I claim, that we deal with the political (and politics: a stricter division of these terms seems to me merely academic) when some people, in the name of a given worldview, (try to) impose, dictate, promote, and/or persuade—with different scale of intensification—values, norms, and ways of thinking upon other people. Most effectively, this imposition (and dictation, promotion, and/or persuasion) takes place by means of the institutionalized forms of socio-political life: the cultural policy, the education system, the mass media, religion, moralities, the policies practiced by particular governments, and many others, and this does not take place exclusively in democratic countries. Most probably any socio-political system, be it democratic or theocratic, old or modern, Western or Eastern must philosophically justify—by its most vocal institutions, authority figures, and specific agendas—its basic axiological assumptions about what is good, true, and beautiful, if we want to use the vocabulary of classic thought in this case. In this way, we deal with different types of impositions, the dictation, the promotion, and/or the persuasion of a given way, or ways, of thinking upon others, as regards ethics, public affairs, the role of the individual in social life, liberties, and a great variety of other problems.
Aesthetics and the fine arts encapsulate these themes directly or indirectly, and “the great works of art” are essential in this encapsulation when seen as normative: they show the morally noble and ignoble stances of their protagonists (in literature, film), they provide symbols to be recognized by many members of the public, and themselves are seen as artistic masterpieces to be studied at schools and referred to at public celebrations, as opposed to other works, which are labeled as low culture and ignored in the process of education and elsewhere. All such axiological notions (“noble,” “ignoble,” “masterpiece”) refer, openly or not, to this or that pre-established framework of ideas, to this or that hierarchy of values, and to this or that system of norms to be obeyed, and, at this point, the aesthetic and the political meet most frequently.
The political aspects of aesthetics—and the aesthetic aspects of the political life—are numerous and multi-dimensional; at the same time, we can talk about different scales of this interrelationship, its levels, styles and narratives. The artist’s unavoidableness in a political involvement does not necessarily mean that s/he is deemed to condemn (or support) a given politician, a given political party, a political system, and convert his/her output into a para-political phenomenon, although this can take place too. A less conspicuous involvement will be a selection of topics to which s/he devotes his/her attention; for example, a focus upon the types and scope of freedom available for an individual can be a strong demonstration of a political engagement in any system. In such a case, the artist assumes a stance toward some problems that can be translated, more or less clearly and more or less directly, into the problematics taken on within the strictly political life.