Aesthetic Politics from Revolutionary Syndicalism to the Global Justice MovementKenneth H. Tucker
The aesthetic politics of social movements turn public life into a public stage, where mutual displays of performance often trump rational debate, and urban streets become sites of festivals and carnival. In his penetrating new book, Workers of the World, Enjoy!, Kenneth Tucker provides a new model for understanding social change in our image-saturated and aesthetically charged world. As emotional and artistic images inform our perceptions and evaluation of politics, art and performance often provide new and creative ways of understanding self and society.
Spanning the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, Workers of the World, Enjoy! uses examples from major social movements that have dramatically changed the dominant capitalist society—often in the name of labor. Tucker investigates how class and culture develop as he raises questions about what it means for public life and social movements when politics and drama come together.
Tucker catalogues how aesthetic politics influences social movements—from French Revolutionary syndicalism and fascism to the selling of the President and the street theater of the contemporary global justice movement. He also discusses the work of political theorists including Jurgen Habermas, Jeffrey Alexander, and Nancy Fraser to critique the ways the public sphere has been studied.
"Tucker reconsiders the sociology of the public sphere by viewing it through the lens of performativity. Such a perspective highlights the ways that public spheres ‘aestheticize’ daily life and make possible new forms of subjectivity and collective life. What is especially impressive about this book is that Tucker develops his ideas at both an analytical and empirical level. The notions of the public sphere and civil society are today integral to debates about democracy and social change in both the academe and among activists. Tucker offers an original statement that is both compelling and important."
—Steven Seidman, SUNY Albany
"This major study of aesthetic politics is a strong reminder of the degree to which aesthetic imagery and practices are widespread in contemporary social movements. This study offers some brilliant and provocative insights for scholars and students concerned with the public sphere.... An important contribution to debates about democratic space and social change. Summing Up: Recommended."
"This book is built with considerable erudition.... This is an ambitious and exciting book that navigates the intersection between cultural sociology and the new social movements scholarship based on the author’s expertise in French syndicalism, popular culture in the United States and social movements....(It) is a welcome addition to a growing library of volumes that connect the performative and aesthetic character of public life to social and political transformations."
"Tucker provides new insight into the global justice movement, discussing the role that imagery and carnival traditions play in public displays of global justice activists.... Tucker is doing something important with his book – attempting to integrate postmodern theory (which is often underemphasized in sociological research) into the study of social movements...His book is a great read for scholars and actors interested in the ways in which postmodern theories can be incorporated into sociological research."
—Social Movement Studies
"When Tucker suppl(ies) gritty detail to echo his lucid discussions of major aesthetic theorists...he makes clear that critical attention to aesthetic politics is urgent."
—American Historical Review