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Workers of the World, Enjoy!

Aesthetic Politics from Revolutionary Syndicalism to the Global Justice Movement

Kenneth H. Tucker

Publication Year: 2010

The aesthetic politics of social movements turn public life into a public stage, where mutual displays of performance often trump rational debate, and urban streets become sites of festivals and carnival. In his penetrating new book, Workers of the World, Enjoy!, Kenneth Tucker provides a new model for understanding social change in our image-saturated and aesthetically charged world. As emotional and artistic images inform our perceptions and evaluation of politics, art and performance often provide new and creative ways of understanding self and society.


Spanning the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, Workers of the World, Enjoy! uses examples from major social movements that have dramatically changed the dominant capitalist society—often in the name of labor. Tucker investigates how class and culture develop as he raises questions about what it means for public life and social movements when politics and drama come together.


Tucker catalogues how aesthetic politics influences social movements—from French Revolutionary syndicalism and fascism to the selling of the President and the street theater of the contemporary global justice movement. He also discusses the work of political theorists including Jurgen Habermas, Jeffrey Alexander, and Nancy Fraser to critique the ways public sphere has been studied.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. i-ii

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pp. vii-viii

Workers of the World, Enjoy! refers to graffiti from the May 1968 protests in France, and encapsulates many of my ideas about aesthetic politics. Just as this title did not originate with me, so there are many people who either directly or indirectly helped me formulate my ideas. Of course none of them are responsible for the use that I made of their comments...

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pp. 1-12

Paris, August 1908. Emile Pataud of the Electricians Union dramatically darkens all of Paris during a strike, illuminating only the Bourse du Travail, the headquarters of the revolutionary syndicalist Conf

Part I - Theoretical Reflections

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1. Public Life, Aesthetics, and Social Theory

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pp. 15-42

The nature and quality of public life in the contemporary West has been the subject of numerous, controversial studies. Whether bemoaning the fate of the modern public or celebrating its potential openness and solidarity,1 many authors define and theorize public life in terms of shared rational...

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2. Social Movements and Aesthetic Politics

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pp. 43-62

Aesthetic imagery and practices are now widespread in social movements. In first-world societies, aesthetic themes became commonplace among many of the new social movements, such as gay and lesbian movements in the 1970s and 1980s. These movements are as much about imaginatively reconstructing identities displayed through style and speech as about...

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3. Identity, Knowledge, Solidarity, and Aesthetic Politics

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pp. 63-88

The various perspectives that I explored in the previous two chapters have not adequately explained the relationship of aesthetic politics to either public life or social movements. In this chapter, I develop the approach to aesthetic politics that informs my analysis of public life and social movements. I consider the philosophical and conceptual basis of aesthetic...

Part II - History and Social Movements

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4. The World Is a Stage and Life Is a Carnival: The Rise of the Aesthetic Sphere and Popular Culture

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pp. 91-120

The idea that social life consists of actors playing parts has a famous lineage from Homer to Shakespeare to, more ingloriously, the sociologist Talcott Parsons. Sociology historically has been fascinated by such issues, centered on the idea of role. While functionalists like Parsons assume that role playing stabilizes a social order, Erving Goffman constructs a dramaturgical...

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5. Labor and Aesthetic Politics: French Revolutionary Syndicalism, the IWW, and Fascism

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pp. 121-152

In 1906, the maverick intellectual and French revolutionary syndicalism sympathizer Georges Sorel published Reflections on Violence. He praised the cleansing and regenerative act of proletarian violence in opposition to the mundane and passive parliamentary politics of the bourgeoisie, justifying such violence in a mythology beyond reason. In his words, “lofty moral convictions . . . never depend on reason or on any education of the individual will.

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6. The Flowering of Aesthetic Politics: May 1968, the New Social Movements, and the Global Justice Movement

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pp. 153-178

By the 1960s, the proletarian public sphere was breaking down, as deindustrialization, the rise of mass culture, the suburbanization of metropolitan areas, and globalization gained full force. As the economy moved in a post-Fordist direction and working- class institutions from unions to neighborhoods throughout the world faced the onslaught of a neoliberal state, the site for resistance to capitalism moved to civil society and the “new social movements.” An emerging “society of control” based on mobility, the quick...

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pp. 179-184

We live in a culture inundated with images, advertisements, fashion statements, a social world promising us fun, plea-sure, and fame. Commodities offer us an emotional expe-rience. Celebrities tell us that we can be like them. In our YouTube world, Andy Warhol’s dictum that everyone will have fi fteen minutes of fame is believed to be a reality by many young people. For example, many young Americans now think that they will become a celebrity at ...


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pp. 185-208


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pp. 209-216

E-ISBN-13: 9781592137664
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592137657

Publication Year: 2010