Aesthetics and Politics

Aesthetics and Politics No Other Country And No Other Period Has Produced A Tradition Of Major Aesthetic Debate To Compare With That Which Unfolded In German Culture From The S To The S In Aesthetics And Politics The Key Texts Of The Great Marxist Controversies Over Literature And Art During These Years Are Assembled In A Single Volume They Do Not Form A Disparate Collection But A Continuous, Interlinked Debate Between Thinkers Who Have Become Giants Of Twentieth Century Intellectual History

Hans Georg Gadamer, Adorno had even greater influence on scholars and intellectuals in postwar Germany In the 1960s he was the most prominent challenger to both

➵ [Read] ➯ Aesthetics and Politics By Theodor W. Adorno ✤ –
  • Hardcover
  • 220 pages
  • Aesthetics and Politics
  • Theodor W. Adorno
  • English
  • 03 April 2019
  • 9781844676644

10 thoughts on “Aesthetics and Politics

  1. says:

    Like many of the reviewers on here, I have always found this book extremely useful in how it establishes the terms of debates around Marxist aesthetics for key European critics This reading, however, I did something different from how I ve approached the book in the past Eschewing the lovely Germans and their feistiness, I opted instead to read Jameson s introductory notes as one continuous essay This helped to foreground a few very important distinctions that often get missed, particularly by the contemporary reader First, it s important to remember that this book came out in 1977, at a moment of tremendous transition from the radicalism of the post 68 generation and the postmodernism of the 80s Jameson, as we know, would play a key role in theorizing that transition In many respects, his notes in this volume set the stage for exactly that project.With that in mind, it s useful to not lose site of the still smoldering urgency of the revolutionary milieu that began in the early 1960s and continued up until Reagan s election in 1980 The point was not that all art needed to engage the politics or that it needed to be Marxist The point, at least for Jameson, was what is the role of art and therefore, aesthetics in the revolutionary milieu Hence, the central figures in that debate would be Brecht and Lukacs both of whom participated directly in the internationalist movement of Europe and had a direct stake in the debate about Marxist aesthetics To emphasize this point, Jameson reminds us that Adorno occupied a profoundly different position in the years of the Cold War Although nominally a Marxist, Adorno s place in a kind of Social Democratic Western Marxism had long abandoned any interest in or sympathy for the revolutionary milieu of either Brecht or Lukacs A fact made all the pointed when Jameson reminds us of how Adorno s own material conditions as an academic drew direct support from liberal anti communist institutions, like the CIA For the revolutionary milieu, whose echoes could still be heard in 1977, the need for a radical aesthetics drove many to the debates between Brecht and Lukacs In terms of the former, Brecht s essays on aesthetics had just been collected and published for the first time in 1967 on the eve of the events And Lukacz would make a tremendous impact on radical intellectuals through the publication of his HISTORY AND CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 1968, tr 1971 For the contemporary reader, think about it this way the whole of radical cinema e.g Godard and Third Cinema and even certain artistic practices embraced Brecht s ideas as the key to formulating a radical artistic praxis Conversely, radicals like Guy Debord and the Situationists adopted Lukacs s analysis of reification as the very basis of a critique of spectacle culture Hence, the Brecht Lukacs debate was, in fact, a lens through which artists and intellectuals like Jameson made sense of their present historical moment.For that reason, in terms of a revolutionary aesthetics, the high low culture debates of the 1950s and early 60s in which Adorno figured prominently seemed increasingly old hat and irrelevant It s also useful to keep in mind some of the historical blindnesses that inform Jameson s own analysis As he readily admits, his own framework as a critic is clearly the West Consequently, it is excruciating to read the extent to which that framework limits his own analysis While one might appreciate the criticism that Brecht never theorized a general aesthetics beyond a justification for his own practice, it s hard to take seriously Jameson s claim that the political failure of Godard signals the failure of Brechtian aesthetics in general I can only hope that sometime after 1977 Jameson encountered the Third Cinema movement which not only realized Brecht s ideas but dramatically surpassed them through a process of realist engagement just of the sort Jameson advocates In fact, a useful follow up to AESTHETICS AND POLITICS would be a rigorous study of how the Lukacs Brecht debate shaped the post colonial and anti imperialist practices of African and Latin American creators In those contexts, the stakes of on going revolutionary struggle approach the binary of Realism and Modernism not as opposing sides in a grand contest, but two terms in need to be dialecticized This is, exactly what we find in much of Third Cinema.Finally, one last note that really stood out for me by reading straight through Jameson s comments In reviewing the different positions between Brecht and his critics in Adorno and Lukacs, Jameson makes the salient point that it is the former who has a far clear idea of the role of aesthetics within politics While the critics expect for the art object to fully demonstrate a radical aesthetics, Brecht is modest It is, after all, in the theater, with an audience and in relationship to a larger political context that the radicalism of any art object becomes apparent But of course, accepting this fact means that the critic must not only consider the object in itself but also its context in time and place But doing so escapes the traditional purview of aesthetics and begins too much to sound like sociology Thus, the art critic has to invent the object in order to identify its failures in realizing a radical aesthetic This is a lesson that critics to this day seem not to be able to learn And, as a result, artists adopt the lie that the work of art must be political in itself if it is to pass for radical Their own participation in politics, and the politics of the object in its social reception and activation, these considerations all too often fall from view Jameson, of course, is not beyond entering into the same mistake The insistence that a revolutionary aesthetic must engage the Realism versus Modernist abstraction debate, fails to raise the pressing and, for artists, practical consideration how do these terms shape an aesthetics of reception

