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Besand, Anja: Angst vor der Oberfläche (Fear of the Surface)

On the relationship of aesthetic and political learning in the Age of New Media, Schwalbach 2004












At first sight, one might assume that aesthetics and politics have not much in common. Indeed, one might even say that too much aesthetics could damage politics and its communication. To this day, with social sciences – but most of all with political education – one will again and again come across this deeply rooted fear of surfaces and phenomena, of aestheticization and blindness.

But is it possible at all to reasonably keep aesthetics and politics apart from each other anymore? In her book “Fear of the Surface” Anja Besand vigorously contradicts such an idea. She shows that in the age of media the aesthetic has become an important point of reference and reflection for politics and society and thus, that these aesthetic questions may not be excluded when dealing with politics. She is not only interested in proving the significance of the aesthetic in the topical field of political education, but in comprehensively opening up the aesthetic as a reflective category of the didactics of politics and not least, in taking a closer look at the aesthetic situation of the subject itself.

The result of this analysis – even though its reading is certainly amusing – shows a rather disastrous situation of political education. Anja Besand is able to show that due to its demonstrative sobriety and aesthetic inattentiveness, political education runs the risk of getting out of touch both to its subject and its addressees.

The crux of aesthetics is that we cannot escape it. No matter how much we emphasize an attitude of dismissing designing, in a time and society in which the patterns of perception – influenced by media of all kind – are also orientated at aesthetic phenomena, even political education cannot avoid giving thought to its surfaces and about the effects it achieves by them.