Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is there a Marxist aesthetic?

Sinead Kennedy’s introduction to the Marxist approach to art (Socialist Worker 15 July) was very good. She is right about the need to combine politics/ideology and aesthetics without simply reducing art to ideology.

Trotsky said that ‘Art must be judged first by the laws of art’, but he didn’t say what those ‘laws’ are, and the enormous differences in the art of different societies and times mean they cannot be a fixed set of rules.

So is there a Marxist aesthetic, ie a distinctive Marxist theory of what makes a work of art artistically good ? I think there is and that its starting point lies in Marx’s key proposition that art is part of the superstructure of society which arises on and is conditioned by the economic base, the forces and relations of production.

These core relations of production shape and condition a multitude of other social relations - political, personal, sexual and so on. They range from how a courtier looks at a king and vice versa, to how people have sex and the relations between parents and children; from how the individual relates to society to how people relate to nature; from the life of the village to the life of the metropolis.

These relations form the stuff of our lived experience and the raw material of art. Good or great art is art which achieves a precise ( the precision extends to the individual word, brushstroke or note), moving and critical representation of, and response to, such relations, especially when they are new or changing.

This can be done from a variety of political standpoints and in many different forms but it is the common core which links Shakespeare and Beckett, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Tracey Emin, Mozart, Coltrane and The Clash.


This was a letter to Socialist Worker.

3 comments:

David McCullough said...

A Marxist aesthetic will give a dynamic account of perception. "Dynamic" is just a more everyday word for "dialectic." Most of the writings in cognitive science nowadays lay out in detail some of the underlying physical ("material") conditions of perception, making them of interest to Marxists. But for a really interactive concept of aesthetic peception one should take a look at Croce. Croce was an Idealist, but you can borrow from the Aesthetic (capitalized because it's the name of his book)without buying into idealism.

Part of a Marxist aesthetic would be simply critical, e.g. describing the many mechanisms by which our perception, intuition and cognition of objects is constrained by material conditions, social class, ideology, etc. You can be quite sure that you and George Bush would never view a movie in the same way.

As for art, the Marxist's job is to differentiate art from commodities, the latter being what easel painting, the art market and museum art are all about. The great socialist William Morris popularized the ideal of art integrated with life; the 60s took a step in that direction, e.g. Warhol, and then recommodified the results, e.g. Warhol.

David
Chunkingalong.blogspot.com

Ayo Sekolah said...

Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita
yach, kata tersebut adalah kalimat yang harus kita resapi bersama. Dengan slogan Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita semoga saja kita akan memperoleh semangat dan kehidupan yang lebih baik dari hari kehari. Yuk kita ramaikan Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita bersama zulfirman baik saya maupun anda. Kerja Keras Energi kita
Kontes Kerja Keras Energi Kita Keyword Energi kita

Ayo Sekolah said...

Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita
yach, kata tersebut adalah kalimat yang harus kita resapi bersama. Dengan slogan Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita semoga saja kita akan memperoleh semangat dan kehidupan yang lebih baik dari hari kehari. Yuk kita ramaikan Kerja Keras adalah Energi kita bersama zulfirman baik saya maupun anda. Kerja Keras Energi kita
Kontes Kerja Keras Energi Kita Keyword Energi kita