The Art of Freedom

On the Dialectics of Democratic Existence
Polity (Verlag)
  • erschienen am 24. Juni 2016
  • |
  • 320 Seiten
E-Book | ePUB mit Adobe DRM | Systemvoraussetzungen
978-0-7456-9492-4 (ISBN)
The concept of democratic freedom refers to more than the kind of freedom embodied by political institutions and procedures. Democratic freedom can only be properly understood if it is grasped as the expression of a culture of freedom that encompasses an entire form of life. Juliane Rebentisch's systematic and historical approach demonstrates that we can learn a great deal about the democratic culture of freedom from its philosophical critics.
From Plato to Carl Schmitt, the critique of democratic culture has always been articulated as a critique of its ãaestheticization". Rebentisch defends various phenomena of aestheticization D from the irony typical of democratic citizens to the theatricality of the political D as constitutive elements of democratic culture and the notion of freedom at the heart of its ethical and political self-conception.
This work will be of particular interest to students of Political Theory, Philosophy and Aesthetics.
1. Auflage
  • Englisch
  • Oxford
  • |
  • Großbritannien
John Wiley & Sons
  • 0,40 MB
978-0-7456-9492-4 (9780745694924)
0745694926 (0745694926)
weitere Ausgaben werden ermittelt
Juliane Rebentisch is Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at Offenbach University of Art and Design
Introduction: Aestheticization D An Apologia
Part I: An Antique Diagnosis of a Crisis
1. The Provocative Beauty of Democracy: Plato
I. Freedom and Indeterminacy
2. The Slavery of the Tyrant
3. The Unstable Democrat
4. Clear-sighted, Processual and Totalized Weakness of Will
5. Weakness of Will or the Freedom from Oneself
6. The Unfree Opportunist
7. Many Jobs and Much Trespassing
8. The Occurrence of an Inner Nature or the Freedom Toward Self
9. Democrats and Theatre Types
10. Theatrocracy: The Fearlessly Judging Multitude
11. Masses and Mimesis
12. Self-Difference and Perfection
Part II: The Ethical-Political Right of Irony
2. The Morality of Irony: Hegel
1. The Beginning of Morality in Socratic Irony
2. Socrates' Divisive Work
3. Irony and the Practice of Truth
4. Hegel's Critique of Kant
5. A Socratic Reformulation of the Moral Principle
6. Critique of the Romantics
7. Abstract and Subjective Freedom
8. Evil and the "Natural Will"
9. The Dialectic of Freedom
10. A Less Rigorous Concept of Self-Determination
11. Conflicts with and in Morality
12. Hegel's Expulsion of Subjective Freedom from Ethical Life
13. The Riddle of Socratic Virtue and the Historicity of the Good
3. The Ethics of Aesthetic Existence: Kierkegaard
1. The Negative Freedom of Socratic Irony and its Romantic Superseding
2. Self-Enhancement and Forgetfulness-of-Self
3. The Impotent Seducer
4. The "Helmeted" Will and its Desperation in the Face of the Aesthetic
5. Repentance and Duty: The Freedom to Choose What One Already Is
6. One Sexism for Another
7. The Love of Divorced Society Ladies
8. Aesthetic and Aristocratic Exception
9. Common sinners
10. The Leap of Faith
11. Repetitions
4. Sovereignty in Romanticism: Schmitt
1. Aestheticization and Neutralization
2. A Look at an Orange
3. Alien Power
4. The Other in the Own and Decision
5. Political Anthropology
6. Schmitt and Kierkegaard
7. Political Theology
8. "Concrete Life" and Decision
9. Schmitt's Rousseauism
10. Politics as a Critique of Politics
Part III: Democracy and Aestheticization
5. The Spectacle of Democracy: Rousseau
1. The Irony of the Actor
2. The Public Expression of Indeterminacy
3. The Actress and Her Parodies
4. The Golden Mean
5. "Thy Magic Powers Reunite What Custom's Sword Has Divided": The Feast of the Brothers
6. All Brothers are also Men: The Problem of Male Self-Difference
7. The Two Paradoxes of the Social Contract
8. The Sovereignty of the Legislator and the Judgment of the "Common Man"
9. Another Kind of Equality
10. A Politicizable Boundary
11. The Two Bodies of the People
12. Representation and the Coding of Contingency
6. The Anaestheticization of the Political in Fascism: Benjamin
1. Charisma versus Ratio
2. Politicizing Art
3. Astonishment, Not Sympathy
4. The Look of the Stranger
5. Alienation
6. Adaptability and Revolution
7. Charisma and Democracy
8. Political Theatre
9. Post-Democracy and the Anaesthetizing of the Political: A Look Forward
Origins of the Text

