (181).  [good point, but who is the audience for libertarian activism presupposing equality?].  Of course, this involves a claim to represent the working class, to assume 'mute support', and this is a way of guaranteeing sociology, making it different from 'the games of cultural relativism where it seeks to confine the others'.  However, this sort of denunciation on behalf of an absent class becomes routine, a part of the new doxa, like the struggle against [other people's] elitism, found in politicians of all stamps.  This sort of 'scholarly disenchantment' helps reinforce their 'usual lack of cultivation' (182).  The struggles have left a legacy in the removal of elitist literature and culture from the university, although what the gains are for the common people 'is another story'.

Fears about reproduction extend to the analyses of practice.  Here we focus on small reproductive machines, with characteristics according to their place in social fields.  We can look at actors who reproduce the traditional habitus, and we can look at the impact of the market offering only an illusory freedom.  We can see practices as a game, again where knowledge of the rules can be transcended by 'the science of the moves'.  We move to the concept of illusio, the feel for the game and its objective structures, producing a fusing of subjective and objective meanings.  The science of Bourdieu's game is to include the rules, the opinions of the players, and 'the objectivation of the ethnologist's objectivation procedures' (183).  This has a claimed benefit for the lower orders here, by teaching them the rules of the game, and how domination works.  Again this game turns into dissimulation, however.  Kabylian villagers can outwit ethnologists, but they must dissimulate if they are to reject objective analysis [I think this is the argument, 183], especially the role Bourdieu says is played by the productive forces and agricultural labour.  Again, sociologists have to avoid economic reductionism by also pointing to a role for symbolic capital, and how it is produced by converting economic capital.  In this way, the symbolic game becomes 'merely the euphemizing of domination' (183).  The poor never grasp this and live in a closed social environment, dominated by apparent necessity.  As a result, the turn to practice, which was meant to overcome the pessimism of reproduction gets closed off again.  The habitus is still dominant, although some of its power can be diminished by knowledge [presumably, the knowledge to develop strategies within the rules?].  This knowledge can never produce real freedom, nor will it ever be just determined by the economy, although marxists would have no problem in showing that it was. 

Sociologists get out of this problem 'by combining the two economies'. This is what happens in Distinction.  The critique of Kant involves contrasting some notion of social reality to the apparent pure exercise of judgment and taste.  Taste is united where Kant divides it, and divided where Kant argues it is common.  Thus the same taste judges 'works of arts, wines or table manners', unlike Kant's division between beauty and pleasure of the senses.  There is no universality of taste, though, but rather a process of distinction, opposing freedom to necessity, and allocating those qualities to the social classes.  [The diagrams show] further dimensions, with axes between the dominant and the dominated, and the dominant fractions of the dominant class according to their ownership of types of capital.

There are of course problems.  In attempting to show how taste varies for music, Bourdieu did not actually play any music to respondents, but rather asked them questions about musical types.  It is an illusion ['"cultural communism"'185], for Bourdieu, to imagine that the lower orders might be able to appreciate elite music, or to hope that they might.  In fact music can transcend class barriers.  This is not dissimulation [the reference is to a musician in Kant's day who successfully pretended a Mozart opera was mass entertainment].  There has been much mixing of musical genres, so the classical music appears as 'a disco hit tune, a movie soundtrack, or in the background of a commercial' (186), sufficient to make us question the concept of allodoxia.  What makes cultural communism still promising is that it seems self sufficient, requiring no commentary, and thus can resist becoming banal [including banal participation in class closure], refusing to be confined to those possessing a suitable habitus. 

For Bourdieu, music in particular offers '"denegation of the social world"'[citing Distinction], pretending to be silent and neutral while helping social ranks develop.  Bourdieu is displaying here and elsewhere 'a more fundamental annoyance towards the common property of music and religion' (186), based on its ability to apparently disturb  models of class appropriation.  One of his strategies is to agree that analyzing all areas of music would be impossible, but there is an assumption that musical tastes can still be measured using particular examples, and without anyone having to hear music.  Representative samples were given questionnaires ad asked to react to questions like whether they thought classical music was for them, or whether they know 14 musical works and can choose 3 favourites.  'No surprise, the workers answer en masse that classical music is not for people like them, show only limited knowledge...  whereas distinguished people claim that "all music of quality" interests them, know all of the titles'[more of this what everyone knows stuff?] (187). A refutation of Kant cannot be carried out with data like this.  For example, Kant says that there is a  difference between capacity and knowledge, but this problem has not even been tackled with tests like these.  Of course university students are going to get the best grades in tests like this, including knowing that some musical works are more high status.  Bourdieu knows that bourgeois respondents are able to manipulate surveys [apparently in Distinction page 47], but does not acknowledge that the questions themselves suggest a ranking.  What the questions really shows that some know the game and can play a role, and others don't—ironically, this actually shows a kind of cultural freedom [at least for the game players] which is not supposed to be happening [for anybody].

There is some attempt to research the minor arts like photography differently.  Kant is again used to set up criteria which can be tested, for example whether tastes focus on the form of the object or its function.  The photograph of the old woman's hands should show the neutral bourgeois gaze, and the involved popular gaze.  However, the researcher himself has to intervene to explain some of the apparent similarities [details on 188].  Again it looks as if the image can have its own effects so  'the sociologist will have to produce the distance himself'. Some of the questions actually referred to the intentions or functions of images, as in the ones about whether images would make beautiful photographs.  There is a clear difference here, but, as Bourdieu himself knows, the interview can offer artificial choices [apparently, one of his books on photography says this applies particularly to to questions about the aesthetics of photographs].  There seem to be clear signs of the rejection of the question, from those who do not accept that photography is art, and cannot be judged as if it were.

