Aestheticism: the new spirit of capitalism

Murphy, Peter, and de la Fuente, Eduardo (2009) Aestheticism: the new spirit of capitalism. In: [Presented at SocioAesthetics]. From: SocioAesthetics: a symposium on aesthetics, culture and social life, 23-25 August 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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This paper argues that a 'structure of feeling' is emerging in contemporary capitalism as significant as that which Max Weber had diagnosed in his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Replacing the 'asceticism' of the bourgeois, and the discipline required of the industrial worker, is a mode of individualism that is best described as 'aestheticism': the 'new spirit of capitalism'.

Capitalism's new aesthetic mode of production is not about art in the narrow sense – although, it does coincide with art becoming an industry like all others. Rather the aesthetic ethic has emerged in relation to things as disparate as work and economy, lifestyle and design, as well as personality structures.

We touch on the 'personas' typical of the new capitalism, both those celebrated in art and popular culture, and those salient in everyday situations. We briefly survey the theorists who have correctly identified some of these changes – thinkers such as Bell, Lash and Urry, and Florida – but propose that each has stopped short in recognizing the full implications of capitalism going aesthetic.

We examine some of these implications, and the world that has emerged, as ascetic attitudes have morphed into, what we term, the 'ascetic-aesthetic' behaviors of contemporary capitalism.

Item ID: 40527
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Keywords: aesthetics; capitalism; modernity; structure of feeling; art; aestheticism; asceticism
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Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2017 00:44
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified @ 80%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190103 Art Theory @ 20%
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