The Philosopher and His Poor

The Philosopher and His Poor

Jacques Rancière, Andrew Parker

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0822332744

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


What has philosophy to do with the poor? If, as has often been supposed, the poor have no time for philosophy, then why have philosophers always made time for them? Why is the history of philosophy—from Plato to Karl Marx to Jean-Paul Sartre to Pierre Bourdieu—the history of so many figures of the poor: plebes, men of iron, the demos, artisans, common people, proletarians, the masses? Why have philosophers made the shoemaker, in particular, a remarkably ubiquitous presence in this history? Does philosophy itself depend on this thinking about the poor? If so, can it ever refrain from thinking for them?

Jacques Rancière’s The Philosopher and His Poor meditates on these questions in close readings of major texts of Western thought in which the poor have played a leading role—sometimes as the objects of philosophical analysis, sometimes as illustrations of philosophical argument. Published in France in 1983 and made available here for the first time in English, this consummate study assesses the consequences for Marx, Sartre, and Bourdieu of Plato’s admonition that workers should do “nothing else” than their own work. It offers innovative readings of these thinkers’ struggles to elaborate a philosophy of the poor. Presenting a left critique of Bourdieu, the terms of which are largely unknown to an English-language readership, The Philosopher and His Poor remains remarkably timely twenty years after its initial publication.

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limit-point of this demystification is the passage taken from the preparatory notes to Flaubert's !'Education sentimentale and an­ notated with the revengeful graffiti "before euphemization," which lets us see that the long narrative of the onanistic state of the souls of the two heroes could be reduced, after all, to quick answers to two questions. Do they make love or not? Does it work out or not?43 The expulsion of art is then the particular case of a general mechanism for the production of a

strange reading, yet another fictive commentary on an unknown Critique ofJudgment: "What is more trivial than wealth as seen by poverty? But here, the feeling is complicated by poetic pride, by partly glimpsed plea­ sures of which one feels oneself worthy. . . . We too, we under­ stand the beauty of palaces and parks. We too, we know the art of happiness. " 6 5 But this is where the strangeness of Baudelaire' s reading re­ sides, for these palaces, present in Kant, do not appear in the Chant des

relation between the personal [du propre] and the common, the private and the public, in which these are inscribed. And this redistribution itselfpresup­ poses a cutting up of what is visible and what is not, of what can be heard and what cannot, ofwhat is noise and what is speech. This dividing line has been the object of my constant study. It was at the heart of The Nights of Labor, where the assertion of worker emancipation was first of all the upheaval of this division of temporalities that

all. " The Interpretation of 39 Ibid., 191. Dreams, in the Standard Edition ofthe Complete Psychological Works ofSigmund Freud, 40 Sartre, "The Prisoner ofVenice, " 46. ed. and trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1953), 4:n9-20. See also 41 Sartre, "Saint Marc et son double," 196. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, SE 13:62 and 206.-Trans.] 42 "Reading the old [Good Soldier] Schweik on the train, I am again overwhelmed 9 by ( Jaroslav Hasek's] grand panorama and by the

thrashed by pimps in a Manchester brothel; or Marx's friend Engels, who chases after grisettes in Paris and hunts the fox in Manchester, dishes out blows with his umbrella to a drinking buddy, and never manages in Manchester to hand out more than two membership cards in the International. And what, in the midst of this universe, is one to think of the position of the philosopher-king of bohemia, Karl Marx? He divides his days between writing articles on the Turkish question for American readers

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