  2. says:

    This book combines two recently discovered favourites of mine literary theory, and Marxist theory Of course, the two have obvious overlap, but I d never seen them united and so beautifully woven together until I read this book The chapters here are mostly essays or letters by the people mentioned on the title page, and you ll get value out of this book if you ve read their longer texts first, but it s not necessary you can always read them afterwards if you want to better understand the context.My favourite things about this book the peeks into Benjamin and Brecht s relationship as provided by Benjamin s wonderful diary entries the absolutely savage but no less cultured way these men attack each other s theories I wish MY critics addressed me the way Adorno does his friends it s like getting stabbed with a stunningly elegant knife, which of course still hurts but at least you can admire its beauty the remarkable ease with which aesthetic concepts are merged with political ones in their arguments I now want to read everything related to the Frankfurt School that I can get my hands on.On a completely tangential and very personal note, I m so jealous of the people who were introduced to this kind of stuff in college or, a fortiori, earlier in life, through parents or teachers The closest I had teacher wise was a high school IB English HL teacher who pointed us in the direction of the deconstructionists but never went so far as to actually deconstruct, so to speak, their theories for us They weren t required knowledge for the IB assessment, so I remember learning the phrase death of the author and leaving it at that Parent wise, mine had completed the unimaginably difficult task of immigrating from the depths of rural China to the West and thus had, understandably, very little interest in Western philosophy or politics My dad did happen to be a card carrying member of the Communist Party of China, but of course that means something very different when that party is actually the ruling party and really only party of the country you live in, rather than a fringe movement that appeals mostly to disaffected youth In any case, I got the impression it was of a shrewd career move than a sincere political belief.All this to say that I had little exposure to anything remotely approaching critical theory until very recently About a year ago, I was two years into a presumed life sentence at a tech startup whose premise I had absolutely zero faith in I was completely unhappy with what I was doing and could no longer see something to look forward to with my career Everything that I had put so much effort into for the last two years was melting into air, and I was lost, resigned, adrift in an ocean of meaningless customer acquisition targets It felt like I was at one of those sushi places with a conveyer belt but, like, the kitchen was closed, and I was just sitting there watching the conveyer belt go round and round, hoping against hope that the dish I wanted would turn up but instead seeing the same unappetising options displayed over and over.So I started to rediscover an old passion books At first it was merely a refuge from the exigencies of a stultifying 9 5, but I soon realised I was hooked Two main paths emerged David Foster Wallace and literary criticism thereof , and critiques of the current socioeconomic system The latter path began with the fairly milquetoast mea culpas of mainstream economists wringing their hands over the 2008 crisis, but I have now reached the wonderful heights of critical theory Surprisingly, at least to me, the two paths intersected quite a bit, in terms of vocabulary used, philosophers mentioned, and ideas explored Both paths brought me, or less simultaneously, to Frankfurt School theories, which, so far, seems to me like the apotheosis of both paths.Wow, so this review turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would So yeah, my message to anyone who sees this read , and don t be afraid of going down rabbit holes You just might discover a part of yourself you ll want to nourish.