Aestheticization - An Apologia

From the perspective of practical philosophy, aestheticization is normally viewed as a worrisome phenomenon. The term stands for a crisis that affects our entire life-world. In this context aestheticization does not merely refer to some phenomenon on the surface of society. On the contrary, it is regarded as a crisis because it penetrates the deep structures of the way we understand both ourselves and our political culture. It replaces ethics with an individualistic aesthetic, and politics with the spectacular staging of politics. The concept of aestheticization therefore indicates a profound transformation of ethics and politics, one through which the latter becomes aesthetic and thus assumes an alienated form. Aestheticization means "basically that the non-aesthetic is made aesthetic or is grasped as being aesthetic."1 First of all, this suggests a theory of difference. If the process of aestheticization is viewed as a transformation leading to a deformation of ethics and politics, then the aesthetic is presupposed as having nothing to do with the true essence of ethics and politics. Yet the fact that ethics and politics can be aestheticized at all indicates that there is indeed an internal connection between ethics, politics, and the dimension of the aesthetic. The critique of aestheticization, therefore, asserts not only a difference but also a connection. Here the aesthetic does not appear as an external threat to ethics and politics, but as a kind of deformation undermining them from within by hollowing out their normative substance. For critics of aestheticization, therefore, everything revolves around the delimitation and the exclusion of the aesthetic, and yet their discussion of the aesthetic takes place in the realm of the non-aesthetic. In this sense the critique of aestheticization documents the entry (or re-entry) of the distinction between aesthetic and non-aesthetic into the non-aesthetic. It does not address the aesthetic as a sphere that confronts the non-aesthetic from the outside, but as a dimension operative within the non-aesthetic. And once this dimension is recognized, it changes everything.

In the following I will address what is in fact at stake in the ethical-political rejection of the aesthetic. This also means recognizing that "the aesthetic" in no way indicates a unified phenomenon in the context of the respective discourse; instead, it functions as a general concept for a whole range of phenomena as diverse as pleasure, taste, irony, distance, mutability, cultural diversity or "colorfulness," staging [Inszenierung], rhetoric, and semblance. The purpose of this investigation is not to derive a consistent concept of the aesthetic from all this. Any attempt to do so would be questionable for two different reasons. First, given the ethical-political interest underlying the critique of aestheticization, one can and should not foreclose the possibility that the term "aesthetic" might in some cases only be used as a rhetorical tool for excluding certain elements from ethics and politics which are not aesthetic in the original sense of the term. Second, a one-sided discussion of what gets dismissed as aesthetic in the critical discourse on phenomena of aestheticization would not be sufficiently inclusive, despite the diversity of the topics addressed. Upon closer inspection, we can see that the critique of aestheticization in no way condemns all aesthetic practices. For precisely where it rejects clearly aesthetic phenomena such as the theater, it also defends other aesthetic practices seen as conforming to given conceptions of ethics and politics. The critique of aestheticization therefore clearly represents a specific intermingling of ethical, political, and aesthetic motifs. In order to analytically untie this knot, we do not need, at least not in the first instance, to discuss all the seemingly aesthetic phenomena addressed by the critique of aestheticization. Instead, we need to take up the ethical-political problems motivating this critique and explain the systematic context within which its various motifs appear. The following investigation will thus not primarily address aesthetic theory but practical philosophy. Its aim is to awaken skepticism about the one-sided, negative definition of the transformation of ethics and politics that goes by the name of aestheticization, and to explore its productive meaning for the understanding of both these spheres.2 In this sense, the following is intended as an apologia for aestheticization - an apologia, that is, for the ethical-political right of the "aestheticizing" transformation of ethics and politics itself.

