The Politics of Aesthetics and the Hatred of Democracy according to Jacques Rancière

Pedro Hussak van Velthen Ramos


Among readers of Jacques Rancière there is a discussion about the possibility of aesthetics substituting for real political action. This is because while the French author elaborates on the conception of the emancipated spectator, he states that the political task of art cannot be the removal of the spectator from her “passive” condition into the dimension of political action, but only the suspension of the relationship between “active” and “passive”. However, in Aisthesis, published in 2011, Rancière warns the reader that it is not a case of abandoning the aesthetic utopia, even if any teleological view is withdrawn. In this article, I intend to discuss these paradoxes by confronting the considerations of Le Spectateur émancipé and La Haine de la démocratie, trying to show that if politics itself presupposes action, the politics of aesthetics must be understood as a non-identification process that takes subjects out of the places that were “addressed” to them beforehand. In La Haine de la démocratie one of the symptoms of the crisis of representative democracy is presented by the fact that it produces oligarchies and, on the other hand, new social dynamics appear as the conquest of a new citizenship that confronts these political oligarchies. Noting that demonstrations today, whether in Turkey, Spain, or New York, are similar to artistic happenings, Rancière can say that where there is aesthetics there is democracy. Understanding this last statement is the aim of the present article.


Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics, Contemporary French Philosophy

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