Beauty today is a paradox. The cult of beauty is ubiquitous but it has lost its transcendence and become little more than an aspect of consumerism, the aesthetic dimension of capitalism. The sublime and unsettling aspects of beauty have given way to corporeal pleasures and 'likes', resulting in a kind of 'pornography' of beauty. In this book, cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han reinvigorates aesthetic theory for our digital age. He interrogates our preoccupation with all things slick and smooth, from Jeff Koon's sculptures and the iPhone to Brazilian waxing. Reaching far deeper than our superficial reactions to viral videos and memes, Han reclaims beauty, showing how it manifests itself as truth, temptation and even disaster. This wide-ranging and profound exploration of beauty, encompassing ethical and political considerations as well as aesthetic, will appeal to all those interested in cultural and aesthetic theory, philosophy and digital media.
In this provocative analysis Han agitates against contemporary notions of smooth air-brushed beauty. Instead he pleads for an aesthetic based on a generative, creative, commitment to truth that can encompass negativity injury and disaster. Ranging from pornography to classical literature this tour de force of thinking about our understanding of beauty reminds us that philosophy can have teeth. Han writes with a compelling urgency about how we live in the here and now, but also how we could live better. Saving Beauty is an aesthetic call to arms; an example of how philosophy can militate for a better world and make us see anew. Karen Leeder, Oxford University