A systematic discussion of the problem of aestheticization is more important than ever, not least due to the current relevance and radiance of this concept in recent discussions on so-called postmodernism. The "aestheticization of the life-world" is one of the most prominent formulations employed over the last two to three decades in order to find a tangible concept to capture the visage of contemporary Western societies. It is associated with the claim that the typical member of such societies is a homo aestheticus for whom aesthetic criteria such as taste, pleasure, and shaping have become so decisive that their effects can be seen in nearly all spheres of life. Even two decades ago, this finding seemed so obvious that the philosophical discussion of the matter focused solely on how to evaluate this fundamental shift: One side saw the rising domination of simulacra, which degrade contents into mere images, actions into performances, and self-understandings into poses.3 The other side defended a generalized constructivist relation to self and world, which manifests itself in the freedom to shape ever more spheres of life.4 However, the philosophical debate over the status of a supposedly obvious societal development remained unfounded as long as it was still possible to question the actual scope of this development.5 As a result, attempts to empirically substantiate the thesis of the aestheticization of the life-world quickly came in for criticism. For instance, Gerhard Schulze's thesis of an "experience society"6 brought about by affluence was accused of falsely generalizing a phenomenon located in the more privileged part of society.7 Today, the parameters of the debate seem to have shifted: A much more prominent role is played by studies that show that aesthetic motifs such as creativity, spontaneity, and originality are no longer a sign of a sphere of freedom lying beyond the necessities of social reproduction, but have become an important productive force in their own right within the capitalist economic system. According to this research, these motifs have turned into crucial social demands representing an increase of constraints rather than freedom.8 In any case, sociology seems to have become the central location for serious debate on how to appropriately describe, explain, and evaluate the crucial position of aesthetically connoted criteria both for individuals and for the organization of society in Western democracies. Yet as relevant as these debates may be - and I will return to the current state of this debate at various points9 - I believe that philosophy has been wrong to retreat from them. After all, the diagnosis of aestheticization implies an assumption about the genuine, undistorted essence of ethics and politics, which is not a mere empirical but also a systematic question. The specific approach of philosophy in the context of contemporary diagnoses, however, can only become fully visible once we turn away from the business of diagnosing the present and turn to the history of philosophy. For the concept of aestheticization was already established in the first half of the twentieth century, which makes it relevant not only for postmodernism, but also for the theory of modernity. In fact, the discussion of aestheticization goes back even further. Contrary to the impression raised by recent debates, therefore, aestheticization in no way represents a merely contemporary problem; and traditionally the concept is much more philosophical than is suggested by the largely (cultural) sociological character of the current discourse. In fact, the philosophical discussion of the challenges posed by certain aesthetic motifs for the understanding of ethics and politics even goes back to antiquity. The history of practical philosophy is a history of crisis-diagnoses which have sought to combat the invasion of the aesthetic and its disintegrating effects into the spheres of ethics and politics. This is true despite the fact that the concept of aestheticization was not always employed explicitly.

At first sight it may seem remarkable that the ethical-political critique of various figures of the aesthetic shows up at extremely significant points in the history of practical philosophy. This demonstrates that the problem of aestheticization is anything but a marginal problem which, in line with the currently typical subdivision of philosophy, could be banished into a separate sphere called aesthetics. Instead, the problem shows up in places where core concepts of practical philosophy themselves are at stake. Conversely, the significance of discussions on the aesthetic in the philosophical tradition reveals the systematic burden that the current aestheticization discourse must bear - at least, that is, when it takes itself seriously. Without a reflection on the long history of this discourse we will hardly be able to adequately bear the load. If we neglect to do so, the...

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