ECT 2015-16      Philosophy, Art, and Politics

The question of the relationship of art and politics dates at least from Plato’s famous critique of poetry and expulsion of the poets in the Republic, an act which seems to place philosophy, in its concern for justice and the good of the polis, in a fundamentally antagonistic relationship with art.  And beginning with Aristotle, philosophy has often taken on the role of defending art and asserting its potential for personal, social, and political value.  If, as Alfred North Whitehead claimed, all of philosophy is a history of footnotes to Plato, we should not be surprised that philosophers have continued to argue about the complex connections and disjunctions between aesthetics and politics ever since.  The modern articulation of this vexed relationship emerges with Kant, Hegel, the German Romantics, and Nietzsche; the issue was central to 20th century thinkers such as Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, and Arendt; and the relation of art and politics continues to be a key problem more recently for thinkers and political philosophers such as Dubord, Rancière, and Badiou. Artists, of course, have also long addressed the question of the relationship of their activity and products to the political – and their responses take a variety of forms, from art objects and performances to manifestos and critical essays. 

Guest seminar leaders will include Davide Panagia (UCLA), Page duBois (UC San Diego), Jason Smith (Art Center College of Design), Judith Butler (UC Berkeley), Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith) and others TBA.

Alain Badiou will speak for ECT on Nov. 30 (“Identity and Universality: A Contradiction?” at ACCD, Pasadena), Dec. 1 (“Concerning the Dominant Ideologies of the Contemporary World” at UCLA) and Dec. 3 (“Cinema and Philosophy: What’s the status of Badiou’s ‘Life of Plato’ film?” at UCLA). Kristin Ross (NYU) and Harry Harootunian (Columbia) will speak in the spring.

 This two quarter seminar is the core course of the UCLA graduate certificate program in Experimental Critical Theory. The ECT program is meant to galvanize, coordinate, and expand research and teaching in critical theory across departments and disciplines at UCLA. The Program offers the Graduate Certificate in Experimental Critical Theory, which is open to graduate students enrolled in a Ph.D. or MFA program in any participating department at UCLA. Information on the program can be found at



ECT 2015-16 Philosophy, Art, and Politics