By Russ Castronovo
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Additional info for Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era
But for now I want to mark how this appeal to human reactions and responses suggests the potential force of commonality as a universal feeling that collides with and energizes political positions. ” By representing the struggle for American independence as “the cause of all mankind,” Paine’s 1776 pamphlet anticipates in extremist fashion the universal accord outlined by Kant’s third Critique of 1790. Common Sense, we might say, radicalizes the aesthetic sensibility of sensus communis before the fact by converting it into a political sentiment.
This experiment was undertaken in the public squares of New York’s lower East Side, the com- Aesthetics and the Anarchy of Global Culture . 19 mon rooms of Chicago’s settlement houses, and the pages of NAACP’s The Crisis, as reformers sought to introduce the experience of beauty to wider populations. Could the “science of beauty” that was being theorized in college classrooms be activated in the streets? S. was always interdisciplinary and cross-institutional. Only recently has it been narrowed to connoisseurship and techniques associated with high art.
To cite a disconcerting example, cultural critics at times posited that lynching constituted an aesthetic experience for the perpetrators of racist violence. 35 The connections between aesthetics and lynching are the subject of chapter 3. For the moment, though, it is worthwhile to remark that white violence forces James to reconsider criteria of universal taste. Against this perversion of the imagination, there remained an abiding faith that aesthetics came hardwired with ethical lessons. Tenement novels, documentary photographs, and reports from charities such as the New York City Flower Mission do more than detail squalor: they also speak to the belief that beauty could turn the urban herd into disciplined citizens.