Overall, it is the interviewer that has supplied the meanings, while claiming that 'he lacks the disposition' to do so.  The results only confirm 'what the sociologist already "knew" in elaborating the question'(189).  The whole point was merely to show the operation of distinction in what was thought to be a universal judgment.  But the exercise itself widened the difference, and brought about 'the suppression of intermediaries, of points of meeting and exchange'.  Again, there is this underlying view that there must be no mixing or imitation, that opinions have to be sorted by some criterion of rightness, and fraud excluded.  There is some maneuvering around particular works and their relation to bourgeois distance, including a supporting quote by Virginia Woolf about the need not to invest too much passion.  [Then an extraordinary section about rebellious students in the 1960s insisting that popular works had to be included in university study, or a comment about fanatical music lovers appreciating apparently vulgar works—Rancière is saying that for Bourdieu, all this must be seen only as a confirmation of class tastes in students, who only wanted to take revenge on their professors, or a confirmation of the superior tastes of the most knowledgeable bourgeois, who can manage vulgarity with distance].

Art must be therefore domesticated by sociological analysis locating it in fields and struggles.  The emphasis is placed not on the artwork itself, but on commentary and social rituals, of struggles between critics.  There can be no struggle to recuperate minor cultures or desacralize higher ones.  Only then could we develop a science by expelling everything that doesn't fit.  Bourdieu's habits of including popular materials and marginal notes only add to this process [Rancière gets close to saying that this just vulgarizes art].  This reduction means that popular and bourgeois taste could never encounter each other, not even by accident.

The same goes for sport.  It is clear that some sports like soccer or rugby did cross class boundaries, but Bourdieu sees only qualities guaranteed to repel the bourgeoisie, including the display of strength, resistance to pain, violence, submission to collective discipline and so on.  Are these qualities so alien to the bourgeoisie though?  Have they not served in public schools, churches and armies?  Sport was also introduced deliberately by governments, often after military failures [but to be imposed on the lower orders?].  We can see again that the argument about repulsion against the vulgar simply must triumph again, and again this is done through a backwards argument, explaining likes and dislikes in sport instead of starting with them, or exploring the ambiguous nature of sport [Bourdieu's analysis of the class dimension of the different positions in rugby is cited as a classic exaggeration and imposition].  In all this, the notion of leisure as an autonomous area, unaffected by the reproduction of productive relations, is sidestepped [sidestepped --geddit? rugby? Oh please yourselves!].

Bourdieu criticizes those who have operated with simple explanations of social relations., but in his own work there is always a common theme on the relation between leisure and class, and an insistence that there can only be one kind of conflict between incorporated leisure, and a more active struggle for distinction and compensation [where a social and cultural capital can compensate for inadequate economic capital]. There is conflict within the dominant class,though, between inheritors and challengers.  Leisure structures the apparent disinterested culture of school, gender differences like those in home decorating, and even adolescent rebellion of the inheritors, the latter only as a kind of token distance.  These examples actually domesticate [I'm on form today!] such symbolic conflict—any conflict is merely  'a quarrel between generations…  [a consequence of] years of apprenticeship or popular rites of bourgeois maturation' (193).  Bourdieu continues to settle scores with inheritors, who monopolise school cultures, pretend, as rebellious students, to attack the university, or are forced to compromise with the new petty bourgeoisie in 'the great simile industry' of offering lifestyles or symbolic services, using their cultural capital in a profession, while only pretending to compromise with the petty bourgeois.

The whole argument suggests that symbolic practices are autonomous enough not to be grasped by economics or philosophy, featuring not simple rational actors, but effects of complex interactions of social fields.  However, those engaged in calculating distinction still look pretty much like calculating economic men.  The fields that look complex enough to generate many types of social mobility are really governed by a 'simple law of distinction' (193 - 4) that takes complex forms.  There are only inheritors and challengers, and inheritors always win.  Class struggle there gets reduced to a matter of vanity.  We are all just acting out relations of power.  Indeed there is a suggestion that it is only this basic struggle in culture that has produced classes in the first place [supported by a quote from Language and Symbolic Power, page 126] [so is Rancière advocating instead some kind of Marxism?  Not Althusserian, presumably].

There is a kind of nonchalant and yet anxiety-ridden tone to Bourdieu's acknowledgements of the complexity, but this still preserves the power of sociology.  Bourdieu can appear as a philosopher, noting how arbitrary the social game is, before turning it into a necessity that can be studied by science.  He can also denounce illusory utopias in thought.  In this way, 'philosophy will be driven away twice' (194).  Ordinary participants are also ruled out in advance as being able to contribute.  The distinguished elite sees symbolic struggle as separate from anything economic.  The popular groups indulge in a love of fate, and even find their only virility in reproduction [including the reproduction of their way of life, presumably].  Class struggle is unconscious, and it works to keep the two classes unable to meet culturally.  Cultural struggle also shows the disgust of the elite with the popular body, which causes them to practice social denegation.

