Can subjective, individual taste be reconciled with an objective, universal standard? Luc Ferry argues that this problem of aesthetic theory is fundamentally related to the political problem of democratic individualism. Ferry begins in the mid 1600s with the simultaneous invention of the notions of taste (the essence of art as subjective pleasure) and modern democracy (the idea of the State as a consensus among individuals). He explores the differences between subjectivity and individuality by examining aesthetic theory as developed first by Kant's predecessors and then by Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and proponents of the avant-garde. Ferry discerns two "moments" of the avant-garde aesthetic: the hyperindividualistic iconoclasm of creating something new, and the hyperrealistic striving to achieve an extraordinary truth. The tension between these preserves an essential element of the Enlightenment concern for reconciling the subjective and the objective - a problem at once aesthetic, ethical, and political. Rejecting "postmodern" proposals for either a radical break with or return to tradition, Ferry embraces a postmodernism that recasts enlightenment notions of value as a new intersubjectivity. His original analysis of the growth and decline of the modern avant-garde movement illuminates the connections between aesthetics, ethics, and political theory.