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, metaphysics, society, politics, anthropology and the subject.

Sloterdijk explores a variety of topics, from the Greco-Roman invention of postcards to the rise of the capitalist art market, from the black boxes and white cubes of modernism to the growth of museums and memorial culture. In doing so, he extends his characteristic method of defamiliarization to transform the way we look at works of art and artistic 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 categorization, emphasizing instead the crucial importance of individual subjectivity as a counter to the latent dangers of collective culture.

This sustained reflection, 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. 

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  • May 2017
  • 300 pages
  • 159 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745699868
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Table of Contents

La musique retrouvée 3
Remembrance of Beautiful Politics 15
Where Are We When We Hear Music? 27 

Clearing and Illumination. Notes on the Metaphysics, Mysticism and Politics of Light 49
Illumination in the Black Box: On the History of Opacity 61

The Right Tool for Power: Observations on Design as the Modernization of Competence 83
On the Charisma of Symbols 97
For a Philosophy of Play 100

The City and its Negation: An Outline of Negative Political Theory 113
Architects Do Nothing But ‘Inside Theory’: Peter Sloterdijk in conversation with Sabine Kraft and Nikolaus Kuhnert 141
For a Participatory Architecture - Notes on the Art of Daniel Libeskind with reference to Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Valéry 174

Essay on the Life of the Artist: Heretics *Wastrels* Falls/Cases* Inhabitants 185
Confessions of a Loser 192
Minima Cosmetica - An Essay on Self-Aggrandizement 197

The Museum: School of Disconcertment 221
World Museum and World’s Fair 231

‘I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself’ 249
Art is folding into itself 253
Emissaries of Violence - On the Metaphysics of Action Cinema 265
Good-For-Nothing Returns Home or The End of an Alibi - and A Theory of the End of Art 280
Afterword by Peter Weibel: Sloterdijk and the Question of Aesthetics 304

Notes 320

Publication Sources 334
About the Author
Peter Sloterdijk is Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at the Karlsruhe School of Design.
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"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
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