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By Thomas Paine

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Gramsci 1996: 325) The emphasis placed on the recognition that all men participate in the elaboration of thought and social life through their linguistic competence and social interactions cannot fail to evoke the self-teaching students and proletarian workers that occupy the centre stage of The Nights of Labour and The Ignorant Schoolmaster. By his recognition that the proletariat is a full cultural and epistemic actor, one can say that Gramsci had already presented the Philosopher with his Poor.

However, the part he played in the process was not the one typically defined by the Old Testament of pedagogical theory, which Jacotot and Rancière simply refer to as “the Old Master” (or rather, in the French original, as “the Old Lady”: la Vieille). In Jacotot’s practice, the teacher’s role was limited to influencing the will, and did not include any actual transfer of knowledge. His pedagogical act was not an explication (of the rules of French grammar), but a series of commands: “Read this book!

I hear people say that Rancière is not an easy philosopher to understand, and that his theory of emancipation is not an easy argument to grasp; therefore I am about to explain the main notions, assumptions and consequences of this book, as well as its charms and its stakes. But since the main lesson of the book is that explanation runs contrary to emancipation, I – along with my fellow contributors to a volume dedicated to “explaining” Rancière’s key concepts – seem bound to betray the author and his ideas by the very nature of our explanatory gesture.

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Age Of Reason by Thomas Paine


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