According to its Greek etymology, ‘that which evokes a strong sensation’. Aesthetics is linked to notions of beauty, harmony, achievement of form.
Contemporary egalitarian ideology abhors and implicitly demonises aesthetics. It associates (rightly) the will to power with discipline, which it considers morally unacceptable, ‘fascist’ in effect. This ideology opposes aesthetics to ‘ethics’ and situates itself in ethics’ iconoclastic tradition.
With the plastic arts, architecture, cinema, literature, theatre, even fashion, the ugly, the unachieved, the unformed, the most far-fetched nonsense, the shady and the watered down are now preferred to the aesthetic, which is made synonymous with a menacing ‘order’.
Since the mid-Twentieth century, contemporary arts, encouraged by the dominant ideology, have rejected any notion of aesthetics. Instead of harmony, the power of forms, the exaltation and elevation of sensation and beauty — notions of abstract ‘conceptual art’ are preferred, which becomes a pretext for degeneracy, wilful ugliness, and subsidised incompetence. Abstraction accordingly reigns, just as a jargonising meaninglessness and obscurity enthrals the intellectuals. The genuine aesthete, the authentic artist, is ostracised or marginalised — as if he were politically incorrect. Hence, the paradox of a society that strives to be ‘moral’ and humanistic, but ends up privileging barbarism, the inversion of values, and new forms of primitivism.
We’re witnessing the simultaneous cohabitation of (1) abstruse ‘contemporary’ art subsidised by the system, (2) a cult which turns the ‘past’ into museum pieces, and (3) a commercial and consumerist subculture. Contemporary art has become the very opposite of avant-garde art. Its sad impostures haven’t budged for a century. It combines a dull academism, imposture, an absence of talent, and financial speculation. Instead of aesthetics, the system prefers pessimistic or suicidal values of representation, those that come from chaos and deformity, nonsense, pathological abstraction, regression, infantilism, scatology, a psychotic pornography: the exaltation of primitive forms (what the visionary Céline called ‘the tom-tom cult’ or what Chirac calls ‘primitive art’ ). Accompanying this wretchedness, this impotence of old men, there’s the vulgar, artificial boom of costume-culture, which is to culture what costume jewellery is to jewellery.
The rejection of aesthetics is crucial to the dominant ideology. For aesthetics, at root, is aristocratic, opposed to massification and fake elites.
In its historical essence, the political is a declension of aesthetics. ‘Grand Politics’ aims, in effect, at forming a people in history, making civilisation a creator of great works, turning civilisation itself into a work — a work of art. This conception opposes the modern doctrine that reduces the political to the administrative, that hollows out the notion of a people’s destiny, and rejects the creative projects of the statesman for the sake of the career politician.