A Machiavellian Beauty: Ruling by Love and Fear

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This paper examines the Machiavellian dilemma of having to rule either through love or fear, considering both philosophical and historical analyses of a particular aesthetic tactic that defies this opposition by invoking these emotions simultaneously. This tactic exploits the political potential and powers associated with of the spectacle of beauty. In this analysis I will begin by exploring Plato's account of beauty in his text 'Phaedrus', highlighting how the spiritual and emotional connotations of the spectacle of beauty serves as the source and justification of ruling authority and awe-inducing power within Plato's political model. To illustrate the historical relevance of this account, I will consider the effects of the aestheticisation of power as found, for example, in the elaborate aesthetic investment of Louis XIV's 17 th century French Court. I will finish by contrasting this spectacular beauty to another more modern conception of beauty as the perfection of form. I will suggest that within our contemporary context of political populism, images of beauty as perfection are used and distributed to invoke popular adoration and at times reinforce the political, social and economic ideology of today
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring the Critical Issues of Beauty
EditorsGabrielle Simpson
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781848881105
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2011


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