  3. says:

    lukacs has some points but he is very easy to misunderstand lots of bs from adorno the interludes were awesome brecht was painfully clear headed and sharp benjamin knows how to ignore adorno jameson s summary was awesome.

  4. says:

    If you think Marxism and art have nothing in common save propaganda posters, you re probably not going to want to read this book anyway It s dense, and pitched as a battle amongst those modern Marxist aesthetes who shaped the debates on art as a political medium Don t expect to find anything like consensus here although Adorno seems to be the last word, it really is Benjamin whose thoughts seem most beautiful, lucid and free of intellectualism in other words, most like an artist himself.

  5. says:

    Compact introduction to the Frankfurt School on the relation of art to politics If one must take a side, always choose the side of the artist creator over that of the critic interpreter.

  6. says:

    here s a compilation of each battle round one ernst bloch vs georg luk cs winner luk cs by sheer sassiness round two bertolt brecht vs walter benjamin brecht worries about trashing l kacs while benjamin talks about how much brecht likes to talk about himself so we ll call this a tie round three theodor adorno vs walter benjamin both very polite while mentioning things they don t agree with the round would have gone to adorno for suggesting calling benjamin s essay the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction but this one has to go to benjamin for calling adorno teddy round four theodor adorno vs theodor adorno adorno replying to the void, aren t we the real winners here

  7. says:

    Still surprisingly apt, even with so much time that has passed This is a well constructed collection of letter and papers on the role of art and its interaction with political thought action If you think art matters, but sometimes have a hard time articulating how or why, this book provides some nice theoretical exploration of just those issues.Special appreciation must be given to the written introductions to each exchange, establishing the stakes and particular points of disagreement Fredric Jameson s Afterword is an excellent summary, and also explains clearly why these discussions still matter.It s a forbidding title, but the books contents make it almost a page turner.

  8. says:

