Volume 11, 2001
Social and Political Philosophy
Aestheticism, or Aesthetic Approach, in Arendt and Heidegger on Politics
Hannah Arendt’s aesthetic approach to politics is regarded as frequently reflecting the anti-political substitution of nonpolitical concerns for political ones characteristic of the German tradition from Schiller to Heidegger and beyond. Arendt’s relationship to this tradition can be understood as squarely calling into question her central claim to have rehabilitated the political. This paper examines the relationship between Arendt’s and Heidegger’s political thought in light of the distinction between an aestheticism and an aesthetic approach. Two issues are at stake: can such a distinction help distance Arendt’s aesthetic approach from those elements we find so troubling in Heidegger’s thinking and his relation to politics? Can this help us to recuperate a certain aspect of German political thought which is reflected in Arendt’s work?