Thursday, October 11, 2012

Aesthetics of Politics

Jacques Rancière’s concept of “the distribution of the sensible” is referenced by Lauren Berlant in the introduction to Cruel Optimism as a means of organizing where and when the impassivity of cruel optimism occurs.  However, this fairly specific reference to Rancière’s thesis about sense perception from The Aesthetics of Politics seems to set up the conditions from which Berlant can borrow from Rancière’s ideas of structural reorganization and dehierarchization as she similarly restructures modes of understanding spatiotemporal structures of desires.  In particular, Rancière’s theses seemed to be in line with Berlant’s argument in Chapter 2, regarding “intuition,” as I understood Berlant’s interest in linking the historical to the ahistorical, the specific to the general, and the discontinuous to the continuous as part of a larger effort to rearrange the perceived hierarchies in all the referenced domains.  Throughout the chapter Berlant seems to be focused on emphasizing the continuity with which she seems primarily interested—specifically, as the trauma that does not create a break, but a need to continue on habitually; but also more generally, as the present that is singular, but also always already manifest infinitely in time.  It is this focus on manifest continuity that apparently facilitates Berlant’s graceful transitions, between the specific and the general, the proprietary experience and the political experience, and thus departs from the past readings for this class, which seemed to struggle more in making that leap.  In this way, the reorganization of time and space into a planar system (much like that designed by Rancière), such that the fluctuation between these sometimes vastly different functions can be understood as similar, if not inherently equal, is not only important to the overall argument about the function of (cruel) optimism in contemporary culture, but actually predicates the basis of the argument itself, as it creates the structure in which the present can exist in a dialectical with both (or either) the historic or the ahistoric.    

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