Ideology and Art: Theories of Mass Culture from Walter Benjamin to Umberto Eco

By Robin Ridless | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The 1930's saw a great deal of debate among leading German Marxist theorists in the area of aesthetics. Georg Lukacs, Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht were all active contributors.1 Their writings take off in every direction from the nucleus of a general assumption: that art is, in some manner or form, political. Stemming from a common Hegelian heritage, in which "universal mind" reaches its potential in the context of the state through the instrumentalities of art, religion and philosophy, the belief prevailed among them that art was both a product and a reflection of the social totality of which it was a part.2 The question they pursued, then, was never "Is art political?" or "Does art reflect the basic social and economic facts of capitalist society?"--a question to which they would have unanimously assented--but rather "Which art is progressive, which reactionary?" Or to clarify those ambiguous terms, "Which art expresses and promotes a revolutionary working class consciousness and which obscures the fundamental nature of class and

____________________
1
Ernst Bloch et al., Aesthetics and Politics, trans. and ed. Ronald Taylor ( London: New Left Books, 1977).
2
G. W. F. Hegel, Hegel's Philosophy of Right, T. M. Knox ( London: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 216-24.

-vii-

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