The power of the gift: a perspective of political aesthetics

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According to Aristotle (Polit. 1253a) man is a “political animal” and his aim is to live in the community. Guided by this Aristotelian premise, I would like to dwell on the relevance of a relationship among individuals as the foundation of a civil society and the building of a political space. Following the Aristotelian perspective, the relationship among people acquires a political value in reference to the Greek word polis (city). Consequently, the adjective “political” indicates an idea wider than usually acknowledged and may refer to space, objects, and overall relationships among people. According to the natural model originally advocated by Aristotle, the urban space acquires a political value because it turns into a place for sharing and cooperation. When speaking about urban space, I’m not referring to measurable, physical space, but rather to a perceived, emotional space. Both natural and man-made environments can be said to lift or oppress people; they can be cold, bright, cheerful, or sober and convey a repelling or welcoming atmosphere. As Gernot Böhme has pointed out, the primary content of the sensed are not things and their properties (shape, colour, etc.), but rather the relationships between things themselves and with the perceiving subject. The German philosopher uses the words “atmospheric space” to express these relationships, and this idea is a fundamental element of a “new aesthetics,” one which he has proposed in making reference to the etymological meaning of aisthesis (perception). Following both the perspectives of Aristotle and Böhme, I will bring forward the relevance of a relationship among individuals in a public space and show how relationships acquire a political and aesthetic value. To do this, I will use the notion of the gift, as since very early in history, political and commercial relationships among populations were set forth by the exchange of gifts. After pointing out the anthropological concept of the gift and its importance in everyday life, I will dwell on how relational art took over the concept of the gift to create a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. Finally, I will try to demonstrate how the concept of the gift becomes a key element of political aesthetics, here understood differently to that proposed by Crispin Sartwell.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)26-35
Numero di pagine10
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2019


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