Perhaps what sociology should do is to challenge this unconscious disgust, by revealing what the popular bodies are actually like, or force the return of the repressed, overcome deniability? Bourdieu also challenges revolutionary discourses which are far too abstract, based neither on adequate theory nor empirical study.  What both groups need is to be shown what people are actually like [in Distinction].  However, the description of what working class people are actually like is itself nostalgic—there are no appropriated bourgeois items, no betting or enjoyment of music, no ability to play or enjoy symbolic games [no fighting either, I recall -- compare with Willis's study ]   A rugged working class emerges, who cannot be bothered to play linguistic games, or experiment with any food other than that which immediately feeds them, and who disregard bourgeois notions of tidiness, 'a working class world more sunk in nature than the "primitive" universe of the ethnologists' (196). All these are allegedly paradigmatic qualities.  There are no 'rites of seduction, education or passage' in their reproduction of their world, not even for adolescents, and certainly not immigrants from other ethnic origins [remedied to a great extent by Bourdieu et al's The Weight of the World?].  Nothing challenges the power of this habitus.  There are no signs whatever of any attempts to break out, nothing about the attempts to borrow words, to find a voice, to work with double meanings or deceptive images—all these get ignored or dismissed as like the pretensions of the challengers.

At the bottom of it all lies Bourdieu's [personal?] quarrel with Kantian aesthetics.  He admits his critique is vulgar and ahistorical, which immediately removes any historical evidence about the origin of the Third Critique: Rancièere locates it as appearing a year after the beginning of the French Revolution, designed to address the issue of managing freedom and equality with the compulsion of duty.  Intention was to develop a new kind of 'equality of sentiment', a real dimension for the abstract equality of rights (198).  Opponents of equality were arguing that it had to be limited because people did not possess equal competence and social capacities, especially among the brutal working classes.  This is still the same view in sociology, that people cannot properly use their freedoms, that they must first of all learn criteria or refine their senses, although that is impossible.  Kant never saw this gap as an absolute one—the judgement of taste was formerly universal, and it could transcend the cultural divides between the dominant and the supposed revolutionary alternative [which is what I assume Rancière means by 'the culture of Rousseauist nature']. [One immediate problem is that the Third Critique is impossible to understand,even for professional philosophers like Scruton, let alone for any politicians or revolutionaries]

Of course it is possible to 'psychoanalyze' this idea, and to see in it a matter of using philosophical distinction to restrict vulgar enjoyment, opposing taste to the pleasure of the senses.  In fact, it was Burke not Kant who took this view, though, as an antirevolutionary step.   Kant did not endorse this fully, nor did he endorse Rousseauist criticism of luxury.  However he insisted, for example that we can still judge the form of a palace and feel pleasure, without having to worry about the sweat of those who built it [speak for your self buddy].  This denies any eternal splits between culture and nature, and avoids endorsing revolutionary terror as the only route to equality.  It is a utopian concept, but he offers 'the fragile promise of a freedom gained beyond the opposition between working class savagery and civilized barbarism' (198-9).  It is a denial of the three metals conception of the social order.  It is an illusion of progress, but it offers the possibility of playing the game, as in illusio.  [OK but what happened to these potentials and promises in the actual world of class struggle --that is Bourdieu's question surely?]

Cultural communism has the same role.  It is not a 'disincarnated reverie', but a collection of game possibilities, made more likely now that artists have become more autonomous, and elite arts more accessible.  This offers a proletarian possibility of social denegation [as in stripping art of its bourgeois aura?] , and an autonomy for proletarian intellectuals [I think, 199].  It can lead to 'an aesthetic and militant passion for reappropriation'.  Proletarians interested in art and in the aesthetic dimensions of their work have been noted by other writers, including some who have admired Kant's Third Critique. [A carpenter's aesthetic pride in his work]  is nothing less than 'the claim of a human right to happiness that exceeds the rhetoric of proletarian recruiters, the battle of cottages and castles' (199). 

This is how heresy intrudes into the culture of the dispossessed.  It is not allodoxia.  It is a radical claim for aesthetic legitimacy, 'the right to speak freely', even if this is done initially in euphemisms borrowed from the bourgeoisie.  There is proletarian speech which is not just the repetitions of the love of fate.  Even allodoxia can lead to heterodoxia.  Great works can be misinterpreted, but this misinterpretation can also extend to their conservatism: 'the shoemakers' insurrection is a vast misinterpretation of The Republic'(200). Cultural communism develops an illusion that encourages the dominated to play the game and gain a voice.  Even some bourgeois have always attributed an aesthetic voice to the proletariat, perhaps drawing upon shared notions of cultural communism.

The apparent ahistoricity of philosophy just shows it belongs to other times, but so does the vulgarity of sociology, 'only the disenchanted banality of the learned opinion of his time'(200), which includes a taste for demystification, a doxa in itself.  [Then a strange commentary on Flaubert and Madame Bovary, which is seen as an attack on cultural communism, or rejection of the idea that the work of art can be grasped even by the petty bourgeois Madame Bovary].  Sociology helps to restore order here by sorting out what belongs to each, attacking the notion of pure [or universal] art, and offering not the art itself but the commentary on it [plenty of that above, including the stuff on the old horny-handed carpenter]  offering its hidden truth, demystifying it.  Scientific language and rigorous critique is deployed in this sorting and unveiling.  Fashionable words are accumulated, games of science are used to uncover the repressed, and the result is a support for divisions between the different fields and social classes: 'Frédéric Moreau's Paris, he teaches us, stops precisely where working class Paris begins' (201).  This conservatism appears as 'the disenchanted knowledge of the eternity of division between the possessors and the dispossessed' (202), a last rebuke to marxist hopes of revolution.  This eternal division also guarantees the scientific status of the project.  Working class life is shown to various deniers, but only so they need never go to visit themselves, which will 'thus... prove eternally the necessity for science and the secret of its object' (202).

