The Democratic Public and Its Aesthetic

Term: Fall 2008

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6618

The seminar will take a closer look on a critical discourse which links the critique of "aestheticization" phenomenons with a critique of democracy - or with a critique of what one holds to be its decay. For the process of "aestheticization" is taken to undermine the orientation of political culture to normativity; it is supposed to turn the democratic public into a mere mass. Against the backdrop of a long tradition reaching back into discussions in antiquity about theatrocracy and rhetoric, the seminar will investigate the implications of this discourse for a theory of democracy. How is the crisis, diagnosed by its different variants, described? What notion of the aesthetic is therefore required? Which idea of the political is assumed? And: is the opposition between the aesthetic and the political, presumed by this discourse of crisis, even plausible? Are the issues that are being discussed under the rubric of the aesthetic indeed external to the political, or is it on the contrary that what is being rejected as aesthetic has political origins? If the latter is the case, does this imply that what is being criticized as "aestheticization" should be thought of less as an external influence than as a constitutive element of democracy?

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