Cinema, democracy and perfectionism

Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue

Edited by Joshua Foa Dienstag

Cinema, democracy and perfectionism


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9402-0
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: June 2016
  • BIC Category: Political science & theory, Ethics & moral philosophy, PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy, PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, Society & social sciences / Political science & theory, The arts / Film theory & criticism, Ethics & Moral Philosophy, Politics
  • Series: Critical Powers


In the lead essay for this volume, Joshua Foa Dienstag engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life.

In this debate, Dienstag mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre, casting Cavell as D'Alembert in his view that we can learn to become better citizens and better people by observing a staged representation of human life, with Dienstag arguing, with Rousseau, that this misunderstands the relationship between original and copy, even more so in the medium of film than in the medium of theatre.

Dienstag's provocative and stylish essay is debated by an exceptional group of interlocutors comprising Clare Woodford, Tracy B. Strong, Margaret Kohn, Davide Panagia and Thomas Dumm. The volume closes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.


"A learned, thoughtful, and very wide-ranging reflection on the aesthetics and ontology of film, the place and role of erotic desire in democratic life, the limitations of political optimism regarding that place and role, and the limitations of Stanley Cavell's account of that place and role."
Andrew Norris, University of California, Santa Barbara


Series editors' foreword
Part I: Lead essay
1. The tragedy of remarriage: letter to M. Cavell about cinema (a remake) - Joshua Foa Dienstag
Part II: Responses
2. Emancipated perfectionism - or, in praise of dreaming - Clare Woodford
3. The phenomenology of the political: a reply from Saturday Night to Mr. Dienstag - Tracy B. Strong
4. The tragedy of remarriage in the golden age of television - Margaret Kohn
5. 'That dangerous contention': a cinematic response to pessimism - Davide Panagia
6. Letter to Mr. Dienstag - Thomas Dumm
Part III: Reply
7. A reply to my critics - Joshua Foa Dienstag


Joshua Foa Dienstag is Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at University of California Los Angeles

Cinema, democracy and perfectionism

Edited by Joshua Foa Dienstag

Paperback £18.99 / $27.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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