The Aesthetic ImperativeWritings on Art
The Aesthetic Imperative
Writings on Art
Translated by Karen Margolis

In this wide-ranging book, renowned philosopher and cultural theorist Peter Sloterdijk examines art in all its rich and varied forms: from music to architecture, light to movement, and design to typography. Moving between the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, his analyses span the centuries, from ancient civilizations to contemporary Hollywood. With great verve and insight he considers the key issues that have faced thinkers from Aristotle to Adorno, looking at art in its relation to ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, society, politics, anthropology and the subject.

Sloterdijk explores a great variety of topics, including the Greek-Roman invention of postcards, medieval barter with purgatory and relics, the capitalist art market, the black boxes and white cubes of modernism, the rise of world’s fairs in the 19th century, the growth of museum and memorial culture, images of the city and the role of creativity. In doing so, Sloterdijk extends his characteristic method of defamiliarisation to transform the way we look at works of art and movements. His bold and original approach leads us away from the well-trodden paths of conventional art history to develop a theory of aesthetics which rejects strict categorisation, emphasising instead the crucial importance of individual subjectivity as a counter to the latent dangers of collective culture.

This sustained collection of reflections, at once playful, serious and provocative, goes to the very heart of Sloterdijk’s enduring philosophical preoccupation with the aesthetic. It will be essential reading for students and scholars of philosophy and aesthetics and will appeal to anyone interested in culture and the arts more generally.

Show More
Buy Now


Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • April 2017
  • 300 pages
  • 229 x 152 mm / 9 x 6 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9780745699868
  • Paperback $28.95
  • 9780745699875
  • Open eBook $28.95
  • 9780745699905
Table of Contents
La musique retrouvée
Remembrance of Beautiful Politics
Where Are We When We Hear Music?

Clearing and Illumination. Notes on the Metaphysics, Mysticism and Politics of Light
Illumination in the Black Box: On the History of Opacity

The Right Tool for Power: Observations on Design as the Modernization of Competence
On the Charisma of Symbols
For a Philosophy of Play

The City and its Negation: An Outline of Negative Political Theory.
Architects Do Nothing But ‘Inside Theory’: Peter Sloterdijk in conversation with Sabine Kraft and Nikolaus Kuhnert
For a Participatory Architecture - Notes on the Art of Daniel Libeskind with reference to Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Valéry

Essay on the Life of the Artist: Heretics *Wastrels* Falls/Cases* Inhabitants
Confessions of a Loser
Minima Cosmetica - An Essay on Self-Aggrandizement.

The Museum D - School of Disconcertment
World Museum and World’s Fair

‘I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself’
Art is folding into itself
Emissaries of Violence - On the Metaphysics of Action Cinema
Good-For-Nothing Returns Home or The End of an Alibi - and A Theory of the End of Art
Afterword by Peter Weibel: Sloterdijk and the Question of Aesthetics


Publication Sources
About the Author
Peter Sloterdijk is Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at the Karlsruhe School of Design and the author of many works, including You Must Change Your Life.
Show More


The Aesthetic Imperative crystalizes and intensifies the already formidable force of Sloterdijk's corpus. By working through the history of philosophy we discover that the bourgeois subject's capacity to discern the beautiful is at once an art of self-formation and a beautiful form of the self. This is not one more book on the relation between art and politics: it redefines the polity as a singular account of a beauty beyond art, and redefines the aesthetic by way of a subjectivity that is on its way to being political."
Claire Colebrook, Penn State University
Show More