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Rethinking critical theory between Rancière and the Frankfurt School

Seymour, Kate (2019) Rethinking critical theory between Rancière and the Frankfurt School. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis argues that Rancière’s conception of ‘aesthetic emancipation’ is a productive and neglected way of thinking about three political practices: a politics of memory, struggles for recognition and emancipatory education. I argue it can offer either a supplement or an alternative to recent Frankfurt School theorisations of these practices, particularly in relation to struggles concerned broadly with decolonisation. Specifically, in the first chapter, I argue that deliberative theorists miss an important form of political discourse, namely the speech of what Rancière calls the ‘part without a part.’ I examine the implications of this omission for a politics of memory and suggest that drawing attention to these marginalised, disruptive acts can have implications both for witnessing and taking up aesthetic acts of politics in the present. In the second chapter, I argue that Rancière’s concept of disagreement allows us to theorise struggles for ‘recognition’ in a way which avoids the problematic reconciliatory tendencies which haunt the work of Axel Honneth. However, in order to capture the struggle of an indigenous ‘politics of refusal,’ I argue against the claim that political subjects act in the ‘name of anyone’. In the third chapter, I give a partial defence of Rancière’s critique of stultification in relation to emancipatory educational practices and, by developing a more nuanced account of explanation, show how certain explanations might inhibit the will of political actors to act upon their equality. In all three cases, then, I suggest Rancière could add to our understanding of these practices but only by making modifications to his account, specifically to the concepts of dis-identification and explanation. Ultimately, by thinking between Rancière and the Frankfurt School, I argue we can think both affirmative, disruptive critical theory as well as a modest ‘negative’ critical theory of unequal social structures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Kate Seymour
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 08:39
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2021 12:57

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