By Janet Wolff
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Extra resources for Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art
There are two aspects of the question of how art may represent a totalising vision in a fragmented society. The first is the need to explicate the specific historical conditions in which art, or particular artists, may be able to attain this vision. The second is the more fundamental question of the peculiar nature of art which renders it available for the transmission of such a vision. Lukacs gives some attention to the first of these, arguing, for example, that it was only in the progressive stage of capitalist development that writers could perceive and expose the nature of their society (see Lovell, 1980, p.
96), for Hadjinicolaou is concerned to stress the specificity of art (p. 97). His analysis of paintings as visual ideology pays close attention to details of style and composition, for it is in these representational features that ideology is produced. When he goes on to discuss aesthetic value and aesthetic 'effect', however, his account becomes more reductionist, for his materialist analysis of art leads him to conclude that aesthetic judgements derive from the aesthetic ideologies of social groups.
Many of Lukacs's arguments and assumptions have now been subjected to extensive debate and controversy: the notion of realism itself, the rejection of modernism as a politically and aesthetically valid form, the rather idiosyncratic preference for some authors over others, and so on. The issue I want to explore here is that of the nature of art which underlies Lukacs's 40 Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art work, and which produces art or literature as suitable, or even possible, vehicles for the critique of capitalism envisaged.