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A Statement of Militant Esthetix

A Talk given at The Aquarium Gallery, 29 August 2003

Ben Watson/Esther Leslie

Last Tuesday Andrew Burgin asked me why anyone who's been involved in politics as an SWP member for over twenty years and still holds to its politics, should bother with the Situationist International. It's a fair enough question. The issue of the Situationist International is far from settled in the SWP. At Marxism 2002, I recommended that comrades read Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. In his summing up Chris Harman objected, saying he thought Debord had nothing to say. His experience of situationism in England - ultraleft, destructive hooliganism in the student movement in the early 70s - has made him extremely bitter about it. After the meeting, two leading SWP members - Alex Callinicos and Sam Ashman - came and told me they thought Debord was well worth reading and Chris was being stupid.

On Politics: There is no politics - at least in the professionalised and alienated way in which it has come to be understood for us today - that is not already art, in the professionalised and alienated way. Politics is all acts of rhetoric, managed presentations, shows, shocks, scandals.

The ideas of the SI were formulated against a monolithic Communist Party with real stakes in the French capitalist system - it's therefore unsurprising that their ideas have found most fertile ground in Britain among anarchists and nihilists who act from abstract political principles rather than from assessing the situation facing the working class; for whom the SI's criticism of the "party form" is crucial rather than the SI's sharp polemic versus the collusions of left and radical intellectuals in bourgeois ideology - for which the party form actually provides the only corrective, because it forces mental and manual labourers to work together politically. The poor standard of situationist theory and practice this side of the channel gives anyone who espouses their ideas here real difficulties.

When the Situationist critique is adopted as a "politics" it suffers real distortions. Certainly, they discovered the workers' councils in Hungary in 1956. They applauded the Watts riots in August 1965. They attacked the French Communist Party for failing to do both things. When you read T.J. Clark today - the anarchist art historian who was briefly a member of the Situationist International - he persistently denounces "Leninist organisations" because they fail to recognise the meaning and efficacy of riots.His denunciations - SI politics from the 50s cryogenically frozen in time - don't acknowledge that Socialist Worker regularly carries articles on the workers' councils in Hungary and applauds every anti-police riot in Britain.In fact, the SI developed extremely good positions on workers' councils, riots, French imperialism in Algeria, on the nature of Russia and the Cold War - all of which are directly comparable to those of many Trotskyist organisations - but that isn't their distinctive contribution. Nor is it their position on the party, which it has in common with anarchists and liberals. The distinctive contribution of the SI was to take art seriously as a register of subjectivity, and the will understand it as part of working class struggle against capitalism.

On Art: There is no art that is not already political. The relationship is a pre-given, even if, as Walter Benjamin notes, it is forcefully present only by its loudly proclaimed absence or exclusion. Some art proclaims itself to be ‘above politics’ - it is not and can never be. Art - as it exists within our world - cannot avoid the relationship to the totality, which is to say it cannot avoid implying the entire social relations in which it exists, because that is its ground.

Some art is - or increasingly was, made explicitly for political reasons - and most usually, since the latter part of the 19th century, its motivation is socialist or communist. For this art there are three ways in which politics is manifest.

Art’s politics may emerge in terms of content - heroic workers, miserable workers, labour in process, great revolutionary leaders, great moments of revolutionary history, or the personal - babies’ nappies, sexual histories, domestic spaces, boredom and oppression - all exposed to the light of scrutiny for political ends.

Art’s politics may be borne in its formal structures - for example, photomontage as analogue of the dialectic, socialist realist painting as privileged mode of shadowing the upstoppable victory of the proletariat, epic theatre as mirroring human processes of ratiocination, or ethnic folk art as assertion of alternative anti-modern values.

Or politics may be asserted in art through techniques of making - such as photography and its implied democratic referent, film and its relation to analytical penetration of a social field, embroidery as feminist statement, ordinary house paint or chalk used instead of bourgeois oil paint, posters, graffiti and stickers, these mass-reproduced formats countering the very uniqueness of art itself.

The declared aim of the situationists was to transcend the division between art and politics. Although they generated publicity by attacking the surrealists - famously denouncing Charlie Chaplin when the surrealists were fêting his visit to Paris - they were returning to their core argument: that in an exploitative society, the production of art isn't enough. The situationists had no time for the petty production of semi-pornographic oil-paintings and illustrated journals which surrealism had become. Young people have a natural antipathy to pornography because it represents rather than enabling sexual action. Debord understood the huge aesthetic kick to be derived from destroying meaning in art, a sensitivity to the abject and contingent which is directly comparable to the assault on theatrical value by Beckett and philosophical value in Adorno.

