Marxist Economics? /Lukacs

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Sep 26 07:11:48 MDT 1994

On Sun, 25 Sep 1994, Philip Goldstein wrote:

> 	Why am I not surprised to find the economists arguing that you
> can't do cultural materialist analyses without doing economics? or that
> they don't argue the contrary proposition, that you can't do economics
> without doing cultural analyses?
As one of the guilty dismal scientist, may I point out that I did just
that in my recent 'plaint. You can't have one without the other.

> 	The issue of the relationship between cultural and economic
> processes or cultural analyses and economic theories is a long and vexed
> one. Traditional historians, among whom I include Lukacs, Christopher
> Cauldwell, or Lucien Goldmann, expected great realist art to reveal the
> truths -- Marxist, socio-economic -- of the artist's society. Once formal
> methods gained importance, this approach was condemned as reductive.
> Speculative social theorists -- Marcuse, Adorno -- take art to probe or
> question its status as a commodity in capitalist society in general. This
> view preserves the romantic contempt for positive science, which it
> identifies with the "totalitarian" character of modern instrumental
> reason. Ideological theorists a la Althusser and early Eagleton (not too
> early) assume that ideology mediates between art and society, including
> capitalist modes of production. Since ideology explicitly denies its
> socio-economic roots, the scientific critic had to find in the gaps and
> blanks in a work the socio-economic truth which ideology would not admit.
> In the postmodern era, which rejects the scientific objectivity of the
> critic -- no science escapes discourse, the Marxist -- Tony Bennett,
> Pierre Macherey -- examines a
> socio-historical bloc which includes economic practices as well as
> cultural and political norms and ideals. Art participates in forming as
> well as promoting the mythologies by which this bloc organizes its social
> relations.

Yes, and so? In my earlier life I deployed the Freudo-Marxoid heavy
weaponry on the art and consciousness of Emerson, Whitman, and Stevens, a
gang that could never be accused of social, much less socialist, realism.
What's the state of the art now?

Tony Bennett keeps showing up in the oddest places - first on MTV's
Unplugged, dueting with kd lang, and now here, on the Marxism list.


Doug Henwood [dhenwood at]
Left Business Observer
212-874-4020 (voice)
212-874-3137 (fax)


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