Communitarian Aestheticism

I am not alone:

… I know and do not regret the major role that aesthetic considerations play in human life, even apart from erotic desire, and even though in an often unrecognized manner, it is certainly possible to distinguish between kinds of aestheticism. As Emerson suggests in “The Poet,” bad poetry (so to speak) is part of the fabric of ordinary—that is unreflective—life. In every society, ordinary life is full of bad displacements and condensations, of unintentional metaphorization and shadowy symbolism. Worse, some kinds of socially exaggerated aestheticism are hideous in their perverse beauty. I find that communitarianism is often an encouragement to bad poetry, to a heightened conventional aestheticism that in modern circumstances can be satisfied only with mischievous or even pernicious results.

— George Kateb, “Individualism, Communitarianism, and Docility” in The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture

This is a great essay. Speaking of which, here is Emerson:

The inwardness, and mystery, of this attachment, drive men of every class to the use of emblems. The schools of poets, and philosophers, are not more intoxicated with their symbols, than the populace with theirs. In our political parties, compute the power of badges and emblems. See the huge wooden ball rolled by successive ardent crowds from Baltimore to Bunker hill! In the political processions, Lowell goes in a loom, and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship.’ Witness the cider-barrel, the log-cabin, the hickory-stick, the palmetto, and all the cognizances of party. See the power of national emblems. Some stars, lilies, leopards, a crescent, a lion, an eagle, or other figure, which came into credit God knows how, on an old rag of bunting, blowing in the wind, on a fort, at the ends of the earth, shall make the blood tingle under the rudest, or the most conventional exterior. The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets and mystics!

I do not trust that tingle. And I would like to know more about this “huge wooden ball”!

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