The question of politics in artworks should never be one of the political tendency of an artwork’s content. Nor should the class nature of art be traced back to the class origin of the producer. Both these stances are errors derived from Stalinist art criticism. Stalinist cultural politics demanded reflection in artistic content of social contents (that is, classes and class relations). In Stalinist Russia the artist officially received the classification engineer: ‘the engineer of human souls’. This appeal to Great Realism marked a return to cultural tradition. Cultural tradition denoted the heritage of the nineteenth century, and the work of its rightful descendants. It betokened the promotion of classical values of harmony, heroism and grandeur. Stalinist aesthetics roll back the discoveries of the technophilic revolutionary avant-garde of the early post-revolution years. Though it draws in part on an avant-garde language inspired by machinery and mechanics, socialist realism ranks the intelligibility of content above form, and its images are sugary and romanticized, showing rosy-cheeked, happy peasants as often as they show smoke-billowing factory stacks. Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht could see this, where many others couldn’t. Of Lukács, Gabor and Kurella, the leading communist literary critics, Benjamin says ‘with these people no state can be formed’. Brecht’s reply:

Or only a state, but no communality. They are simply enemies of production. Production gives them the creeps. It cannot be trusted. It is unpredictable. One never knows what will come out of it. And they themselves do not want to produce. They want to play apparatchiks and control others. Each of their criticisms contains a threat.

Brecht cuts to the quick, specifying the bureaucratic mind-casts of the Stalin-friendly hacks who defend the centralized control of industrial production as much as they dictate the forms and contents of cultural production. Self-activity - or production - scares them. Self-activity implies workers’ activity rather than diktat from above. Autonomy unbalances the hoped-for sureties of the five-year plans. Instead, bourgeois models are imitated and bureaucratic control insists the only legitimate subject for art is hero-worship. In June 1938 Benjamin notes:

Then we talk about poetry and the translations of Soviet Russian poetry from various languages that flood Das Wort. Brecht thinks that the authors over there have a hard time. It is seen as a deliberate provocation if in a poem the name Stalin does not appear.

There aren't many political theorists for whom the poetry of J.H. Prynne could make sense, but Debord would have understood the following:

Rubbish is
pertinent; essential; the
most intricate presence in
our entire culture; the
ultimate sexual point of the whole place turned
into a model question.

The most important statement made on art and politics in the 1930s is Walter Benjamin’s 1934 essay ‘The Author as Producer’. In this essay Walter Benjamin makes the assertion that a political tendency that is ‘correct’ includes a literary tendency that is ‘correct’. Literary tendency - or equally artistic tendency - is disclosed as consisting ‘in a progressive development of literary techniques or a regressive one’.He explains the term ‘progressive’ later on in the lecture as any act that is ‘interested in the liberation of the means of production’. In Benjamin’s account, the progressive development of literary - or artistic - Technique, what we might otherwise term the productive forces in art is a process that enables new relations of production and consumption. This is what Benjamin meant by the ‘politicization of art’. It is not to be judged by contents - though new techniques may, of course, suggest new contents.

The British reception of Debord's arguments has been distorted because it took him merely as a political theorist, and failed to take account of his theory of art and its assault on value in that domain. Until the advent of Brit Art, which was merely a co-option of punk nihilism by the establishment, London was never an international centre for the production of art. It is really difficult for English readers to imagine the situation of Guy Debord as he saw avowedly anti-capitalist movements like surrealism and lettrism become co-opted and bought up by the galleries and dealers. The Situationist International arose as a collective attempt to prevent this "recuperation". It had to be led from Paris, because this was the pre-war centre of art production. Over the 50s and 60s, American capitalist hegemony meant that art's international centre ineluctably moved to New York: Guy Debord's weekly newletter Potlatch, issued between 1954 and 1957, was an all-out assault on American capitalist values, but it was written against a real process. The very ground on which he based his argument - the truth of art - was shifting across the Atlantic. He had to do something radical, which ended up calling for proletarian revolution and the end of the rule of capital. Political thinkers who think art is not worth contesting will not be able to understand the motivation behind Debord: he believed he understood what was truly innovative about post-war, and wished to defend it. This was the manner in that, by imploding artistic values, modern artists were opening up art as a question rather than an answer. The giddy realisation that many artists in Europe were thinking the very same thing produced a wave of hope, risk and collective endeavour without which the SI's denunciations are merely mean-spirited and reactionary. Finding this aesthetic correctness is the task of art and its criticism. It's both dependent on the success of workers' struggles and independent of its defeats. As Trotsky said, it obeys its own laws.

