Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy

Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy

Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy

Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy


Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy introduces the political and educational ideas of Jacques Rancière, a leading philosopher increasingly important in educational theory. In light of his ideas, the volume explores the current concern for democracy and equality in relation to education.
  • The book introduces and discusses the works of Jacques Rancière, a leading philosopher increasingly important in the field of educational theory and philosophy
  • The volume will have a broad appeal to those in the field of education theory and philosophy, and those concerned with democracy, equal opportunities and pedagogy
  • Balanced in its introduction of the political and educational ideas of this author and in its exploration in line with his work of some important issues in education and policy today
  • Contributors from diverse countries and intellectual and cultural backgrounds, including the UK, US, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, France, Canada


As Maarten Simons and Jan Masschelein, the editors of this monograph, explain Jacques Rancière from the very beginning of his career has pursued the philosophy of democracy and its relations and implications for equality and education in novel ways that began by splitting with Louis Althusser over the significance of the events of 1968. As his biography at the European Graduate School puts it: ‘He first came to prominence under the tutelage of Louis Althusser when he co-authored with his mentor Reading Capital (1968). After the calamitous events of May 1968 however, he broke with Althusser over his teacher’s reluctance to allow for spontaneous resistance within the revolution.’

Jacques Rancière was born in Algiers in 1940 and he grew up with the Algerian War. He is Professor Emeritus at the Université de Paris (St. Denis) and currently Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School where he conducts an Intensive Summer Seminar. One of the attractions of his work for educational philosophers is that it has been explicitly pedagogical even though his oeuvre is difficult to place. As Kristin Ross makes clear:

Ranciere’s books have eluded classification. His treatise on history, The Names
of History: On the Poetics of Knowledge
(Les Mots de I’histoire: Essai de poet
ique du savoir, 1992), angered or bewildered historians but was embraced by
literary critics. The volume by Ranciere most read by artists, it seems, is not
his recent work on aesthetics–The Politics of Aesthetics (La Partage du sensible:
Esthetique et politique, 2000)–but a little book I translated sixteen years ago
called The Ignorant Schoolmaster (Le Maitre ignorant, 1987). An extraordinary
fable of emancipation and equality, it tells the story of a schoolteacher who
developed a method for showing illiterate parents how they themselves could
teach their children to read. Set in the post-Revolutionary period, it was
written at the height of the hypocrisies and misdeeds of Reagan, Thatcher,
and Mitterand–the moment when consensus first comes to be taken for
granted as the optimum political gesture or goal, and disagreement or con
tradiction vaguely, if not explicitly, criminalized.

In an interview for Radical Philosophy in 1997 Ranciere explained the starting point for his trajectory:

Given the historical and political conjuncture of the 1970s, which I certainly
did not foresee, I wanted to look again at certain of the concepts and concep
tual logics that Marxism used to describe the functions of the social and the
political. For me, that wish took the form of a decision, which might be

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