The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought
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The growing exploration of political life from an aesthetic perspective has become so prominent that we must now speak of an "aesthetic turn ? in political thought. But what does it mean and what makes it an aesthetic turn? Why now? This diverse and path-breaking collection of essays answers these questions, provoking new ways to think about the possibilities and debilities of democratic politics.
Beginning from the premise that politics is already "aesthetic in principle, ? the contributions to The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought from some of the world's leading political theorists and philosophers, disclose a distinct set of political problems: the aesthetic problems of modern politics. The aesthetic turn in political thought not only recognizes that these problems are different in kind from the standard problems of politics, it also recognizes that they call for a different kind of theorizing – a theorizing that is itself aesthetic.
A major contribution to contemporary theoretical debates, The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought will be essential reading to anyone interested in the interdisciplinary crossroads of aesthetic and politics.
which exceeds speech, insofar as it involves an emphasis on seeing and staging.” Whereas Rancière is inclined to focus on the rupture and interruptions to normal politics—the “police order”—Cavell “focuses overtly on questions of responsiveness,” through which focus it is possible to make better sense of the tension between founding moments and processes of institutionalization, between extraordinary politics and quotidian politics. Ibid., p. 243. For commentary on these passages from Emerson
Variations on a Universal Theme. Berkeley: University of California Press, 176. See also Jay, M. (Spring 1992), “‘The Aesthetic Ideology’ as Ideology; or, What Does It Mean to Aestheticize Politics,” Cultural Critique 21, pp. 41–61. 3 On Arendt’s subordination of morality to aesthetics see Kateb, G. (1983), Hannah Arendt: Politics, Conscience, Evil. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, and (2006), Patriotism and Other Mistakes. New Haven: Yale University Press, chs. 6–7. 1 62 THE AESTHETIC TURN
violence for the world that feared black equality, just as “Say it loud: ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud!’” meant for some, “I’m Black and I am Dangerous,” the bloated and disfigured face of which Fanon wrote found itself needing to look inward, not for the sake of escape, but for the reclamation of agency through which to construct different epistemic and aesthetic conditions for that much-needed new humanity. The problem, however, is that this move manifested itself politically—that is,
reproduced by permission from Critical Inquiry 36, Autumn 2009 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009). 0093-1896/09/36010006 © 2009 by the University of Chicago. “Recognition and receptivity: Forms of normative response in the lives of the animals we are” by Nikolas Kompridis is reproduced by permission from New Literary History, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2013), 44: 1–24. “We feel our freedom: Imagination and judgment in the thought of Hannah Arendt” by Linda M. G. Zerilli is
textures of the exercise, what Rich called the “great muscle of metaphor” in response to emerging and context-based challenges. The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai provides two clear illustrations of what such poetic attitude and moment can look like (and already does look like) in politics and how metaphoric resources can be wielded powerfully by those who would otherwise have few resources to mobilize. In his essays “Deep Democracy” and “The Capacity to Aspire,” Appadurai discusses the urban