To Hell with Culture, and Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture, and Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture, and Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture, and Other Essays on Art and Society

Excerpt

Several of these essays are reprinted from a war-time volume which I called The Politics of the Unpolitical. By that paradoxical title I meant to indicate that the artist always has loyalties that transcend the political divisions of the society in which he lives. It was not an acceptable point of view in 1943, and after the war it seemed to be for ever superseded by various doctrines of un art engagé--an art dedicated to the defence and propagation of 'a way of life'--the way of life, in our Western world, being understood as free enterprise in economics and democratic forms of government. The fate of art and literature in countries where these values were denied, the totalitarian countries, was the proof by negation of art's involvement in the great political struggle of our time. It was not merely a question of maintaining our political liberty: culture itself--our poetry, our painting, our architecture and music--was threatened by our political opponents and had to be defended.

This defensive attitude was forced on the intellectuals of the West by the cultural aggression of the communists. The inexorable laws of Dialectical Materialism, we were told, applied not only to the economic structure of capitalism, but also to its idealistic superstructure. Both alike would perish and be replaced by a new society with its new cultural ideals. I need not refer to the many dialectical analyses of art and literature which traced their stylistic evolution in phases parallel to society's economic evolution.

In so far as culture is a superficial phenomenon (an epiphenomenon, as these sociologists call it), this materialistic . . .

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