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Political Aesthetics Hardcover – July 1, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0801448904 ISBN-10: 0801448905 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"Sartwell proposes to expound and defend the bold and provocative view that although not all art is political, all politics is aesthetic. . . . Designed as an unconventional and unorthodox treatment of aesthetics and politics, this book is nicely written without too much jargon and enlivened by flashes of wit and insight."—Choice (February 2011)

"Beginning with the proposition that not all art is political but all politics is aesthetic, Crispin Sartwell challenges overly sharp distinctions between the domains of art, craft, rhetoric, poetics, and politics. Political Aesthetics is a lively and provocative book highly recommended for all who wish to think deeply about the complex relations between the aesthetic and the political."—Philip Alperson, Temple University

"Crispin Sartwell's 'poetics of politics' is a fascinating and refreshingly original study of the interplay of aesthetic values and political values. His balance of theory and application results in a book that deserves a wide audience."—Theodore Gracyk, author of Listening to Popular Music

"In Political Aesthetics, Crispin Sartwell writes both clearly and wittily, steers away from gratuitous abstraction, and maintains an engagingly direct tone. Sartwell's work on Nazi aesthetics and Riefenstahl, Speer, and Chaplin is sharp and deft, and his consideration of Republican Classicism in early America offers illuminating ideas about aesthetics of harmony, balance, and repose in relation to classical American concepts of politics and government."—Frederick M. Dolan, California College of the Arts and University of California, Berkeley, author of Allegories of America


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801448905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801448904
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,188,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By grey hedgehog on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Readers looking for a book that strictly delimits and defines the idea or concept of political aesthetics will be disappointed; but this disappointment might be tempered by considering 'aesthetics' and 'politics' (or 'the political') as 'essentially contested concepts' in the first instance. This book does embrace a 'contemporary' perspective, in that it treats politics in a more encompassing fashion, looking well-beyond electoral politics (although not past constitutions); much contemporary political and social theory emphasizes notions of the 'performative' self, or at least a strong sense of social constructivism, and therefore a corresponding concern with 'positive' freedom (cf. Berlin's 'Two Concepts of Liberty). Without providing a review, I would simply recommend Sartwell's book, in particular to those interested in aesthetics and 'the politics of the everyday,' and of politics well left-of-center, more generally.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Comment Man on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rarely has a work with this much apparent erudition solicited this much dismay, eye pain and sheer amazement at the author's audacious ignorance from your favorite common reader, moi, as Political Aesthetics by Crispin Sartwell. (Extraordinary name by the way--one almost feels massaged by the decades of privilege which created this professorial counterfeit.) Was it only a week ago I had the misfortune to read his short article on Andy Warhol in the New York Times Stone column and--intrigued by his comment that genius was a "myth" which I felt had resonance with some ideas I hold about cultural development--forthwith ordered this book from Amazon. Alas, my good friend, the city carrier James, forgot to lose this particular book and so shortly I held it in my hand.

Sartwell declines to define his notion of political aesthetics with anything approaching comprehensibility. The short Amazon quotation reflects his general confusion about his own subject matter and his remarkable ability to subject the suffering reader with torment. The closest he manages to a real explanation is when he mentions that he thought he could fuse art history and political science. Quote--"It struck me that the skills of the art historian--looking at the real shape of real things and decoding its significance--could be trained on the subject matter of political science: political systems, ideologies, constitutions, relations." Consider for a moment the amazing arrogance of that statement--an art historian looks at the REAL shape...and DECODES its significance." He simply feels, due to his supernatural ability as an aesthetic genius, that he can understand the real shape of things--which has apparently eluded everyone else up to now.
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