158 | CCN: 22192

Advanced Problems in the Rhetoric of Political Theory

The Aesthetic Turn in Political Theory

Instructor: Felipe Gutterriez,

4 Units

Prerequisite: Consent of the Instructor

"Fiat ars-pereat mundus, " says fascism, expecting from war,
as Marinetti admits, the artistic gratification of a sense
perception altered by technology. This is evidently the
consummation of l'art pour l'art. Humankind, which once,
in Homer, was an object of contemplation for the Olympian
gods, has now become one for itself. Its self-alienation has
reached, the point where it can experience its own annihilation
as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing
of politics, as practiced by fascism. Communism replies by
politicizing art.

̶ Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibilty” (Third Version, 1939)


A fascist aestheticization of politics is an ever-present
possibility of modern politics, but it is not by any means
a necessary consequence of politics being aesthetic in
principle. If politics is also about what can appear and
how it appears to sense, about what can be seen and heard
and what can’t be seen and heard; if it is about what we
are able to see and hear and what we are unable to see
and hear, then democratic politics is about letting what
could not be seen and heard be seen and heard by cultivating new ways of seeing and hearing.

̶ Nikolas Kompridis, The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought

In this course we will consider the turn to aesthetics in contemporary political theory and the role of rhetoric in this turn.

Required Texts:

Kompridis, Nikolas, ed. The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2014.

Additional readings available either online or in course reader.

Assignments: There will be short written assignments, class presentations , a midterm and a final.

Attendance: Class attendance is required. Students missing a class during the first two weeks will be dropped from the course.