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September 28, 2010

To avoid giving Ranciere the reception they gave Lacan…

They — the "big Other" — were not receptive to Lacanian psychoanalysis for decades. His reputation grew and his notoriety grew with it. In 2007, I decided to give Lacan a chance — a real chance; in other words, I was ready to make the effort needed to grasp some of the most important insights offered by Lacanianism. 

At first the silly puns and difficult prose were off-putting. I had grown up in a different intellectual world. I valued precision, conciseness. But over the last three years, my attitude to Lacan has grown much warmer than I'd anticipated. I find his teachings to be of genuine use. Difficult prose masking important concepts, everywhere applicable: a system to learn, a plugin for the thinking machine.

I have become sensitive to the issue of reception. Every time I open a book and think the author is a charlatan, I have to pause and remember that Lacan himself is, even now, seen as a charlatan by certain intellectual failures.

Take the example of Jacque Ranciere. He's everywhere right now. Along with Slavoj Zizek, Ranciere is one of the world's most oft-cited (and apparently most misunderstood) philosophers. I want to give him a chance — sadly, I can't get into his work. I once made the exact accusation against Ranciere that 'They' made against Lacan: that he was prone to verbiage because he had little of substance to say. But this cannot be true. Ranciere is taken seriouslyby too many intelligent people for me to dismiss him outright. Again, I have to be wary of not doing to Ranciere what 'They' did to Lacan: that is to say, I don't want simply to misunderstand him. So I've been reading several books, articles and interviews, in the hope of "getting it". Maybe I need a good glossary of terms. Maybe I need to try and apply his insights to my own activities.

You have to be careful not to reject someone's life-work as nonsense just because it's difficult. The difficulty, itself, ought even to be part of the fun.

I look forward to "discovering" the Ranciere I have hitherto failed to see.

Jacques Ranciere


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