Abstract

This essay takes as a starting point the modern influence of Scottish philosopher Adam Smith's notion of the “invisible hand” in economics, and its relationship to police and policing, to trace the power relationships and aesthetic theories embedded in both in their 18th-century origins. Smith repeatedly frames the concept of the invisible hand in aesthetic terms, as does (in a different way) his devotee, neoliberal evangelist Milton Friedman. He also connects it at the outset with the then-current definition of the word “police” as both political order and refinement (etymologically connected to “polish”). An archaeology of both concepts leads to a final question: To what extent does our current understanding of “art” require a kind of order that can only come from “police”?

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