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Neoliberalism and the Aestheticization of New Middle-Class Landscapes



Abstract:  If according to Terry Eagleton (The Ideology of the Aesthetic 1990:28), the aesthetic is from the start “a contradictory, double-edged concept”, how are seemingly innocent acts of viewing and consuming aesthetically pleasing landscapes implicated in the neoliberal politics of urban restructuring? Using contemporary Shanghai as a case study, this paper critically examines the role of the aesthetic in the politics of exclusion and urban segregation in post-Socialist Shanghai where the restructuring and commodification of erstwhile public welfare housing have led to the rapid development of private “middle-class” gated enclaves. A central objective of this paper is to excavate the underlying cultural politics of neoliberalism and demonstrate how the aestheticization of urban spaces in Shanghai has become increasingly intertwined with and accentuated by neoliberal ideologies and exclusionary practices in the city. Imbricated in the pristine neighborhoods of Shanghai's gated communities are the fault lines of social division and class distinction that are rapidly transforming urban China.

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