abstract reason and religious truth, and governmental authority and
popular politics. There are parallels here with modernist initiatives
elsewhere. On the other hand, South Asian endeavors equally sieved such
concerns through distinct expressions of modernism, at once querying the
colonial connection with a (generally
bourgeois) modern, articulating the national dynamic with an (often
area. Béla Bartók anticipated such criticisms in his 1944 critique of ‘race purity in music’. He argued the race-national interpretation of restricted traditions were qualitatively inferior musically to the result of ‘impure’ intermixing of formerly peasant musics.
Adorno wrote approvingly in 1948 of Bartok's folk-influenced compositions in similar terms: ‘In contrast to the productions of Nazi blood and soil ideology, truly extra-territorial music … has a power of alienation that associates it with the avant-garde
investment in many
forms of art, including, of course, avant-garde ‘anti-art’ itself.
If all this seems rather confusing, now consider the following very diﬀerent
aspect of contemporary thought’s relationship to questions of subjectivity, of
the kind which I have tried to show are inextricably linked to aesthetics.
Philosophers who regard aesthetic and other culture as part of the realm of ‘folk
psychology’ – by which they mean our everyday ways of thinking about ourselves and our minds that cognitive science is supposed eventually to replace
with a physicalist explanatory
progression towards more and more autonomy from the social world. This is mirrored in a concern more and more for form rather than content, until we get to the complete ‘art for art’s sake’ or self-referential mentalities of much modernist art, the pure gaze: the autonomisation of art from its social conditions (but itself a social achievement) and the relative autonomisation of artists from patrons and ultimately – as with later avant-gardes – even from audiences themselves.
Take Bourdieu’s analysis of Flaubert and, before him, Baudelaire and the initial
Aestheticisation of commodities creates an increasingly diﬃcult situation for
serious artists who have often responded to it with a revolt against sensuous
beauty. Their need is to escape complicity with the adding of aesthetic pleasure
to exchange values and thus to sustain the notion of art as being independent of
appropriative interest and as a continuing challenge to established ways of
seeing. This is one root of the emergence of avant-garde art, which tries to
escape existing forms of communication and often makes no attempt to be sensuously pleasing. In
impressionism in Jean Rhys’s Quartet’,
in Elke Mettinger, Margarete Rubik and Jörg Türschmann (eds), Rive
Gauche: Paris as a Site of Avant-Garde Art and Cultural Exchange in the
1920s (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010), p. 86. The same can be said of the other
22 Rhys, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, p. 96.
23 Ibid., p. 17.
24 Kevin Aho talks of ‘moods as disclosive’: ‘For the existentialists, we do not
gain knowledge of the human situation through detached thought or rational
demonstration but through the affective experiences of the individual. We
and dialectical theorist, Adorno the follower of Hegel – and of Kant – rather than simply of Marx, and, of course, Adorno the avant-garde musicologist and die-hard enemy of jazz. But this is also not just a more difficult Adorno, it is the same Adorno – if an at times alarmingly intemperate, opinionated, miserable, fatalistic, utterly uncompromising Adorno. But this is not least of what is good about his work – its educational possibilities.
Miserabilism and hope
The overriding impression most people have on first encountering Adorno’s thought is
On the sociological paradoxes of weak dialectical formalism and embedded
reconciliation.23 This is partially explainable by the
fact that critical theory was initially articulated in response to the debacle of
Marxist theory in Soviet practice, and the failures of a number of avant-garde
aesthetic projects, such as Dada and surrealism, for example, to move beyond
liberal democracy by synthesising the spheres of aesthetic experience, polit
ical organisation, and pedagogical experimentation. Admittedly, the aesthetic
avant-garde of this period rarely, if ever, took seriously the proposal that this
Dilemmas of contemporary statehood
the modernist avant-gardes, Greenberg regarded this development as tied to the pursuit of critique. Modernist painting, for instance, is concerned with the critique of the existing conventions of painting. Cavell takes up this idea but modifies Greenberg’s emphasis on there being any essential vocation to painting, for instance to do with the flatness of the painted surface, but he might be said to preserve the essence of Greenberg’s own argument. 23 For Cavell, modernist painting is the ongoing interrogation of conventions in painting. Modernist painters, in so
Democratic state, capitalist society, or dysfunctional
possibility of confronting ruling class ideas
with more stringent ideas presupposed hierarchical structures of power and
authority particular to segmented societies. In the era prior to pervasive FD,
trenchant critique appeared to depend on the existence of an almost intrinsically critical and avant-garde perspective voiced from outside of the main
institutional mediations between the hegemonic and subordinate cultures
and classes in the public sphere and civil society, such as unions, parties,
universities, the mainstream media, and the like. The first generation of