In the 1940s, horrified by Nazism in Germany and destabilised by the dominant mode of life and value system of the United Sates, their exile home, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment. One of its vignettes is called ‘Two Worlds’. It begins

Here in America there is no difference between a man and his economic fate. A man is made by his assets, income, position, and prospects. The economic mask coincides completely with a man’s inner character. Everyone is worth what he earns and earns what he is worth. He learns what he is through the vicissitudes of his economic existence. He knows nothing else.

Undoubtedly, the shock for the German exiles was that, in the US, money was not a private affair. Money was not a subject to be avoided in polite company, but, on the contrary, it was a measure of self-worth to be publicly brandished. But the Europeans’ repulsion at this brash materialism was not simply result of their gentlemanly politesse, and their horror at what should remain secret and yet be enjoyed privately. It was an inkling that commodification of the self, and the invasion of commodity relations into all areas of life, was an advancing, intensifying process and that the new Empire led the way where others would follow. In Adorno and Horkheimer’s statement that ‘everyone is worth what he earns and earns what he is worth’ - there is irony, or inhabitation of the speech patterns of the enemy, for surely Adorno and Horkheimer, students of Marxism, know that within capitalism precisely the wage recipient does not earn what he is worth in any genuine sense. The measure is a skewed one - ‘worth’ or value arises only via a complex set of mechanisms and mediations. Contrary to the appearance of transparency, the reality of value is not so immediately apparent. For Adorno and Horkheimer the citizens of the US have assimilated a crude version of materialism, fully accepting what was previously considered a Marxist maxim: that social existence determines consciousness. Adorno and Horkheimer write of the US male: ‘They judge themselves by their own market value and learn what they are from what happens to them in the capitalistic economy’. If they fail, say Adorno and Horkheimer, then they think it was simply their fault or their fate. Positivistic and anti-idealist the American way may be, but it cannot do away with the ancient concept of destiny. However fate’s motive force is not the gods but something emerging from the sorry masses themselves, their own efforts or lack of them. Adorno and Horkheimer write:

Their fate, however sad it may be, is not something outside of them; they recognise its validity. A dying man in China might say, in a lowered voice:

Fortune did not smile on me in this world,
Where am I going now? Up into the mountains
To seek peace for my lonely heart.
I am a failure, the American says - and that is that.

‘Two Cultures’ proposes, then, two different modes of being in the world, linked to two types of fortune - luck or monetary, both covered by the English word fortune. Here cultural difference is registered - one world where the caprice of the gods organizes and determines life’s meaning, and one world where even the internal sense of self is measured in terms of hard cash equivalent

In alienating the artist product from the artist, capitalism prevents the artist from understanding it. They become dupes of the system, and believe that their work is not a social product but a gift of singular genius. The structures of the market - most obviously the art market and the pop charts - mystify the genuine connections and situations which allow artists to achieve what they are after.

