In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

154 the minnesota review Terry LoveU. Pictures ofReality: Aesthetics, Politics and Pleasure. London: British Film Institute, 1980. Ill pp. $2.95 (paper). Max Raphael. Proudhon, Marx, Picasso: Three Studies in the Sociology ofArt, translated by Inge Marcuse; edited, introduced, and with a bibliography by John Tagg. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1980. xv + 174 pp. $10.00 (cloth). The two books under review provide an opportunity to compare older and more famiUar forms of Marxist aesthetics (the fundamental commitment of which is focused in the subtitle of the Raphael volume — "sociology of art") with contemporary Marxist inquiries into the relationship between art and ideology that might be generally characterized as Althusserian. It should be emphasized, however, that this is not simply a comparison between old (and by implication outmoded) forms of Marxist analysis and newer, more sophisticated (and implicitly more correct) methods. Rather, what wiU be under examination here are two opposed theoretical programmes which both remain alive within contemporary Marxist aesthetics. Terry Lovell's book and the translation into English of three of Max Raphael's essays (written in 1933) aUow one to evalpate the strengths and Umitations of these two different programmes, at the same time that they provoke reflection upon the place of aesthetics within contemporary Marxism. In the introduction to Pictures ofReality, Terry LoveU makes this very distinction between Althusserian cultural analysis and the traditional Marxist project of sociology ofart, suggesting that the net effect of the Althusserian intervention within cultural studies (particularly in Britain, but also in France) has been to abandon altogether what one would have thought is the necessary goal of any Marxian inquiry into culture and aesthetics: to wit, the assessment of the function of cultural practices within a given social totality. Althusser's theorization of the semiautonomy of social practices 'not only licenses but enjoins specialization in the understanding of particular practices in their specificity before they can be studied in their articulation with the remaining practices of the social formation . Inevitably the second task is postponed to a last instance which never comes" (Pictures of Reality, p. 5). One of the goals of Terry Lovell's book is to redirect Marxist cultural studies away from Althusserianism via a defense of realist epistemology. Her itinerary inevitably takes one back over some familiar ground, the so-caUed Brecht-Lukacs debate of the 30s for example, as well as traversing some less weU travelled domains Uke the Hindess-Hirst extension of Althusser. These are undoubtedly areas of continuing interest and importance within contemporary Marxism, though whether Pictures ofReality makes an advance upon the critical assessments of CaUinicos (Althusser's Marxism) and Thompson ("The Poverty of Theory") is perhaps more dubious. Moreover, the assimilation of Marxism to contemporary epistemologica] realism in the philosophy of science raises the suspicion that, rather than theorizing the position of aesthetics within a general theory of social formations, Terry LoveU has instead organized her theory of society around the category of the aesthetic, which has been, at least since Kant, the foundational principle for realist epistemologies.The possibility of avoiding this move should not be taken for granted. The aesthetic has been a stumbling block for Marxism from its beginnings. The difficulties are exemplified in the famous passage on Greek art from the Einleitung zur Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (1857): But the difficulty lies not in understanding that the Greek arts and epic are bound up with certain forms of social development. The difficulty is that they still afford us artistic pleasure and that in a certain respect they count as a norm and as an unattainable model . . . The charm of their art for us is not in contradiction to the undeveloped stage of society on which it grew. [It] is its result, rather, and is inextricably bound up, rather, with the fact that the unripe social conditions under which it arose, and could alone arise, can never return. The passage is a crux, not merely for Marxist aesthetics, but for the very possibility of Marxism as a philosophical system. The weU-known fact that Marx's own speculations 155 reviews break off at just this point may give some indication of the difficulty which the problem of the aesthetic...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 154-156
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.