This book is concerned with the scope of cultural theory in its modern, it might even be said in its modernist, form. The three thinkers under most consideration in the book are Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, who might hardly be seen as representatives of cultural theory per se if that enterprise is taken to be what it should often taken to be. The book starts with Adorno (1903-1969) not just because his work is an apt way to introduce further some very basic themes of the book: in particular those of critical autonomy and educationality. Adorno's reflections on art and culture are contributions to the ethical understanding of autonomy, emphasising the importance of the cultivation of critical reflection. The argument here is that he is, rather, an ethico-critical theorist of democracy and a philosopher of hope. The book then situates the work of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), in other ways so different from Adorno, in terms of a broadly, if minimally, parallel agenda in modern cultural theory. It outlines some of the importance of Foucault's notion of an 'aesthetics of existence' in relation to his work as a whole. It further invokes related themes in the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Finally, it moves things in a different direction, towards postmodernism, invoking the increasing role of the cultural and aesthetic dimension in contemporary experience that is often taken as a central aspect of the postmodern turn.
Culture and subjectivation – Interpretations – Power – Creative singularity – Aestheticsofexistence – Relevance – Truthfulness and ressentiment – Art and creativity – Pastoralism, bio-power and the artistic life – Asceticism – Creative ethics – Political ethos – Resistance – Liberalism as critique – Culture – Critical virtue – Educationality and style
Michel Foucault wrote next to nothing specifically about the concept of culture, did not publish too much about art and barely addressed in a direct way the specific issue of creativity. He is
– parallel agenda in modern cultural theory. Foucault is definitely a modernist, as evidenced not least from his late essay ‘What is Enlightenment?’ 14 In this context, Chapter 3 outlines some of the importance of Foucault’s notion of an ‘aestheticsofexistence’ in relation to his work as a whole. This notion is not so much part of a normative project as it is a ‘limit-idea’ or regulative ideal which makes sense only in relation to Foucault’s general project of an ‘ontology of ourselves’. The idea of an aestheticsofexistence is in fact – and here not least lies
such as Foucault with his idea of an aestheticsofexistence. As such, Foucault’s work is an antidote to such conditions not part and parcel of them. The best antidote to the spongy culturalism of the postmodern predicament is modernism itself: which is why Adorno, Foucault and even Bourdieu may be more relevant than ever – precisely because of their continuing and stoical irrelevance in our so-called postmodern condition. The argument is not, then, that modern cultural theory should become a renewed norm of discourse. In our narcissistic age we need the critical
with the aestheticsofexistence and produce something other.
Disciplinary society could not succeed in blocking out
monstrous reflexivities, saboteurs and guerrilla forces. It might be
presumed that control society similarly creates the conditions for
new kinds of resistance, new subversions of media and new kinds of
politics such as are suggested by TG’s activities. However
One of its signs is the repeated recourse to
categories of art and aesthetics. Foucault’s remarks on the
letters appear under a head-note that includes them in ‘a
series of studies on “the arts of oneself”, that is,
on the aestheticsofexistence’. 39 The note refers in part to material
published in History of Sexuality , Volumes 2 and 3. In those
volumes, the conjoined words
Gender Studies . Philadelphia : Temple University Press , pp. 60 – 77 .
Ennis , D. ( 2017 ) ‘13th transgender murder victim of 2017: Josie Berrios’, LGBTQ Nation , 15 June. Available at www.lgbtqnation.com/2017/06/13th-transgender-murder-victim-2017-josie-berrios (accessed 6 September 2017).
Foucault , M. ( 1977 ) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison . New York : Vintage-Random House .
Foucault , M. ( 1988 a) ‘ An aestheticsofexistence ’, in Kritzman , L. (ed.) Michel Foucault – Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other
is notable that towards the end of his life Foucault himself,
who had been one of the main sources of the idea of the death of the subject,
became concerned with an ‘aestheticsofexistence’ and with the invention of
‘new forms of subjectivity’ – something which, of course, already requires an
inventor that would itself seem to have to be some kind of subject. In an interview in 1983 Foucault suggests that the ‘transformation of one’s self by one’s
own knowledge is, I think, something rather close to the aesthetic experience’
(Foucault 1988 p. 14), and in 1984 he
Foucault calls “an aestheticsofexistence”’ (1995: 208). Hadot seems to be accusing Foucault of being normative here, but in a way that he does not approve of, and in a way that neglects the possibilities of morality. The overarching criticism seems to be that Foucault offers us an overly ‘hollowed-out’ self, a self that is devoid of ethical, moral, or normative compass. There is no feeling, Hadot claims, in Foucault’s self of belonging to a greater whole, the ‘human community’, the ‘cosmic whole’, or, in one of Seneca’s phrases, ‘the totality of the world’ (Hadot, 1995
Masochism and the deadly embrace in Beowulf ll. 2501–2508a
-shattering’, p. 134.
Leo Bersani, Homos (Cambridge, MA,
and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 101. See also
Lynda Hart, who critiques Bersani in order to scrutinise the
privilege of selfhood; Lynda Hart, Between the body and the
flesh: performing sadomasochism (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1998), p. 99. See also Tim Dean, ‘Sex
and the aestheticsofexistence’, PMLA , 125.2