[This is a formidable battery of critiques, much better than those far more limited methodological objections advanced by Bennett, or the mystical denial of any attempt to grasp the everyday by De Certeau.  However, I can still see some problems, in my naive way:

  1. Surely it is not just sociology that operates with the notion of something hidden, but any academic subject—English literature, history, geography, or even philosophy.  The alternative seems to assume that things simply are what they are, and every one can grasp this—what I have called, rather pompously, democratic nominalism.  Apart from anything else, it seems to contradict the admiration for Jacotot's pedagogy, as a strongly willed struggle to master something.
  2. The criticisms of the methods are pretty acute, although Bourdieu himself recognizes them throughout his work: I am not sure that these later modifications should be treated as contradictions.  It might be possible to see later work remedying some of the problems addressed here, especially The Weight of the World.  It is also still a bit ironic to find Rancière engaging with empirical methods at this level.  Surely he has no time at all for empirical work which assumes a quietist configuration of the sensible? [see Pelletier's article]   As usual, he is forced to make empirical statements himself, of course, including statements about the existence of cultural transgressors or omnivores, what the respondents to Bourdieu's questionnaires are really thinking and so on.
  3. Of course, he does refer openly to empirical material himself in his historical studies, but does he think he has overcome the problems that he has identified with Bourdieu?  All empirical data have to be interpreted and read.  Is there not the possibility that he has forced the proletarians he has studied to adopt the role of cultural transgressor, heterodox not allodox?  If he thinks he has avoided this problem, what is the key method that will help us all to do it?
  4. There seems to be a similar ambivalence towards Marxism.  He seems to be wanting to preserve the Marxist hope of revolutionary change, and that aspect of Marxist method at least that analyses modes of production as historical events, not eternal ones.  But this cannot be a recommendation to go back to Marxism, surely, not after that spiky rejection of Althusser.  Actually, it might be improved a bit by rehabilitating Althusser.  At the moment we have an uncomfortable attempt to argue both that art is pure and universal, and that historical circumstances can have an effect, on philosophical thought at least, as in the final discussions on Kant.  The whole thing cries out for some notion of relative autonomy! If only he had not had some personal and political quarrel with Althusser that stopped him grasping his work more sympathetically!

For those who want more

[This is got to be the densest and most allusive yet, with all sorts of brief references, some of them metonymic, to dead Germans and Greeks.  I have done my best, o reader]

Philosophy defines itself by defining its other.  Eventually, this was to lead to a major division between those who had the right to think and those who laboured with their hands.  This is sometimes justified by simply confirming what artisans wanted for themselves, and by assuming an unusual modesty or irrelevance for philosophy, but the net result was to claim for philosophy 'the privilege of thought', originally presented as a fable about differences in nature, the first of a series of attempts to find a natural basis for hierarchy.

Sociology starts out by denouncing philosophical aesthetics as based on exclusion of popular enjoyment, and criticizing philosophers for denying the social origins of their thought and practice—denegation.  Originally, this seemed to be an analysis based on support for the excluded, but sociology runs into difficulties when it discusses demystification, and when it develops its ethics [politics].  In the course of demystifying Plato, sociology only confirms and even radicalizes his divisions.  It rationalizes them as a part of a functional division of labour.  Even Plato developed his notion of hierarchy with irony, and really believed that the natural order was arbitrary.  Sociology, however places a necessity at the heart of hierarchy, based on the 'the difference of ethos that makes the artisan incapable of ever acquiring a taste for the philosopher's goods—and even of understanding the language in which their enjoyment is expounded' (204) [because the need to reproduce capitalism makes the arbitrary necessary, and because habituses develop which deeply affect tastes and understandings.  There is no other 'natural' reason such as a difference in intelligence, for the artisans' disinterest and incapacity when it comes to elite culture, although this is quite likely to be the way in which Rancière's criticism is read.  This is really the basis for emancipatory education to combat the strong social forces involved.  None of this is explained by Rancière].  In these [social] circumstances, universal freedom is an illusion, and differences become 'inscribed on bodies' and thus  'indisputable'[but not inevitable!] These strong divisions are then supported by social science, and again this is not accessible to artisans.  Sociologists then become the privileged ones who alone can understand the situation.

There is sociologism or reductionism to the symbolic economy involved here, and the issue of [independent] value is precisely that which is omitted.  The old philosophical question was to ask 'what is best?', and how will the best ever prevail over inferior values that often have a competitive advantage—'a vertiginous question' (205).  Such questions enabled Greek philosophers to question the values of existing forms of life, and has led to an insistence that the pursuit of the best, as an expression of the human spirit, is in fact the foundation of the material world.  All this has to be criticized by Sociology and replaced with 'the cuisines of persuasion and medicines of habitus' in order to pursue demystification.

