Aesthetics of politics: refolding distributions of importance




Labrecque, Simon

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This dissertation engages a very general question: what matters politically? This question is characterized as a point of heresy, as a site through which different political stances differentiate themselves from one another and account for their differences. Building on the concept of aesthetics of politics developed by Jacques Rancière, I seek to free up this concept’s critical and analytical potential by arguing that different aesthetics of politics act as prerequisites to divergent determinations of political importance. More precisely, I argue that significant formulations of how variations in distributions of political importance occur tend to presuppose particular accounts of the relationships between perception and interpretation, sensibility and understanding, or how we sense and how we make sense. While the concept of aesthetics is tied to particular histories of what has been called Western Modernity, I argue that Western political thought has been characterized by a deep concern for questions of perception since its allegedly inaugural texts in Classical Greece, and that the so-called postmodern condition continues to put into play aesthetic terms of political engagement. To test this hypothesis positing that we always already think of politics aesthetically, I map five influential aesthetics of politics: aesthetics of prevalence, aesthetics of emancipation, aesthetics of temperament, aesthetics of friction, and aesthetics of endurance. Each one is already manifold. To make sense of these multiplicities, each aesthetics of politics is studied through a fourfold engagement with the politics of one of the senses of the age-old fivefold of sight, taste, hearing, touch, and smell. The politics of each sense are engaged along a politological, an artistico-political, a polemological and a hauntological folds. I am thereby able to show the intricacies of how the problem of political importance has been and is being dealt with.



Aesthetics of politics, Political importance, Political thought, Folding, Jacques Rancière, Politics of aesthetics