The beauty of friendship: Foucault, masculinity and the work of art

Philosophy and Social Criticism 28 (5):558-577 (2002)
The importance of friendship in the later work of Michel Foucault is increasingly being recognized, but the relationship between friendship and Foucault's concept of 'life as a work of art' is not well understood. Friendship, traditionally associated with 'masculine' virtue, can be seen to undergo significant change in connection with the emergence of modern sexuality. I suggest that Foucault's work alerts us to the fact that friendship is a key site for challenging the stability of the modern gender regime and the institution of heterosexuality that underlies it. By drawing on insights from Nietzsche, Heidegger and Derrida, I elaborate upon the significance of both friendship and the work of art in Foucault. I argue that the intrinsic connection of the aesthetic with beauty is central to Foucault's 'aesthetics of existence'. A focus on beauty enables us to see how friendship can be understood in terms of the work of art. Key Words: art • beauty • Derrida • finitude • Foucault • friendship • heterosexuality • masculinity • Nietzsche.
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