Plato had to explain why the best was superior compared to the issue of 'what works', and does this by extending the distinction towards social categories, philosophers on the one hand and workers on the other.  You have to love philosophy before you can grasp what is best philosophically, and mere artisanal technique is insufficient.  Other philosophers wanted to democratize these routes to knowledge, with the 'popular cuisine of rhetoric', or from some unconditional support for the opinions of the masses.  However, these too were led to explain philosophy as an exception, this time as 'the fortune of a birth' [a gift we might say].  This connects philosophy with aristocracy, but it is still only a poor imitation of the divine life—the best is really for gods, and social order can only be seen as a poor imitation of divine order.  This divine order also contained the possibility of redistribution, for Plato [as souls were given different characteristics according to merit before reincarnation, as I recall].  This took a later form as the notion of 'the equality of chances' (206) [a genuinely valuable idea, for Rancière, not to be dismissed 'merely as the "dissimulation" of inequality'].  However, for Plato, there was a more conservative implication in that it would be false nobility that would be degraded next time around, leading to a purification of the elite, not a meritocratic reform of it.  The argument is put forward in the form of 'the childishness of the tale', and this invites a childish or naive reading [belief in the natural order of things, maybe]

[Then a strange interlude about an historical example, poorly referenced in my edition, about artisans hoping to learn from philosophers, not realizing the barriers in their way, but imagining that perseverance will succeed in the end {reads like a kind of Jude the Obscure story}.  By contrast, Comte saw the only route forward for emancipation through social sciences, which required an acceptance of the superiority of social scientific discourse in the first place, and a skepticism about the good sense of artisans.  For Comte, the point was to follow the requirements of science as it dominated politics, not demand some naive political equality.  Apparently, some people also read Descartes in this way, as offering a rational basis for politics.  These ideas have been rejected not only by philosophers, but by 'autodidact shoemakers' (207).  What all these rationalised approaches to politics feature is a notion that there is a separation between those who just want to enjoy appearances, and those who want to analyse competencies and hierarchies].

There are rival principles in the formation of democratic and inclusive political formations.  One offers a demystified world free of superstition, with ranks based on aptitudes and functions.  Even Adam Smith appears to have supported this view, seeing the origin of differences of 'character' in social and educational conditions.  He also criticized government by elites on the grounds that they did not understand even the basic operations of industry.  However, even this fixes a particular place for artisans in work and skill.  'The social' will be based on these functional distinctions, and matters of utility, and the ability to philosophize in leisure will still be reserved for the elite.  Hegel was one of those who criticized this utilitarian modernity in favour of more universal notions than those offered by political economy.

The rival approach focuses on 'the sublimities of aesthetic heaven [rather] than the benefits of labour' (208).  Enjoyment or enthusiasm was to be the basis, and it was available to all.  Kant develops this idea, and argues that even 'the very coherence of the elite's discourse' presupposes 'an aesthetic sensus communis' that will transcend savagery: the identification of the best will establish equality.  This idea immediately confronted the residual understanding that there can only be divine leisure and elite leisure as the leaders of civilization.  The tension between these ideas lead to subsequent 'vertigo', and 'cross - plays' between politics and work, the concrete practices of demystification and the notion of heavenly egalitarianism.  Scientists opted for the former, and see work and productivity as breaking down divisions.  Unfortunately, the proletarians themselves took the latter view and saw 'humanity in heaven of the poets and philosophers' (209), ignoring the claims of those who argued that they would only produce imitation, and recognising in the praise of productivity, condemnation of the idle among them.  [Massive generalization here of course].

The productivists still found it difficult to decide what did involve the pursuit of the best and whether it was compatible with 'brotherly harmonies'.However, productivism dominated, even artists' conceptions of themselves.  Educators believe in providing the minimum of aesthetic education to secure compliance to the state, but enabling the best students to be detached.

The paradoxes affect Marx.  He turns to social practice in criticizing Feuerbach, but that is just as paradoxical.  It's not just that practice opposes theory and speculation: the real problem is practice as opposed to technique, free practice, which actually resembles theory in that 'it neither applies nor verifies' (209) Marx was equivocal about this, using terms such as '"man's own labour"", without specifying what this 'own' meant.  He wants to see that it is not labour itself but the product of labour 'that fulfils reason'(210).  It was material progress, such as in transport, that would produce a genuine universal community, ending the old artificial philosophical notions of social relations and representative politics.

It is mechanization and productive practice that will lead to democracy as an end.  Yet philosophers like Schiller were already referring to the 'barbarism of civilized elites'.  There is also the realization that advances in productive technique would not lead to greater leisure for intellectual work for the working class [apparently noted by Adam Smith again], but would increase the leisure time for the other class.  Marx's vision of communism was forced to shift from inequality of leisure to 'the aesthetic figure of the reintegrated man' (211).

Education is no longer sufficient to get there because it is dominated by productivism, and strengthens the tendency towards homogenized practice and positivism, leaving out the philosophical and political.  What follows is a focus instead on demystification, including the demystification of democracy, a denial of the effectiveness of education to lead to emancipation, and the belief that what will be produced is not hybrids but 'proletarians without qualities'.  The removal of their former qualities still might bring about transformation, Marx thought, with sensibility emerging only after 'social dehumanisation'.  This tension was to be solved by a separation between radical philosophies of freedom, and merely skeptical 'sociologies of dispossession'. Of course in Marx's hands, demystification does argue that social relations underpin current ideas and ideologies [seen as the difference between philosophical onanism and productive sex, 212].  But this seemed unsatisfactory for Marx who wants to preserve another set of values or qualities beyond the social, as in his liking for and advocacy of literary giants and Greek philosophy.  Demystification can lead to defiance, but not itself to the production of culture. 