In the 1940s, Adorno and Horkheimer still spoke of two worlds - the West and the East, but they saw that standardization of culture was linked to industrial capitalist forms of manufacture, and so, as that form became everywhere the dominant form, in its trail would follow a global standardization of cultural forms. The dying peasant in China - or at least the peasant’s cousin, the factory worker - is exposed eventually to the same images and sounds. The extension of the standardised domain brings with it the promise of pleasures that are never fulfilled but keep people hoping and holding on to the edge of the abyss, instead of struggling out of it. But there is a flip-side. A global working class is forged, with common reference points. Even in Adorno’s day, such exposure to identical cultural experiences was developing. After all, it was in 1928 that Coca Cola entered the Chinese market, though - given its repulsion again when Sino-US relations were bad - it was not until September 2002 that Coca Cola could announce its 50% share of the Chinese beverage market, and rising. Worldwide, experience of labour and cultural experience standardise, shrinking that field of experience, but making the points of contact more extensive. If there is now a common language, of work processes and management-speak, of products and advertising, of establishment political slogans world-wide, there is also be a world-wide language of criticism, of counter-slogans, of organization and resistance. A single language is shared –and languages - even individual words - can be made to say very different things, depending on the spin. Subversion too has the chance to be universally understood, and that means universally reiterated to potentially devastating effect. This is where art and politics conjoin. Or, better, cultural practice is recast. No longer is art met by an anti-art that was excited by the massifying and anti-hierarchical powers of labels, packaging, illustrated magazines. Or a cool aestheticism of the new glossy object caught on the new glossy photographic paper. Perhaps this commercialised effusion has become too much a part of our environment to propose new modes of social relations beyond art, and the system of inequity that shores it up. Instead anti-culture is needed - a more specific type of subversion of the signs that exist. No longer is it enough to incorporate them into artistic statements. Pop Art showed that Dada’s commercial redeployments might simply, in the end, flatter the market. The imagery of commercial detritus has to be detonated, challenged on the level of the sign itself, as in today’s anti-logos, anti-brandings and subvertisements. All these practices recognise both the spread of the power of the corporations, but can also exploit the widespread intelligibility of capitalist commercial signage. As much as the world-wide deployment of the commodity excites businessmen and advertisers who forge their grand-scale images, increasingly it is subversion of these common factors that excites art activists, and is carried out by sometimes high-tech, sometimes low-tech, local means. The wish is to speak globally to a global field of domination, in which populations are more normally expected to remain mute and adopt the role of consumer. This struggle in the realm of signs, over the meaning of the shared terms is one of the fields in which much anti-capitalist and anti-globalization activism has occurred - in parody adverts, in detourned corporate logos, in billboard subversion, in spoof engagements with corporations such as the infamous Nike shoe personalisation story. ‘Globalisation’ produced its antithesis, a globalised resistance - or, more specifically, resistance to world capitalism on a world scale. This resistance brought forth another world of cultural activity - epitomised in anti-capitalist activism, and much of which is instinctively or consciously based on avant-gardist theories and practices, such as montage and detournement. These practices take on digital form through various types of 'net-activism' and also in old-school styles (as in the activities of 'Billboard Liberation', or subvertising). Both sets of practices might be fruitfully thought of in relation to Benjamin's concept of the 'new barbarism' - a kind of squatting of the enemy's methods, tools and modes of address, a squatting which forces a confrontation rather than builds a parallel universe. It makes little sense to speak of such practices - which happen both locally on any street corner or globally via the world wide web, frequently anonymously, eschewing the personal mark of the creator - as either art, on the one hand, or politics, on the other. They are both. And they are also a response to the cheapening of technologies and new forms of reproduction and distribution, as well as a response to the world-wide marketing of signs, and, along with them, the values that they attempt to enforce globally. The tendency of the commodity form is to universalise itself, presenting us then with shared experiences, shared languages. In this context, today's impoverished experience being is taken to task and re-animated - en masse and technically - by 'newly barbaric' strategies of occupation - and occupation means not relinquishing the ground.

The reason why we need the situationists is not because of Debord's assessment of Lenin, which was a deeply problematic repression of his own leading role in the SI, and which - via Baudrillard and the rest of the crew, led onto the undialectical postmodernism of Foucault, Deleuze and Negri - but because of his assessment of cultural value. I adhere to SWP politics, although I think its cultural criticism is crap. Esther and I have been forced to develop our cultural critique outside party publications. SWP cultural criticism would not be crap if we took Debord seriously. I know this sounds like a schizophrenic position, but as Mad Pride has stated, schizophrenia is a legitimate response to a society which has split asunder mental and manual labour. Blurring the lines between art and politics and pretending that Debord developed a politics without an aesthetics will not provide the clarity we need to supersede the opposition. That can only be provided by social revolution - wherever and whenever this is manifested, which given the contradictions of capitalism, is happening in small ways all over the place.

