The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

Excerpt

This essay seeks to contribute to Marxist aesthetics through questioning its predominant orthodoxy. By "orthodoxy" I understand the interpretation of the quality and truth of a work of art in terms of the totality of the prevailing relations of production. Specifically, this interpretation holds that the work of art represents the interests and world outlook of particular social classes in a more or less accurate manner.

My critique of this orthodoxy is grounded in Marxist theory inasmuch as it also views art in the context of the prevailing social relations, and ascribes to art a political function and a political potential. But in contrast to orthodox Marxist aesthetics I see the political potential of art in art itself, in the aesthetic form as such. Furthermore, I argue that by virtue of its aesthetic form, art is largely autonomous vis à vis the given social relations. In its autonomy art both protests these relations, and at the same time transcends them. Thereby art subverts the dominant consciousness, the ordinary experience.

Some preliminary remarks: although this essay speaks of "art" in general, my discussion is essentially focused on literature, primarily the literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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