Social life is effectively described by Bishop George Berkeley's witticism: "to be is to be perceived or perceive". The way in which we appear in public and the impression we make in terms of images, sounds, smells, tactile sensations and even flavours are discerned by others' senses and assessed according to their taste; and this helps shape our identity and the world in which we live. This book invites us to look at society as an aesthetic object, thus re-discovering the value of sensible appearance vis--vis the dualistic prejudice underlying Western tradition. Anchored in philosophy and borrowing from sociology, art history, and literature, this text explores the domain of everyday life, dominated by exposure, advertising, and seduction and at the heart of the illusion of prestige.
Barbara Carnevali is an invited researcher at the Institut d'tudes Avances in Paris.