This is the first English translation of Jacques Ranciere's first book, in which he explores and begins to move beyond the thought of his mentor, Louis Althusser. "Althusser's Lesson" represents the foundations of Jacques Ranciere's theoretical project. It marks the moment at which he emerges from the tutelage of his mentor, Louis Althusser, and begins to outline the themes he will go on to develop in his later writings. Here Ranciere is already working out a non-economic and non-Marxist understanding of politics. The events of May 1968 confronted Althusser's version of a Marxism of order with one of subversion that in one fell swoop rendered Althusser's thought outdated. Yet, when Althusser finally broke his silence on this issue, with the publication in 1973 of "A Response to John Lewis", he appeared simply to return to the ideas he had espoused and defended before 1968. "Althusser's Lesson" is, in Ranciere's own words, 'intended to be a commentary on a lesson: the lesson in Marxism that Louis Althusser gave John Lewis.
It is intended as a reflection on what this lesson wants to teach us and what it in fact teaches us, not about Marxist theory itself, but about the present reality of Marxism'.
Emiliano Battista is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He is the translator of Jacques Ranciere's Film Fables (Berg, 2006). Jacques Ranciere taught at the University of Paris VIII, France, from 1969 to 2000, occupying the Chair of Aesthetics and Politics from 1990 until his retirement.
Translator's Preface; 1. A lesson in orthodoxy: M.L. teaches John Lewis that the masses make history; 2. A lesson in politics: philosophers do not become kings; 3. A lesson in self-criticism: class struggle rages in theory; 4. A lesson in history: the damages of humanism; 5. A discourse in its place; 6. For the record: on the theory of ideology (1969); Index.
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