(Image Courtesy of MIT Press)

The essays in Aesthetics Equals Politics make the case for a reignited understanding of aesthetics—one that casts aesthetics not as illusory, subjective, or superficial, but as a more encompassing framework for human activity. Such an aesthetics, the contributors suggest, could become the primary discourse for political and social engagement. Departing from the “critical” stance of twentieth-century artists and theorists who embraced a counter-aesthetic framework for political engagement, this book documents how a broader understanding of aesthetics can offer insights into our relationships not only with objects, spaces, environments, and ecologies, but also with each other and the political structures in which we are all enmeshed.

The contributors—philosophers, media theorists, artists, curators, writers and architects including such notable figures as Jacques Rancière, Graham Harman, and Elaine Scarry—build a compelling framework for a new aesthetic discourse. The book opens with a conversation in which Rancière tells the volume’s editor, Mark Foster Gage, that the aesthetic is “about the experience of a common world.” The essays following discuss such topics as the perception of reality; abstraction in ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics as the “first philosophy”; Afrofuturism; Xenofeminism; philosophical realism; the productive force of alienation; and the unbearable lightness of current creative discourse.

Excerpt from the Preface of Aesthetics Equals Politics: New Discourses across Art, Architecture, and Philosophy, edited by Mark Foster Gage:

“…this book speculates about how aesthetics might become the primary discourse for a next generation of social and therefore ecological, spatial, and political engagement. In contrast to commonly held opinions that these issues are antithetical to the aesthetic, this book explores the belief that such political and ontological problems might be best addressed, even exclusively, as aspects of aesthetic experience, particularly for creative practices that actively seek to be socially engaged through new formats. This book, as such, is an act of speculation regarding how a reignited discourse of aesthetics and the extended space of its influence can prompt new understandings of not only objects, spaces, environments, and ecologies, but also with each other and the political structures in which we are all enmeshed.”

Contributors to the book include Mark Foster Gage, Jacques Rancière, Elaine Scarry, Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, Ferda Kolatan, Adam Fure, Michael Young, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Roger Rothman, Diann Bauer, Matt Shaw, Albena Yaneva, Brett Mommersteeg, Lydia Kallipoliti, Ariane Lourie Harrison, Rhett Russo, Peggy Deamer, Caroline Picard

Aesthetics Equals Politics is published by the MIT Press and is available for sale at mitpress.edu/AestheticEqualsPolitics.