Editor’s Preface
The English translation of Jacques Rancière’s Le Phi-
losophe et ses pauvres has had, already, a curious history. In the
mid-1990s Books in Print announced that it was available from
Temple University Press in a translation by John Drury, who earlier
had translated Rancière’s first book for that press, The Nights of
Labor. When, after making repeated inquiries, I found it impos-
sible to obtain the new book, Temple admitted that it had never
gone into production and subsequently voided the contract—
though as of today it retains a Temple isbn and is listed as avail-
able for purchase on Amazon.com. (A strange way for a book to
be ahead of its time.) No one seemed to know, moreover, whether
a copy of Drury’s manuscript existed and, if so, where it could be
located. At Rancière’s suggestion I contacted Donald Reid, the
University of North Carolina historian who had written the intro-
duction to The Nights of Labor; he discovered in his files what was,
perhaps, the only extant copy of Drury’s work—an initial draft,
with some of Rancière’s emendations, of the first two-thirds of
the book. That early partial version was then corrected by Corinne
Oster, a graduate student in comparative literature at the Univer-
sity of Massachusetts at Amherst, who also drafted the book’s
remaining chapters. Encouraged that the manuscript finally was
nearing completion, I revised it in its entirety with the goal
of making Rancière’s highly allusive prose sound as English as
Though perhaps not too English. If, as Jonathan Rée has sug-
gested, ‘‘thinking only becomes philosophical when familiar
words grow strange,’’ then ‘‘serious philosophical writing’’ can be
recognized by its propensity to read ‘‘like a translation already.’’∞
One mark of this seriousness may be the ways such writing ex-
ploits as a resource its non-self-identity, a possibility embraced
by Le Philosophe et ses pauvres in the scrupulousness with which
it measures not only the distance between its own French and
Plato’s Greek or Marx’s German, but also that between ‘‘its own
French’’ and itself. Rancière often presses hard on a number of
terms whose polyvalency will be lost or neutralized by any single
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