The critique [has a negative and the positive dimension]—idealist philosophy is reduced to the qualities of social subjects, but there is no way to close the gap between existence and essence [communism].  The more we develop social knowledge, the more we suppress philosophy except through ironic commentary.  It is possible to demystify the demystifiers, including those who thought they would develop a fully adequate social science to guide proletarian politics [including poor old Proudhon again] : Marx wants to rescue the notion of a higher nobility instead.  However, the implications of the social basis of knowledge are powerful enough to suggest that artisans themselves cannot perceive this nobility, although the best ones can pursue demystification as a kind of practical technique.

The needs of 'autodidact shoemakers' are simply sidestepped [maybe ironically, a quotation suggests, 213].  Marx never grasps the potential of 'the thought of democratic strangeness' [hybridity].  Marxism instead supports the figures of the leader and the scientist.  The leader emerges where the social is not strongly developed enough to press towards democracy, requiring an external decision about what is needed and what a proper revolution is.  The scientist attempts to complete Marxism, to ground it in philosophy, to incorporate sociology and economics—but this becomes 'interminable'.  And sociologists develop their own stances— Veblen on the leisure class, Weber on disenchantment and new rational forms of hierarchy.  These become popular and banal, appealing even to the liberal elites, and until industrialization fully developed, they seem to offer a number of pluralist demystifications without reduction to class.  Now, sociology turns on 'one or two simple axioms: the thing cannot be valuable in itself but draws its consistency from social concourses and its worth from social distinctions.  Nothing new can happen that is not obtained through the arrangement of the small number of properties of a determined socius' (214). 'Electoral sociology'epitomises the developments, with technical interpretation bolstered by references to various notions like instinct. 

As a result, the notion of democracy is also simulated.  Genuine democracy is denied in favour of [social reproduction], the ways in which class ethos is united with symbolic discrzmination.  Such reproduction actually is found at its best in areas where equality seems to be claimed—in politics, education, and aesthetics [clearly Bourdieu is the target here specifically].  Faith in and hope for equality is squashed by sociological critique.  Although well motivated, this can never guide the path to democracy, nor is it democratic itself.  Instead, it serves to critique philosophy to suit 'our liberal - corporatist order: the liberal resignation to the game of interests driving the world, and the syndicalist reduction of egalitarian hopes' (214-15).  Sociological demystification suits corporate interests and conformity, the need to manage opinions, survey populations, develop rational pedagogy.  Instead of democracy we get 'sociocracy' (215). [V good. It reminds me of the point that gramscian critique of academic elitism played nicely into the hands of educational managers and rationalisers.  So will philosophical hope though -- the bastards will add piety to their mission statements]

The critical distance of philosophy was aristocratic.  The demand of artisans to enter the aesthetic heaven was obstinate.  However, sociology reduces both by demystifying them and making them equivalent.  Scientific investigation takes all this as a socially necessary development, at the same time as denouncing the [culturally] arbitrary.  The analysis of the school shows this best.  It demystifies elite culture in an attempt to make it closer to popular feeling and normal interaction, but it also says that 'difference is irreducible and the promise of instruction a lie' (215) [this is surely bollox.  Difference is irreducible and instruction a lie all the time the mechanism of social reproduction is not acknowledged.  This may disillusion trainee teachers who are sustained by utopian hope and all that, but dissolution will hit them eventually anyway once they realize that 'making education fun', or whatever, does fuck all].  Demystification is more popular [really?  When did sociology ever become popular?].  However it leads to the figures of the barbarian incapable of understanding on the one hand, and the smart Alec game player on the other.  This is a kind of consolation since it offers 'the lucid knowledge that everyone can discover reasons for the blindness of his or her neighbour'.

Pretensions to science destroy philosophical illusion, including attempts to define the best and the equal, and this operates by rubbing our noses in working class conditions and culture, as 'unavoidable social positivities that heavenly discourse denied', such as 'undershirts sticking to bodies in working class cafes'[a trope in Bourdieu].  Sociology does argue that these divisions are only places in a symbolic field, where beliefs and culture can be exchanged or discarded.  But this is a nihilist option, echoing Marx's view on the bankruptcy of the social in capitalism, and deployed only as 'the form of professorial cunning' to debate with students who deny the social on the one hand, or who see it as 'consistent' or unavoidable on the other.  'This equivalence of dogmatism and skepticism is also the real knowledge of the sociocracy' (216).

Can philosophy find a new place?  We should not develop nostalgia, or criticize simulacra with some notion of Truth—'one cannot do without imitation'. Can imitations be evaluated in some independent sense, not just as symbolic or economic?  Can we restore notions of the best or the equal?  In particular, it might be possible to draw on notions of freedom in the past and see them as imitations of the future, despite paradox.  Even Adorno thought there was some mileage in encouraging the poor to admire 'the ostentatations of luxury' rather than demystifying and rebuking the pretensions of arts and institutions.  The issue is whether institutions images and discourses still imitate democratic hope.  Philosophy can be implicated in these discussions, although it must not give lessons, reawaken its traditional requirements for supremacy and purity, or continue to defend its borders.  These led to the dislike of autodidactic thought and 'bastardy, whose modern name is ideology' (217).  This purity is not threatened by the occasional venture into the 'erotic or mechanical, economic or performatic'.

Overall, what of the artisan as a hybrid?  Is it possible to believe in 'the hierarchy of values and the equality of mixture'?  This has interested philosophers since the Greeks, and is central in Marx.  It is important to develop a philosophy that will pursue this reflection.

