MARXISM & THE ARTS

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Thu Jun 1 02:03:01 MDT 1995


>i think that there is a major dearth of talk, analysis, etc, on
>the role of art in marxist strategies (as distinct from marxist
>theory, where some good work has been done,

What do you mean exactly by "marxist strategies"?  Do you mean the
use of art in political organizing?  Use of art to get people to
donate money to political causes?  The dual role of artists as
artists/entertainers and political figures?  The political content
of art itself?

In spite of my historical veneration of Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger,
and Woody Guthrie, why do I find this subject leaves me cold?  Is
it because I'm sick of all this cultural studies crap that
substitutes the politics of style for revolutionary activity,
takes seriously the reactionary, obscurantist,  adolescent
posturing of hiphop for political consciousness?  I did manage to
endure Sweet Honey in the Rock in the rain this past Sunday, who
admittedly are of high caliber, but I find that political art that
gets too topical, too specific, bores and annoys the crap out of
me.  I'd rather get my teeth pulled than have to attend some
politically conscious artistic event.  Can I be the only one?

Then again, I find that the intellectual left, in its grungy
narcissistic desperation, has no interest whatever in esthetic
issues or artistic quality, but is as nakedly opportunistic and
utilitarian in its approach to the arts as its Stalinist
forefathers.

Because I find contemporary American culture so vacuous, I find
myself immmersed in those historical and theoretical questions you
are probably tired of.  Also, I only know and care about the USA.
So here is my laundry list of topics to discuss:

(1) CLR James's aesthetic theory: its Hegelian foundation and its
misappropriation by pomo cultural studies academic dorks (but I
won't name names);

(2) The Beat Generation -- Marxist and Hegelian analyses,
philosophical foundations, dialectics of Bohemianism, historical
trajectory of its ideological elements -- zen, etc.

(3) The historical significance of the 1940s in US culture --
black self-assertion in literature and the arts, birth of the
Beats, bebop, abstract expressionism, etc.

(4) Prospects for, analysis of dynamics of, relation between
social and cultural regeneration in the USA, and where to seek the
New (not just self-conscious regurgitation of past pop culture
artifacts -- the culture of sampling).


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