Imagination in Politics

Imagination in Politics : Freedom or Domination?

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Imagination is a complex and ambiguous culture-making power, which, while central to politics, is a rather marginal concept in contemporary political theory. By drawing on works of modern and contemporary Continental political philosophers, this book addresses how imagination can be both a source of freedom and domination in liberal-democratic politics, and argues for a benign public employment of images and narratives in a global world of diverse cultures. The challenge is not to keep contemporary politics clear of images, but to better distinguish between benign and malign uses of creativity in the public realm.

This distinction is important because the language employed by the participants in the complex cultural dialogue that characterizes modern plural societies is constituted by metaphors and myths, which form their perceptions and sensibilities. The embedment of communicative practices in a society's imaginary brings an ambivalent psychological and emotional potential into democratic politics. Modern liberal-democracies can shift the public employment of imagination either in a direction that increases the autonomous capacity of individuals to engage culture and language in a creative and interactive manner in the construction of their identities, or in a direction that increases fascination with images and myths and, consequently, the escapist desire to pull these out of the living dialogue with others.

Turning the public work of creativity in the first direction requires a conscious change in the modern social imaginary. This can be achieved through the aesthetic cultivation of an ethical productive imagination: both analogical and explorative, both empathic and reflective. While capable of creatively giving utopian impetus to politics, this imagination would also stir the individuals' responsiveness to the particularity of others and to their capacity to be equal and free partners in the making of a common world. An important avenue in achieving this objective in modern liberal-democracies will be provided by the capacity of literary works to open up public spaces of dialogue. There the renewal of the metaphors and myths that frame individual and collective identities in a society can have transformative effects that increase the individuals' ability for cross cultural understanding.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 278 pages
  • 149.86 x 231.14 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739199064
  • 9780739199060
  • 2,281,078

Table of contents

Introduction: Why Does Liberal-Democratic Politics Need Imagination?
Chapter One: The Dangers and Promises of Imagination in Politics
Chapter Two: Habermas and Bakhtin: Discourse Ethics, Imagination, and Intercultural Understanding
Chapter Three: Arendt on the World-Creating Power of Imagination as an Antidote to the Totalitarian Temptations of Politics
Chapter Four: Kant and Schiller on the Civil Power of Imagination
Chapter Five: Herder on the Role of Imagination, Language, and Culture in the Formation of Humanity
Chapter Six: Nietzsche on the Role of Imagination in Modern Liberal-Democracies
Chapter Seven: Heidegger on Political Aestheticism and Poetic Care
Conclusions: The Promise of Benign Public Imagination for the Contemporary World
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Review quote

Theorists have long been divided over the role of the imagination in politics. Does the imagination foster creative and sympathetic citizens? Or does it lead to the aestheticization of politics? In Imagination in Politics, Czobor-Lupp offers the careful and insightful treatment of imagination contemporary theorists have been looking for. Through an engagement with a wide range of thinkers from Herder and Schiller to Habermas, she examines when imagination can benefit and when it can harm political order. Her account-that imagination helps when it liberates and harms when it dominates-is elegant and compelling. -- Jeffrey Church, University of Houston How can we make a public sphere that moves beyond today's debilitating politics of the spectacle and towards empowering citizens to engage creatively across difference about collective life? In this essential work, Mihaela Czobor-Lupp argues that only through the transformation of our creative imagination can people create the kind of public sphere that vindicates our dialogical and ethical power. Against a long line of commentators who either uncritically valorize or blindly fear the creative power of aesthetic politics, Czobor-Lupp gives us a clear-eyed account of both the attractions and the dangers of imagination for collective life. Czobor-Lupp brings the aesthetic insights of three centuries of German political philosophy to bear on the ethically attractive but aesthetically inadequate arguments of discourse ethics and Arendtian action theory: the result is a delightful and insightful read, but also a critical contribution to contemporary political thought. -- Elisabeth Ellis, University of Otago In 1968, at the height of the student rebellions, there was a motto: "L'imagination au pouvoir!" It was a startling but also misleading motto-because what was needed was not more power (pouvoir) but a move beyond power politics. Today, in our reigning culture of violence when media everywhere are saturated with images of horror, death, and destruction, it is surely time to enlist the more salutary and liberating resources of imagination. In her book, Czobor-Lupp enlists a whole tradition of salutary imagination: from Herder, Kant, and Schiller to Nietzsche, Arendt, and Heidegger. May this imagination free us from oppressive domination. -- Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
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About Mihaela Czobor-Lupp

Mihaela Czobor-Lupp is assistant professor of political science at Carleton College.
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