Walter Benjamin and Kitsch Politics in the Phantasmagorical Age

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Ergul, Aysegul




In this dissertation I explore the relationship between politics, aesthetics, culture and technology by (re)thinking and (re)conceptualizing the concept of kitsch as a theoretical construct in order to investigate the dream-worlds of Europe which sprang at the intersection of liberalism, social democracy and capitalism. I argue that the unexplored potentialities of kitsch, as a concept, reside in the analysis of the dream-worlds, which have been occupying the social and political imaginaries of Western individuals, communities and institutions since the disenchantment of the world. My methodological approach is built on Benjamin’s notion of historical materialism. Thus, I engage with the historical object(s) (e.g., arcades, fashion, technological reproductions etc.) not as “object(s) of experience” but as a “participant(s) in historical experience” (Caygill 2004, 90). Challenging the progressive notion of history, I argue that within the objective impenetrability of commodity fetishism a “sur-real” world of fetishized images – that is, kitsch – emerges, alienated from the individual and the collective, yet constituting and shaping them. By mapping out the implications of this “sur-real” world on “the political,” the collective (un)conscious and action, I conclude that alternative politics could arise from the unsettling interpretations of the reified and symbolic expressions of this same “sur-real” world, paving a path for new political imaginaries.


Political Science




Carleton University

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Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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