    This is my third time actually going through this text I borrowed it on curiosity from a friend of mine and tried to give it a good going over I think i understood what I was reading well enough but the aracana and the historical jargon was a little distancing I find a lot of marxist theory can be like that, frustratingly so I d like to learn it , be conversant in it, my sympathies are definitely on that side of the spectrum at least, in the realm of politics and history I m not so very certain there is a non mystical, hermetically sealed way to read history without bumping into huge Hegelian discourses about the World Spirit and Weltanschaung and what you will I find that interesting material, certainly, but thinking along those catergories is better as a solitary discipline than a broadening appraisal Otherwise it s too Germanic, too murky, too heavy on the specialization to be used effectively and pragmatically Thus to Marx, to materialism I like the way it levels the playing field of discourses, too, in that it unearths the constructions which are as someone said of Chaucer s irony too large to be seen I like the empirical understanding of the making, working, fashioning, selling dialectic going on all the time It s fruitful and penetrative when dealing with large structures and mainstream dialogue yeah, ok, big shot but who s the guy in the basement shoveling coal into your furnace Cuts out a lot of the bullshit about market opportunities, transitional labor forces, neo democracy, whatever Nuts and bolts, people.wWhen it comes to aesthetic theory, though, the nuts and bolts appraoch begins to falter Let s not politicize our art and especially our artists underlined even so when it comes to doing it as it were from the outside If one decides a certain kind of literature or literary style is or less politically expedient that s of course one s right as a reader but all too often I think it s about putting shoes on a horse Ideology might empower and engage an artist, certainly, but I think by its very nature art contradicts ideological pretenses by being an aspect of the human consciousness, the human presence We are too frisky, as beings, for all that It s vey hard to accurately pin down someone within a matrix, assuming that their experience on this planet is in any level sufficiently realized and vivid A dot moving on a horizon has a universe within it, yet it would be mighty hard to preceive that universe in all its variety and depth unless it begins to speak or be confronted byart Art is or should be our way of creating an added provocation to our everyday life It s an enhancer, an enricher, the way that color on a wall changes the way you percieve the wall itself So when we start to theorize about the arts it s really no than art appreiciation non gustibus debutantum est, naturally, which is why it s so much fun to argue about But there s no really totalizing theory of art, or can be, so long as people s consciousness is consistently at play New forms emerge, they can t help but do so Theory is made to be broken Who would want a world where art is made to suit theoretical priorities Well.The dialogue here is very intense, complex, and cultivated We ve got an assembly of heavyweights here I think it might be fair to say that between them you ve got at least a large chunk of the nucelus of 20th Century intellectual thought The arguements come fast and quick, build and finish The first time through, you start to feel that the person who has just finished speaking has pretty much nailed it outright they have taken up all the different critiques into their statement, developed the thesis sufficiently enough that it nails home the issue at hand for all time Then the next one comes through and lo and behold Lukacs has told Bloch precisely where to stick it THen Adorno cleans Lukacs reductive, pompous, partisan smirk right off his face Benjamin makes luminous sense in his own right, of course, but doesn t go for the kill as if he ever did The meat of it for me at least is in one of the buttressing Presentations where the unnamed editors describe the upcoming debate for the reader, and say essentially that Brecht is going to outline a position with a lot of experiential value but one that also happens to be theoretically weak Adorno I think it s him, at any rate has a stronger theoretical stance, but doesn t have as much application to match it up Riiiight.Great, well you know if you re going to come up with theories about artistic engagement with the political sphere, how we can enact positive changes in the body politic through the mass accessibility of our art, well then maybe the insights of the ACTUAL ARTIST in the bunch might be a little pressing than those of partisans or theoreticians Lukacs, Adorno, Benjamin never wrote anything creative that I ve ever heard about Brecht s literally putting on plays for the workers in the flesh and gauging their reactions.Not to discount the importance of theory without an intellectual framework there is a lack of justification for things Plus it inspires people, pushes the discourse further, it changes language, thought, etc OK sure Theory is important But I have to take issue with the idea that artists who are engaged in the social arena along clearly expresed political sympathies might have something valuable to say than what theory might dictate on a blackboard Brecht takes a sarcastic ease in addressing the challenges of the other theorists, explaining at point how for him as reader and as a writer it isn t so much important how you get there as an artist, or what you want to depict people do it in different ways, that s all Workers don t give a shit if the play they see is culturally within the field of their discourse as much as if it moves them, speaks to them, penetrates into their inner world If politics comes back out of the other side, so much the better, but let s not put the theoretical cart before the horse by condemming things people do who are in an entirely different arena Everyone s a critic, and everyone should be allowed to be, but not all criticism is created equal.

  9. says:

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  10. says:

    It is really interesting reading such opposing views about the role of communism in the arts However some of them are such extreme views that seem to be very limited and not open to other interpretations of art or communism It is also quite a hard book to understand if one does not have any background in art and artistic movements Mainly focused on the debate between the legitimacy of realism vs abstract art in connection to the communist ideal Depending on the views of the reader, certain chapters philosophers, might appeal than others, but in general one will find interesting perspectives throughout the whole book.

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