Marxism - as political theory and as cultural analysis - is based on contradiction (which is the proper way of incorporating the much vaunted ‘difference’ into analysis). Contradiction translates into Marxist analysis in the conviction that culture is not simply a phantasm, produced of the subjective intentions of producers or subjective responses of consumers. Culture participates in the socio-historical world, and continues to exist amid social antagonisms. Critique of culture unfurls the inner contradictions of an artifact. And it does this not to degrade the artifact, having won of it a moral victory, but, rather, in order to make a cool assessment of how culture as part fits with the whole, how social experience in the world has brought the artifact to life, and how and in what way it continues to let it live. It does not (should not) slip back into the crudely sociologistic, the partial or the illustrative. Such stances are, to be sure, errors prevalent in some Marxist cultural criticism, especially Stalinist art criticism. But not many Stalinists lurk today, even in the darkest corners. And Marxists, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, are as fissiparous as they were before. Some say Marxists have never had it so bad, and others say that prospects for the Marxist left - since the emergence of the anti-capitalism/anti-globalisation movement - have never looked so sunny. Some think that the collapse of the Eastern satellite states and the Soviet Union was a disaster for the left, and others say that those states were a travesty, perversion, or distortion of socialism and their demise frees the way for a genuine socialism to flourish. There are some who regard Marxism as a critical-theoretical apparatus, not to be embodied in state institutions and others who think it a historical curiosity. There are Marxists who embrace Critical Theory, and Marxists still enamoured of mid-period Lukàcs. Out of these different stances still arise debates that testify to the continuing expansiveness and flexibility of Marxism in addressing culture. These various approaches address production and consumption, the institutions of art, the art markets, the patron, the sponsor, art as commodity, the analogism of form and historical/political developments, the impact of technology, the relationship between popular culture and high art, the impact of the past on the present, questions of progress and regress in cultural form and society, and the various repercussions of class and private property.

Two of the only zones of cultural activity which I've discovered which allow actual assessment of art outside the pressures and distortions of the market are post-Prynnian and post-Cobbing poetry and Free Improvisation, the result of artists taking production and distribution into their own hands. Without these moments, criticism of mass-cultural artefacts - in which, indeed, fantastic things may be found, provided you’ve found a vantage point - is impossible. The rubbish of the avantgarde is pertinent because it shows what the real systems of value creation are, it clears the air so we can see. The avantgarde should no longer be perceived as the prow, cutting into the waves as the harbinger of the galleon of capitalism, but as the rudder, a subjectivist orientation without which the boat cannot be steered. Engels likened capitalist society to a train which is accelerating towards a broken bridge: socialism means subjecting the anarchy of capitalism to human direction, a hand on the brake. The avant garde shows you that hand is yours.

Most fruitful currently is the analysis of culture from the perspective of three key Marxist categories: labour, material and alienation. Labour, the role of production, is crucial. Focus on the very materiality of the process of cultural production - for it is through art’s specific materiality, understood in its broadest senses as its substance, its material presence in the world, its ‘madeness’, that a social and formal analysis of art might be made. It is revealing to consider what kind of labour art is, and this investigation cannot be disconnected from the notion of alienation. That art exists - or culture more broadly - as a specialised activity practiced by the few means that it becomes an alibi for the majority’s non-cultural life. In this sense, art justifies exploitation and oppression. Marx notes that human activity constitutes social reality through praxis; and truth is gained through process, the process of self-development; or, as Marx more famously put it, the rounded individual of mature communism is a hunter in the morning, a fisher in the afternoon, and a critical critic at night - without being defined socially as either a hunter, a fisher or a critic. It is an unfreedom characteristic of class society that some people are charged with the task of being an artist, and bear that social role, while others are excluded from it. Conversely, marred by commodification, artistic practice today is a deformation of the sensuous unfolding of the self that indicates real human community. The reification of human activity into the separate realms of work and play, of aesthetics and politics, must be overcome, and the aesthetic be rescued from the ghetto of art and set at the centre of life. That could be a genuine politics of art, politics in art and through art. All culture might be assessed from this perspective, according to how it imagines all lives to be liveable.

In conclusion: Sub-situs, move on! Tou've nothing to lose but your inability to think further than the formulations of the past. Instead of using the situationists as a terrain on which to rehash the old left debate about Lenin, one that vulgar historical empiricism - otherwise known as Al Richardson - will always settle in favour of Lenin, we should look at the writings of Asger Jorn. Because of the fact that Prynne read him in the late 60s, Jorn has always been an influence on Militant Esthetix, but he's recently been written about and translated by Peter Shield, a heroic attempt to deal with an anti-systematic thinker whose use of Danish puns makes him peculiarly difficult. I recommend Comparative Vandalism and The Natural Order, both published by Ashgate. Jorn was both insane and absolutely correct, in a style which any Mad Prider or poet will find exilaratingly familiar. He insisted on the rights of the animal body, predicting the discovery of an eco-Marx by John Bellamy Foster (and also the rediscovery of Hermann Samuel Reimarus, an early mentor of Marx, and his General Observations Concerning the Art Instincts of Animals, written in 1760, and which anticipated Freud's theory of the instincts). It is only by reading Jorn's comments on the human animal that we can understand that Guy Debord's defence of chimpanzee art was sincere: the traces of nature which civilization allows through truly are more interesting than the stuckist imposition of the Kantian concept, or childish recyclings of German expressionism. In the late 40s Jorn said

