The Aesthetic Fable: Cinema in Jacques Rancière’s “Aesthetic Politics”


The connection between Jacques Rancière’s political theory and his writing on art pivots on a conception of the contingency of patterns of social meaning and order. In his major work on politics, Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy, Rancière holds that events able to disturb a prevailing distribution of order may be understood as instituting new conventions of meaning, and thus must have first negotiated and altered a sensory field in which they did not previously exist. Altering prevailing patterns of meaning is possible, he argues, because such patterns have “no basis other than the sheer contingency of any social order” (25); nonetheless these patterns have force and significance because they exist at the level of the partitioning of a field of sensory perception. He explains these ideas by means of a reference to theatre:

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