Ranciere 2 – Preface to the new Hindi translation of ‘Nights of Labour’

April 13, 2009

from hydrarchy.blogspot.com


‘Then I read documents in which this same worker described an entire vision of life, an unusual counter-economy which sought ways to reduce the worker’s consumption of everyday goods so that he would be more independent of the market economy, and better able to fight against it. Through these texts, and many others, I realised that workers had never needed others to explain the secrets of domination to them, and that the problem they faced was having to submit themselves, intellectually and materially, to the forms by which it inscribed itself on their bodies, and imposed upon them gestures, modes of perception, attitudes and language. “Be realistic: demand the impossible!” the protesters cried in 1968. But for these workers in 1830, it was not about demanding the impossible but making it happen themselves: of appropriating the time they did not have, either by spying opportunities in the working day or by giving up their own night of rest to discuss or to write, to compose verses or to work out philosophies These hard-won bonuses of time and liberty were not marginal phenomena, they were not diversions from the building of the worker movement and its great ideals. They were a revolution, discreet but radical nonetheless, and they made those other things possible…..’

‘This is also why I am not afraid that this book will suffer too much from distances of time, place and language. For it does not simply tell the story of the working class of a far-off time and place. It tells a form of experience which is not so far away from our own. Contemporary forms of capitalism, the explosion of the labour market,the new precariousness of labour and the destruction of systems of social solidarity, all create forms of life and experiences of work that are possibly closer to those of these artisans than to the universe of hi-tech workers and the global bourgeoisie given over to the frenetic consumption described by so many contemporary sociologists and philosophers. In our world, just as in theirs, the
challenge is to obstruct and subvert the order of time imposed by a system of domination. To oppose the government of capitalist and state elites and their experts with an intelligence that comes from everyone and anyone…’