The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics

Herbert Marcuse

Language: English

Pages: 45


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Developing a concept briefly introduced in Counterrevolution and Revolt, Marcuse here addresses the shortcomings of Marxist aesthetic theory and explores a dialectical aesthetic in which art functions as the conscience of society. Marcuse argues that art is the only form or expression that can take up where religion and philosophy fail and contends that aesthetics offers the last refuge for two-dimensional criticism in a one-dimensional society.

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particular field where art could preserve its autonomy. Nor would it do to seek out a cultural area not yet occupied by the established society. Attempts have been made to argue that pornography and the obscene are islands of nonconformist communication. But such privileged areas do not exist. Both obscenity and pornography have long since been integrated. As commodities they too communicate the repressive whole. Neither is the truth of art a matter of style alone. There is in art an abstract,

Mohr, 1970). Sartre, Jean-Paul, On a raison de se révolter (Paris: Gallimard, 1974). Index Please note that page numbers are not accurate for the e-book edition. Adorno, Theodor W.: 12, 30–31, 67 and preserving anguish in art, 60–61 Aesthetic form: abandonment of, 49, 52 and affirmative art, 58–60 and autonomy of art, ix, 8–9, 41, 49, 52–53 Brecht on, 43 and depiction of fascism, 64 and promise of liberation, 46 and sublimation of reality, 7, 55 Aesthetics: bourgeois and beautiful

Lu: 12 Marx, Karl: 3, 11, 15, 16, 55, 74n.8 Marxism: ix, 17, 70 Material base, art and: 1, 3 Media, juxtaposition of: 50 Medieval epic, continued esteem for: 15 Mimesis: critical, 46 in literature, 45 memory and, 67 renunciation of in anti-art, 50–51 and transformation of reality, 44–45, 47–48, 63–64 without transformation of reality, 51 Les Miserables (Hugo): 23 Monopoly capitalism: 27, 34 destructiveness of, xi and social change, 37 Montage: 51 La Mort des Pauvres: 68 Mother

context of the respective work. The circularity of this method is obvious. In addition it falls victim to an easy relativism which is contradicted clearly enough by the permanence of certain qualities of art through all changes of style and historical periods (transcendence, estrangement, aesthetic order, manifestations of the beautiful). The fact that a work truly represents the interests or the outlook of the proletariat or of the bourgeoisie does not yet make it an authentic work of art. This

We envision a people which makes history, which changes the world and itself. We have a fighting people before our eyes . . .”20 But in the advanced capitalist countries this “part of the people” is not “the people,” not the large mass of the dependent population. Rather, “the people” as defined by Brecht would be a minority of the people, opposed to this mass, a militant minority. If art is supposed to be committed not only to this minority but to the people, then it is not clear why the writer

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