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Democratically Aestheticized Politics

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Abstract:

Political theory has had a long and fruitful engagement with philosophical aesthetics ever since the latter was established as a distinct discourse in Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Aesthetic models of social and political arrangements have been advocated and critiqued in recent books such as Joseph Chytry, The Aesthetic State: A Quest in Modern German Thought (1989), Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), and F. R. Ankersmit, Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value (1996). However, critical political theory has generally been antipathetic to the aestheticization of politics, as in famous Benjamin’s ‘sound bite’ about fascism, while some roots of that antipathy can be traced back to Plato.

In contrast, a volume edited by John Corner and Dick Pels, Media and the Re-Styling of Politics (2003) tentatively makes a case for “an ‘enabling” or optimistic perspective on the aestheticisation and ‘popularisation’ of politics”. Their claim is that aesthetic stylization of politics can generate democratic effects by drawing on forms of appeal and engagement rooted in popular culture. This paper broadly supports that claim but argues that (a) stylization is a restrictive way of conceiving the somewhat amorphous term “aesthetics”, one that is less helpful for democratic aestheticization of politics than its “poietic” meaning. This aspect of the argument draws on the field of philosophical aesthetics, in particular Wolfgang Welsch’s Undoing Aesthetics (1997). The paper also argues (b) that the association of democratic aestheticization with popular culture cannot be sustained unless the notion of “performative judgment” proposed in the book to distinguish between good and bad political and cultural performances is elaborated further. This aspect of the argument is pursued in relation to two fields (i) the debate between cultural populists and pessimists in cultural studies (e.g. John Fiske, Jim McGuigan, Stuart Hall); and (ii) discussions of populism in political theory, in particular Ernesto Laclau’s On Populist Reason (2005). The paper’s hypothesis is that judgments about whether different instances of aestheticized politics are democratic or not can be made only as hybrid aesthetic-political judgments, from the perspective of the “popular democratic”, according to criteria that emerge from democratic debates and struggles.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

cultur (255), polit (255), popular (176), p (116), style (106), democrat (98), aesthet (86), peopl (62), class (56), popul (53), laclau (50), populist (44), radic (39), also (39), pel (38), mean (34), logic (34), democraci (34), aestheticis (33), judgement (33), form (32),

Author's Keywords:

aesthetics, democracy, politics, popular culture, Laclau
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Name: American Political Science Association
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MLA Citation:

Simons, Jon. "Democratically Aestheticized Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, Chicago, IL, Aug 30, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p212015_index.html>

APA Citation:

Simons, J. , 2007-08-30 "Democratically Aestheticized Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, Chicago, IL Online <PDF>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p212015_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Political theory has had a long and fruitful engagement with philosophical aesthetics ever since the latter was established as a distinct discourse in Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Aesthetic models of social and political arrangements have been advocated and critiqued in recent books such as Joseph Chytry, The Aesthetic State: A Quest in Modern German Thought (1989), Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), and F. R. Ankersmit, Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value (1996). However, critical political theory has generally been antipathetic to the aestheticization of politics, as in famous Benjamin’s ‘sound bite’ about fascism, while some roots of that antipathy can be traced back to Plato.

In contrast, a volume edited by John Corner and Dick Pels, Media and the Re-Styling of Politics (2003) tentatively makes a case for “an ‘enabling” or optimistic perspective on the aestheticisation and ‘popularisation’ of politics”. Their claim is that aesthetic stylization of politics can generate democratic effects by drawing on forms of appeal and engagement rooted in popular culture. This paper broadly supports that claim but argues that (a) stylization is a restrictive way of conceiving the somewhat amorphous term “aesthetics”, one that is less helpful for democratic aestheticization of politics than its “poietic” meaning. This aspect of the argument draws on the field of philosophical aesthetics, in particular Wolfgang Welsch’s Undoing Aesthetics (1997). The paper also argues (b) that the association of democratic aestheticization with popular culture cannot be sustained unless the notion of “performative judgment” proposed in the book to distinguish between good and bad political and cultural performances is elaborated further. This aspect of the argument is pursued in relation to two fields (i) the debate between cultural populists and pessimists in cultural studies (e.g. John Fiske, Jim McGuigan, Stuart Hall); and (ii) discussions of populism in political theory, in particular Ernesto Laclau’s On Populist Reason (2005). The paper’s hypothesis is that judgments about whether different instances of aestheticized politics are democratic or not can be made only as hybrid aesthetic-political judgments, from the perspective of the “popular democratic”, according to criteria that emerge from democratic debates and struggles.

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Document Type: PDF
Page count: 51
Word count: 13759
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DEMOCRATICALLY AESTHETICISED POLITICS: STYLE AND POEISIS Jon Simons Department of Communication and Culture Indiana University Bloomington Prepared for delivery at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association August 30th- September 2nd 2007. Copyright by the American Political Science Association DEMOCRATICALLY AESTHETICISED POLITICS: STYLE AND POEISIS Introduction The term ‘aestheticisation of politics’ is best known from a much-quoted essay by Walter Benjamin. At the end of this essay Benjamin draws a definitive connection between the aestheticisation of
70. 106 . Wolfgang Welsch Undoing Aesthetics (London: Sage 1997) p. 8 p. 16. 107 . Welsch Undoing Aesthetics p. 10 p. 12. 108 . Michel Foucault ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’ in P. Rabinow (ed.) The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon 1984) p. 351. 109 . Michel Foucault ‘Subject and Power’. Afterword in Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (eds) Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (Brighton: Harvester 1982) p. 208 110 . Foucault ‘Subject and Power’ p. 212.


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