Where are we when we litigiously judge? Politics and aesthetics in Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière

Facundo Vega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In contrast to the scenario depicted by Carl Schmitt, contemporary theory has contradicted the “thesis of differentiation” between aesthetics and “the political.” Critical theorists claimed aesthetic analysis’ relevance for grasping aspects of the political realm. And political thought took an “aesthetic turn.” Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière have been influential figures in this turn. Their thought offers a clear response to the challenges to the aesthetico-political Schmitt poses. To approach Arendt and Rancière’s responses, this essay proceeds in three parts. The first section analyses Arendt’s reading of the connection between aesthetics and politics. Focusing on a major shift in her perspective on judgement, I argue that her account is influenced by the ungrounded character of politics. The second section thematises the role that the relationship of aesthetics and politics has in Rancière’s work. I claim that his writings might be read as a challenge to Arendt’s attempt to “stabilise” politics by distinguishing it from the social question. Finally, the third section explicitly contrasts Arendt and Rancière’s accounts of the aesthetic-political. I conclude by arguing that their projects are crucial resources for formulating a critical theory that should resist the exceptionalist temptation to conceive “the political” as an incontestable nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-385
Number of pages18
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aesthetics
  • exceptionalism
  • extraordinary
  • judgement
  • ordinary
  • politics


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