It’s an excerpt from Ranciere’s book on Mallarme. I know nothing about Mallarme so I can’t comment on that, but there’s other bits I like.

“A century, as a measure of time, is no more real than a horizon line. It is an idea”. (249.)

R declares “Nothing to do with art for art’s sake, any more than sinking in some night of language. But an aesthetic, in the sense not of a “theory of art” but of an idea of the configuration of the perceptible (sensible) which establishes a community.” (248.)

For those who hold that “the bonds of a new community must be forged (…) laws defining the relations of individuals to individuals and constitutions governing the interaction of representative institutions will never suffice.” I take this point to be like that in the Carroll dialog Colin and I discussed and in the piece on consensus, about a practice which is not reducible or adequately representable in rules or procedures.

Ranciere continues, saying that “the representative regime” and “the reign of gold (…) had come together to form a regime (…) destructive of all communal bonds.”

“The idea of community is the idea of a bond. In the Latin of Romantic philology, the word for bond was religio. In order to complete the revolution, the community needs a new religion. At the dawn of the century, Hegel, Holderlin, and Schelling had sketched an idea for one. This was to have been the “first systematic program of German idealism”: to create for the people, on the basis of the new philosophy, which internalized and radicalized the political revolution, a new religion and mythology. The idea was abandoned in embryo, but in the rigors of speculative philosophy it was never forgotten. And Feuerbach, before Marx, deduced its consequences: it would be necessary to transcend the fraud of speculation and complete the task of founding a new religion of humanity, a religion that would restore to the bread and wine of everyday existence the human powers alienated in the form of divine existence.” (249.)

Against this, or at least against a certain Saint-Simonian (and really, Marxist) version of this, “everything that is summed up in the word proletarian (…) makes a mockery of any ritual consecration of labor.” (253.)

Ranciere argues that we should “relate Mallarme’s “limited action” to the Marxist idea that conditions must be ripe before a revolution can occur.” (254.) This same term, translated differently as “restricted action” or “restrained action” appears in different works of the Malgre Tout collective and, I believe, in Badiou’s work on occasion. I’m not at all clear on what it means.

“In order to complete the revolution, the community needs a new religion. At the dawn of the century, Hegel, Holderlin, and Schelling had sketched an idea for one.” (249.) An idea for one what? A community? A religion? A century? (“A century, as a measure of time, is no more real than a horizon line. It is an idea”. [249.]) All three? Or perhaps a distribution of the sensible (something “which establishes a community” [248] and therefore a bond, since “[t]he idea of a community is the idea of a bond” [249]) which is or runs through all three?

*

The excerpt is p248-255 in _Literary Debate: Texts and Contexts_ ed Denis Hollier and Jeffrey Mehlman, pub The New Press 1999, New York. The excerpt’s translated by Arthur Goldhammer and is pages 53-67 from Ranciere’s 1996 book _Mallarme: la politique de la sirene_ (Paris: Hatchette, 1996)

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