Darwin, Marx and Freud are the three scientists who have created the basis for the modern materialist attitude to life and world-view

This is still true, and the project of really understanding what they said, and coming out as historical descendents of animate clay cannot be replaced by reading the latest books to be plopped on the table by the Institut Français conveyor-belt for importing fashionable bollocks from Paris (every one of them ruined by Engels-hatred and the stupid legacy of Sartre). For Jorn, the acid test of any attitude towards life was "can it accept the fact that the human is an animal"? This reconnects to the blissful utopianism of Charles Fourier, who said every urban housing estate should establish a place for giraffes, and Raoul Vaneigen, who is currently theorising the rights of mosquitoes and elephants. It also connects to current reevaluations of accidental markings, primate art and the autarchic sex act as a critique of spectacular values.

Culture continues in multiple ways to be a product of a separation, a social division that relies on the defence of property. In the most insightful contemporary Marxist analysis, culture is not dissolved into the political, à la US and UK Cultural Studies, where culture is seen as politics by other means. Equally culture is not immunised from the political, as in the 'New Aestheticism' or other culture-protectionist stances. Nor is it simply swept away in favour of political analysis and engagement, as the activist Left impatiently insist. Rather it is faced as a one part of a totality, and is understood only in relation to that. A Marxist stance insists on reinvoking a full-blown totality with all its moments of negation intact, and on terms that refuse to provide ameliorating solutions through theory, but rather expose the contradictions and woundings, the primary alienation, the split in species-being occasioned by the division of labour, which accompanies the unequal division of cultural production, access and benefit. Such a Marxism takes culture seriously, refusing to dissolve it into a symptom of some other political reality, holding on to culture as culture, that is as something in certain ways autonomous, and yet, also, seeing culture as damaged and negatively formed by social inequity. The insistence on negation - the refusal to theorise away the contradictions and all that which is excluded or repressed - prevents difference becoming a badge of pride, and interprets division as a deleterious split in the social totality.

In its eulogy of Gangsta Rap, drugs and laddism, the spectacle now enthusiastically promotes precisely the urban delinquency which Debord - along with William Burroughs - found so inspirationally `subversive'. For those who inhabit crumbling housing estates, Leftbank nihilism is not such a laugh.The use of situationist rhetoric by a cynical media requires return to the irreducible knuckle of an unrecuperable aesthetic. This can only be found in class politics: the objective understanding of an unjust state of affairs. A materialist analysis of the situation facing the working class means abandoning ivory-tower squirms of delight at riots on the other side of town. It demands an aesthetic firmly based on a criticism of a society geared towards the realisation of profit.

Who believes that art means anything meaningful any more? Who adheres to the notion that art has a relationship to the totality, to truth, that it is a placemarker for utopia or non-commodified, non-instrumental modes of life? In short, who proffers an aesthetics now? No-one, apart from us at Militant Esthetix, seems able to claim that art possesses a truth content, and that such truth content of all authentic works of culture indicates utopia, the desired destination, or the distance yet to be travelled. Both fine art and post-media art are suspicious of extended philosophical-aesthetic examination, which might connect their output to the whole. Fine art might hope that the very old concepts such as genius and beauty will do. Post-media art sneers and dishes up some bits and bobs from the familiar menu of contemporary theory. This is not to say that cultural criticism has evaporated. There is more than ever before, but it is little directed at art, and, in its emergence as Cultural Studies, adopts Foucault’s ‘toolkit’ approach (read eclecticism): instrumentalist and anti-systematic, which translates into careerist pragmatism, colluding with capitalist interests under the alibi of populism and the get-out-clause of relativism. It would seem that only Marxists who use the concepts of alienation and labour - Marxist concepts taken up by Debord, but not only him - are the only ones who still cling to art, while simultaneously they split it apart, just as they still adhere to philosophy as both an imprint and postponement of truth.


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