Day 80: Art as Alienation

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Dear all,

today I will just quickly provide you with a brief ‘Marcuse for the Day’ and then get back to my chapter. I promised myself I would have a good writing day today. Let’s see how that goes.

Today’s quote contains a relatively standard Frankfurt School gesture toward what appears to be a lost separation between art and mainstream capitalist culture. The value of this has been debated (as it carries with it the burden of nostalgia), but the argument still apears to contain a spark that may be interesting to consider in relation to today’s situation. Btw: the picture above, complete with SDS aesthetic and nostalgia of its own, is just a quick and dirty example of what one could use as an entry into this discussion (even though it doubtlessly gets ore complicated from thereon out). So here it goes:

What has changed in the contemporary period is the difference between the two orders [art and business] and their truths. The absorbent power of society depletes the artistic dimension by assimilating its antagonistic contents. In the realm of culture, the new totalitarianism manifests itself precisely in a harmonizing pluralism, where the most contradictory works and truths peacefully coexist in indifference.

Prior to the advent of this cultural reconciliation, literature and art were essentially alienation, sustaining and protecting the contradiction–the unhappy consciousness of the divided world, the defeated possibilities, the hopes unfulfilled, and the promises betrayed. They were a rational, cognitive force, revealing a dimension of man and nature which was repressed and repelled in reality.

P.S.: has the following ever happened to anyone else? You wear a Che shirt and someone says: “cool, Rage Against the Machine.” Happens way too often and actually tells me that I should not even be mad, as there is no political difference between both shirts. I have seen one that morphed the famous Che picture with Mickey Mouse and I had to realize that I should not be offended, as both Che and Mickey Mouse have the same political function in today’s US.

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2 Comments

  1. Btw, where is this quote from? One-Dimensional Man?

  2. sorry! yes, it is from _one-dimensional man_. (as is the first quote i posted).


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