After a brief inquiry into aesthetic theory, this article considers what role, if any, the beautiful has in political theory. It concludes that to think beauty has a political role is to confuse the beautiful with the charismatic. Beauty is contrasted with charisma through a reflection on how each distinguishes itself from ordinary temporal experience. Charisma and beauty both point to the transcendent, but they take different attitudes toward historical narrative. The beautiful resists narrative, showing itself as a sort of timelessness. The charismatic points to the entry of the transcendent into time as a founding moment. Political meaning is dependent upon a narrative of the sacred quality of foundations. That narrative gives the state its particularity and accounts for the plurality of politics. The atemporality of the beautiful founds a universal claim that is incommensurable with the particularity of narrative and the plural character of states.

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