Aestheticization of Post-1989 Neoliberal Capitalism: From the Forms of Life to the Political Uses of Bodies

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Department of English, NTNU


This paper addresses the question of bio-politics that regulates and shapes people into different forms of life in today’s societies, particularly in the post- 1989 neoliberal capitalist conditions that we can observe in China. I call it the aestheticization of neoliberal capitalism. My concern in this paper is with the aestheticization of the neoliberal capitalism that was manipulated and executed by the contemporary States. I shall discuss the double cycle of the use and consumption of bodies in the artistic labor through my reading of a contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing (徐冰 1955- ). The primary process of the uses of the bodies by the State, the polis, took us to the question of the forms of life under the dictate of the political economy as discussed by Giorgio Agamben, and the question as to how and why human life, through the uses of bodies, is shaped, measured, calculated, regulated and processed into various forms of life. In order to think the power of life or the potential of life that would not be always already administered and distributed according to the reason of the polis, I juxtapose François Jullien’s formulation of the concept of shi (potential, inclination, tendency) that he derived from classical Chinese philosophy with the Western concept of potentia/potestas as well as from the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi; and I discuss the possibility of a new critical and political use of body through the politics of aesthetics as this possibility presents itself in Xu’s work.