The Social History of Art - Vol. 4

By Arnold Hauser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
THE FILM AGE

The " twentieth century" begins after the First World War, that is to say, in the 'twenties, just as the "nineteenth century" did not begin until about 1830. But the war marks a turning point in the development only in so far as it provides an occasion for a choice between the existing possibilities. All three main trends in the art of the new century have their predecessors in the foregoing period: cubism in Cézanne and the neo-classicists, expressionism in Van Gogh and Strindberg, surrealism in Rimbaud and Lautréamont. The continuity of the artistic development corresponds to a certain steadiness in the economic and social history of the same period. Sombart limits the lifetime of high capitalism to a hundred and fifty years and makes it end with the outbreak of the war. He wants to interpret the system of cartels and trusts of the years 1895-1914 itself as a phenomenon of old age and as an omen of the impending crisis. But in the period before 1914 only the socialists speak of the collapse of capitalism, in bourgeois circles people are certainly aware of the socialist danger, but believe neither in the "internal contradictions" of the capitalist economy, nor in the impossibility of overcoming its occasional crises. In these circles there is no thought of a crisis in the system itself. The generally speaking confident frame of mind even continues in the first years after the end of the war and the atmosphere in the bourgeoisie is, apart from the lower middle class, which has to struggle against fearful odds, by no means hopeless. The real economic crisis begins in 1929 with the crash in America which brings the war and post-war boom to an end and unmistakably reveals the consequences of the lack of international planning of production and distribution. Now people suddenly begin to talk everywhere about the crisis of capitalism, the fail

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