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Marxisms. Classical Marxism Cultural artifacts must be examined in relation to historical conditions of production Society is shaped by “modes of production”

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Presentation on theme: "Marxisms. Classical Marxism Cultural artifacts must be examined in relation to historical conditions of production Society is shaped by “modes of production”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Marxisms

2 Classical Marxism Cultural artifacts must be examined in relation to historical conditions of production Society is shaped by “modes of production” or the way in which people meet material needs. “ Modes of production” determine relationships between producers and owners (peasant/lord, proletariat/bourgeoisie) as well as political/cultural shape of society.

3 “modes of production” and “relations of production” compose a society’s “base.” Institutions and modes of consciousness compose “superstructure” “Superstructure legitimizes base. “Base” conditions superstructure. The ruling class in a society is also the intellectual class. Their ideas/values shape what is considered “universal”. Marxist cultural analysis situates artwork within the historical conditions of its production. (i.e. Raul Zurita writing during Chilean dictatorship)

4 Frankfurt School Term refers to a group of German Marxist intellectuals associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt between 1923-1933. Group included Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Leo Lowenthal, Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm among others. Interested in the intersection of Marxist ideas and culture. Originated what is often called “Critical Theory”

5 The negative view of popular culture Storey associates with the F.S. come mostly from Adorno, Lowenthal, Marcuse and Horkheimer. Benjamin (and his student Bertolt Brecht) had a more positive view of its potential. Adorno et. al. view mass culture as a tool of the system, designed to manipulate the masses and keep them from desiring change. Benjamin and Brecht see it as holding the potential for revolutionary change.

6 Negative View: ◦ Mass-culture is homogenous and predictable “All mass culture is identical” (Adorno and Hockheimer) ◦ Masses caught in a “circle of manupulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows even stronger” (A & H) ◦ Mass-culture bombards working class with fantasies of “wealth, adventure, passionate love, power and sensationalism” which can only be fulfilled by Capitalism (Lowenthal) ◦ Replaces the “utopian function” of religion (Horkheimer) ◦ Allows for a release from the stresses of the system in order to perpetuate the system. ◦ Strips “authentic culture” of its critical potential. (Marcuse)

7 Positive Views ◦ “Capitalism will ultimately create the conditions which would make it possible to abolish capitalism itself.” (Walter Benjamin “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” ◦ On the one hand, mechanical reproduction disconnects artwork from its “aura” or “presence in time and space”, its association with tradition, history and ritual. ◦ ◦ On the other hand, this disconnection also liberates the work from “ritual” and “authority”, allowing it to become “political”. ◦ “Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art. The reactionary attitude toward a Picasso painting changes into the progressive reaction toward a Chaplin movie. The progressive reaction is characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert. Such fusion is of great social significance. The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public.” ◦

8 Bertolt Brecht Bertolt Brecht, a student of Benjamin’s supported both innovations in art and working class creativity. Brecht believed popular culture could be marshalled to revolutionary ends. Art could be used to provoke reflection and critical perspectives of reality

9 Brecht/Lukacs Debate Refers to a series of essays written amongst Brecht, Georg Lukacs and the Frankfurt School on modernist aesthetics and social art. Originally published in Das Wort in 1938. The entire debate has been published by Frederic Jameson as Aesthetics and Politics Lukacs essay “Realism in the Balance” criticizes modernism and expressionism. Argues that only realist writers who seek to articulate society in its totality can be “revolutionary” “If literature is a particular form by means of which objective reality is reflected, then it becomes of crucial importance for it to grasp that reality as it truly is”

10 Brecht debates Lukacs’ on several points ◦ Lukacs’ response to capitalist alienation involves going back to “classics” instead of forward to “innovation” ◦ Lukacs’ concept of “realism” limits itself to a few bourgeois novels of the past century. ◦ “reality” can be represented through multiple genres/voices/methods. ◦ Any work of art can be “formalist” if it fails to penetrate into social conditions. ◦ Innovations help to mediate differences between “editorial” (message) and “plot” (artistic structure)

11 Brecht v. Lukacs cont’d ◦ Popular art and realism are linked ◦ “Popular” can be a reactionary concept if not “cleansed” of “poetical forms” that “endow” the working class with “unchanging characteristics” ◦ “Popular” means “intelligible to the broad masses, adopting and enriching their forms of expression, assuming their standpoint.” ◦ “Realism” also must reflect the “changing reality” of the working classes and not “tried rules and models”. ◦ “The truth can be suppressed in many ways and must be expressed in many objective and imaginative forms.”

12 Antonio Gramsci Gramsci like Brecht believed in the creative agency of the working classes. Gramscian Marxism influenced cultural studies, particularly in terms of its concepts of hegemony and the role of the intellectual. Hegemony involves “rule by consensus” or the process of negotiation between classes to maintain social structure.

13 Class contact is managed and channeled through “ideologically safe harbours” Social stability involves “negotiation” between “incorporation” and “opposition” (ex. Caribbean patois) Hegemony is sustained by “organic intellectuals” (people/institutions) Popular artists create out of their consumption of cultural texts, first as opposition, then as incorporation.

14 Popular culture is thus neither an imposed system of manipulation, (Frankfurt School) nor a sign of social breakdown (Matthew Arnold). But rather, it is a mix of “intentions and counter intentions”, “authenticity” and “commercialism”, “above” and “below”. “Articulation” (use) determines cultural significance as much as production. The cultural field is marked by the struggle to articulate, disarticulate and rearticulate cultural products for certain ideologies and politics.

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