By Russ Castronovo
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Additional info for Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era
Location matters to this book as much as skewed chronology. For Beautiful Democracy, that location is the global, a profoundly unstable coordinate of aesthetic discourse. Even as the global points to the universal, the compass of beauty also ﬂips around to [the historical axis of] foreignness, international socialism, Americanization, or other partisan concerns. In this respect, the universal always contains its own antipodes. Despite the bluster about aesthetics as an abstract, formal, and uniﬁed discourse, the pretense of universalism always ensures that art and beauty enfold elements that are particular and hence discordant.
In The Psychology of Beauty (1905), Puffer turned to “the instinctive, involuntary part of our nature” to argue for the existence of predictable, universal responses whose eternal quality ensure that aesthetic—and social—experience is one of equilibrium and harmony. Beauty reveals law as an internal proposition: there is no need, as the Atlantic had advised, to instruct subjects, since aesthetic instincts are already hardwired in our neural processes. Because “laws of beauty” 38 . chapter one ordain that “physical reactions .
20 But a list of beautiful cities does not a civic pedagogy make. S. declaration of war against Spain the previous year. Yet the target of “victorious power” is also more intimate and private, namely, the perception and use of pleasure by the single citizen. ” Surrounded by public parks, gardens, and exhibitions, people “will become better citizens . . ” Exactly how do art and beauty encourage citizens to recreate Athenian democracy as an American inheritance? ” 22 This response raises more questions than it answers.