[Overall, it seems to me there are a number of important criticisms to raise, to add to the ones I have already made.  The main one so far has been the way in which academic work, even platonic philosophy and especially sociology, has been relentlessly criticised and suspected of ulterior motives and ideological effects.  Sometimes, an ingenious reading is required to make this point—the minor writings of Sartre, or the letters of Marx and Engels.  By contrast, the worker artisans of the 1830s are exonerated and admired, or forgiven at least in their attempts to gain some self respect and some limited reforms in the face of an onslaught by capitalism.  It's easy to see why this might be seen as the reverse of what actually happened.  Marxism for all its flaws had a far greater political impact, for good and ill, than did anarchosyndicalism, unless we invoke the old consolation of the moral victory.

The one sidedness of the critique can be seen especially when applied to Bourdieu.  Of all the dominant academic disciplines that have justified hierarchy as natural, surely it is British empirical psychology that excels here, with its attempt to pin down measure and gradate 'intelligence' using various ethnocentric tests and measures, and having a role in developing a tripartite education system.  Those ideas probably still underpin the massive assessment and testing regime that we have the UK at the moment.  Bourdieu's sociology by comparison is a massively critical resource.  Ranciere wants to dismiss the criticisms made of the arbitrariness of the culture and values system of education as tokenist, or as having the unrealised consequence of solidifying the positivist necessity of social reproduction, and there is something in this criticism in helping to develop a kind of technocratic critical neo-liberal approach.  But at least he makes the criticism, quite unlike functionalist and empiricist social science but simply takes the social system as read as natural or inevitable.  The fixity of Bourdieu's categories and the necessity of social reproduction are clearly historically located in a system that deserves root and branch criticism, whereas the fixity of psychology is categories claims to be based in a scientific understanding of nature itself, even the ways in which brains work.

When it comes to assessing critical potential, we need to look at what readers make of it in any case.  Ranciere says that even bourgeois idealist philosophies can inspire critique when read by the struggling autodidacts and artisans.  Why Bourdieu's sociology, or Sartre's Marxism, cannot be seen as having a potential in this way is completely unclear.  Ranciere wants to argue that there is something universal about idealism, but even positivism has a universal appeal as well—once we know how to demystify, we can go around demystifying whatever it is that meets our eye.

His choice of enlightening bourgeois philosophy is itself mystifying.  He has a lot of time for Kant and his notion of the universal community based on aesthetic sensibility.  Admiring the third critique like this is surely ironic from the man who wants to condemn sociology and Marxism for being inaccessible and requiring experts to decode and apply it.  Kant is unreadable, even for admirers like Scruton.  Even the most patient and persistent autodidact would not go very far with it, certainly not compared with Marx or Bourdieu.  Rancière imagines that the impact of struggling through Kant will be the same for the shoemaker as it is for him, a simple denegation of the role of cultural capital. 

Come to that, Ranciere's own style is admirable but inaccessible, a classic example of the elite writing that Bourdieu condemns, raising questions of the the audience for the work.  We know that Rancière sat alongside the occupiers of the Lip, but Bourdieu was also politically active and wrote in a far more accessible way.  If Rancière is writing to foster modern anarchosyndicalism, he has overdone it to a massive extent with such detailed, obsessively paranoid critique of works that are themselves not easy to access.  The Philosopher and His Poor and Althusser's Lesson both end with a realisation that this is all likely to be seen as scholasticism of little relevance, leaving only a rather pathetic hope that it might have some wider significance should have revolutionary movement ever arise and should they be tempted to turn to Marx or Bourdieu and be misled. It's likely that the real beneficiaries will be academics wanting to dismiss marxism and sociology in their own research programmes  (eg in educational philosophy).

What were left with is an attempt to talk up the potential of one approach, and to ruthlessly strip away the potential of rivals.  His choice of rivals is presumably explicable in terms of the old combats of the 1960s as well as an interest in pursuing a programme of his own as an intellectual.  There are far more worthy targets.]

Afterword to the English language edition (2002).

The book was written in France in 1983, and to the arguments need to be situated.  Proletarian Nights examine the French labour movements and social conflicts against the notions of historical materialism and avant gardism.  It focused on the intellectual revolution in working class thought, but was careful not to overvalue that thought as popular culture.  That thought indicated 'the strong symbolic rupture with a culture of craft or popular sociability —in short, with working class "identity"' (219).  It was not a positive affirmation of working class values, but a challenge to the traditional social division reserving thought to those who had leisure.  Activist French workers were claiming to be fully human speaking beings.  They did not import thought from elsewhere, and nor did they fully affirm their own culture.  Instead it was 'the transgressive will to appropriate…  The language and culture of the other, to act as if intellectual equality were indeed real and effectual'. This involved a critique of Marxist orthodoxy and much social science about the dominated classes and their apparent cultures, and how their identities were emerging through class struggle.  All this work preserved the same division of labour, and the notion that each could only do what was appropriate for their own business.

This book addressed this social division through critiquing its theoretical core.  It became important to do so in the specific period of the 1970s in France, when the socialists came to power, Marxism revived, and the social sciences were seen as providing the basis for the egalitarian social reforms.  Education was central to the notion of the reduction of inequality, but it was important to know what equality was.  The sociology of Bourdieu became an important source of answers for French socialism after 1981, especially Reproduction and Distinction.  These books focused on symbolic violence that kept the dominated classes in their place, showing how the school system itself excluded the dominated through the development of a whole ethos. 

