AFFINITIES Anarchism and Cultural Promotion
The idea of politics and culture integrated to the point of inter- changeability is both radical and idealistic. This is especially true of Shelley's conception of Poetry discussed in the previous chapter: that is, the root or radix of politics is the cultural ideal of Poetry. This romantic idea, however eccentric, anticipates some of the formulations of the relationship of politics and culture made by later anarchists. At first, the role of art in the anarchist revolution was limited to the documentary task of depicting reality as it is, to the faithful representation of those elements in society whose very ordinariness rendered them invisible to the bourgeois artiste. Along these lines Proudhon Du Principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale had urged the artist "to present the interaction between individual and environment" in order to help other individuals understand "the various values of existence." This conception of the artist as a realist observer who helped to educate the masses was modified by Kropotkin, who regarded the artist as the conscience of humanity, an individual whose creative contributions to society had the power to change it.1 By the end of the century, Jean Grave and Oscar Wilde, among others, imagined an anarchist utopia where everyone would have time to devote to art once the workday had been reduced to only a few hours, or even eliminated altogether. Where Proudhon urged the realist artist to observe society and Kropotkin charged the revolutionist with changing it, Grave imagined his utopian artist as the embodiment of society itself. In La Société future, Grave called art the "supreme manifestation of individualism"; cultural production was destined to become the primary activity in anarchist society since
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Publication information: Book title: Anarchy & Culture:The Aesthetic Politics of Modernism. Contributors: David Weir - Author. Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press. Place of publication: Amherst, MA. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 116.
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