ANGLOPHONE READERS now have a chance to see what all the fuss is about: in June, Verso published its translation of Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art, Jacques Rancière’s most important treatment of art and aesthetics to date. It’s a magisterial book of great scope and ambition that has the capacity to alter how we understand the artistic culture of the past 200 years.
In the 1960s, Rancière was a student of the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. He broke with his mentor over the worker and student protests of May 1968. Responding to what he judged to be the elitist underpinnings of his teacher’s positions, Rancière subsequently worked to elaborate new forms of political analysis, and even of philosophy itself. In recent years, he has attracted a substantial following in philosophy, literature departments, activist political circles, and the art world. Well known for his penetrating analyses of art and literature, what distinguishes Rancière is his ability to draw unprecedented connections between ideas and practices customarily separated — a skill put to dramatic use in Aisthesis.