Socialist reformers responded by attempting to reduce the impact of high culture 'by making school more convivial, more adapted to the social abilities of the children of low income classes who were then becoming more and more the children of immigration' (221).  Two versions  of symbolic violence were developing.  One argued that the dominated class were having high cultural forms imposed on them, but the other argued that it was the division between the elect and their role on the one hand, and the dominated and their '"autothchthonous" [native]'culture on the other that was the real symbolic violence [a far more abstract philosophical form].

A new political struggle emerged between this modernist pedagogy supported by sociological analyses, and 'the old republican pedagogy' offering universal education delivered to everyone in the same way.  These two positions opposed each other and alternated.  A conflict of the disciplines also broke out, with the social sciences being opposed to the idea of the concepts of political philosophy especially those relating to the common good and the citizen Republic.

Rancière himself found it hard to take a position.  It was necessary to expose the complicity between sociological demystification of distinction and the old conservatism which saw everyone is having to remain in their place [weak I thought].  But this denunciation also seemed to support the anti socialist liberalism.  The critique of sociology, the reestablishment of political philosophy, and the turn to republican universalism eventually produced 'the great reactive current' that denounced '68 and offered a return to 'proper' democracy with a selection of republican elites.  It was necessary to separate from this dominant trend as well.

What this led to was a broader programme looking at social science and the ideas of a 'poetics of knowledge', as in The Names of History (1994), an examination of literary procedures which produce social knowledge.  Later work also pursued 'linking the modern idea of literature with democracy'.  However, the issue of equality was also important, and it should not be exhausted by the possibilities on offer.  Democracy and egalitarianism could mean something quite different.  This was pursued first through the research on Jacotot: it was not the pedagogy so much as the radical reformulation of egalitarianism that appealed.  Equality can not be posed as a goal to be pursued by pedagogues, but must be seen instead as 'a proposition, an initial axiom' (223).  Such an axiom is also implied in inegalitarianism itself, since giving orders to an inferior must assume that the order is understood, and so the inferior 'must already be the equal of the superior'[only in this very abstract way].

What follows is radical.  Jacotot himself was a pessimist, thinking there would be no political effects, since intellectual emancipation would always be individual.  But this shows the paradoxical nature of equality as something which is an underlying principle of all order and yet which cannot be seen to be functioning in normal social relations.  This makes it unattainable by progressive pedagogues and liberals, and those who saw it as a constitutional matter: it cannot be a part of normal society.  Jacotot argued that 'equality is neither formal nor real', it cannot be found in social routines, but is 'fundamental and absent, current and untimely'.  The only way that proletarians can attain inequality is through 'the transgressive appropriation of an intellectual equality whose privilege others had reserved for themselves'.  These notions are outside the conventional debates, whether they take the form of universal law, or campaigns for equal rights for different communities.

The end of the Cold War also prompted this sort of reexamination.  It made French revolutionary thoughts look like 'a great funeral of two centuries of egalitarian utopias' (224).  There was an intellectual reaction against socialist illusions, and a new social realism on behalf of socialist politicians.  The reaction reduced Marxism to the worst kind of determinism.  It also identified governments firmly with international business.  The denouncing of class as archaic failed to stop even more archaic conflicts emerging with racism and xenophobia: there was no end of ideology, no simple turn to the functional administration of society.

In these circumstances, another idea in this book seemed pertinent—'the link between the power of equality and that of appearance'.  Democracy is not just limited to the legal forms of the state and the way interests are represented.  Nor is it a matter of consultation and management of different interests under universal law.  Demos is not a notion of an ideal people nor the sum of the parties, nor even a particular sector, but something which acts as 'a supplement'[something like an assumed idea always in excess of actual politics].  This led to a subsequent notion of politics that is more than just power and how it is legitimated: 'the forms of the political were in the first place those of a certain division of the sensible', the way in which the perceptual world is divided into 'shares and social parties'(225).  The 'sensible evidence' that is produced defines a notion of proper roles and relations, the relations between individuals and groups.  In turn this affects what may be seen or heard, what is legitimate speech and what is mere noise.

It is this dividing line that is the real theme or of all the efforts, including Proletarian Nights, which can be seen as describing a disruption of this division, between working days and resting nights.  The theme appears in this book [P&P]  in the idea that the absence of time for thought is a classic 'symbolic division of times and spaces' (226): spaces and times outside platonic formal divisions were ignored, but were crucial to the notion of the demos.  This is a democratic activity that underpins social parties and organizations.

The current work divides the political into 'police and politics', depending on whether the official divisions of the sensible are upheld or challenged, or whether empty hybrid spaces and supplements are recognized or not, dramatized and activated.  Politics must therefore mean dissensus but not just the conventional opposition of interests, rather the production of a heterogeneous sensible world.  This can be seen as the aesthetics of politics, since it is activity that makes visible what had been earlier 'excluded from a perceptual field'.  As an example, proletarians and women might be separated by official roles, but can participate in some other kind of community, speaking beyond their allocated scripts.  'Politics is completely an affair of the antagonistic subjectivation of the division of the sensible'.

This subjectivation takes individual and collective forms, and they are represented in different kinds of learned discourse.  This 'is the vital thread tying together all of my research' (227).  There is not been a form or plan, but a series of 'discovered necessities and encountered contingencies'.  It is not a partisan speaking on behalf of those below, but rather 'reflecting on the relation of division of discourses', their borders and interplay, and how the effects of speech can be detected.  It is not just a matter of moving from politics to literature and aesthetics: 'the object itself of my research demanded the line moved incessantly across the borders'[classic bad faith, acknowledged to be opportunism in the interview] which constitute normal scholarly disciplines.

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