[Marxism] V for Vendetta

wrobert at uci.edu wrobert at uci.edu
Tue Apr 4 00:19:27 MDT 2006

I've always found the mid-nineties moment of cultural studies to be a
little ridiculous, so I agree that the tendency to see any engagement with
popular culture as liberatory is generally a worthless statement, but I do
think that there is a Marxist cultural studies trajectory that is worth
saving. I would put into this camp Voloshinov, Bakhtin, Gramsci, Barthes,
Hall, etc. I think that Gramsci put it best when he noted that it was the
moments of popular culture that were the most potent ideologically because
there is a certain tendency to not engage with it consciously.  I think
that material such as the Harry Potter series has a rich amount of
material to examine issues of race and class within it precisely because
of the spectacular contradictions in it. This tendency looked to popular
culture to see how it operated, its fissures and its contradictions.  It
may be replaced by something else tomorrow, but it is meaningful today. 
In terms of V for Vendetta, it seems worthwhile analyzing why is it that a
decade plus old comic is being put on the screen.  Also, it is worth
thinking about the reactions that it will produce, whether or not it is

                          robert wood

> I can’t agree with the compulsion to label anyone who
> finds little of enduring value in the latest album
> from 50 Cent or the newest installment from the Harry
> Potter series, a snob for making certain artistic
> demands. By this standard, Lukacs and Trotsky were
> effete, petty-bourgeois ivory tower intellectuals for
> writing polemics against some of the dominant cultural
> tendencies of their day. Lukacs waged what he
> described as a two-front war against both schematic
> proletarian literature and socialist realism and
> against the Western avant-garde. Instead, he made an
> unpopular appeal to the tradition of 19th century
> realism, exemplified by Goethe, Balzac, and Tolstoy,
> and in the 20th century by Mann. The modernists, whom
> he categorized as naturalists, presented subjective,
> one-dimensional fragments of perception and emotion,
> and recapitulated the weaknesses of bourgeois
> mechanical materialism and idealism, at the same time.
> The acute development of technique and style into a
> rapid succession of “isms”, in his point of view,
> merely obscured the lack of a coherent unity of form
> and content in modern art. Trotsky, during the
> intra-party conflicts of the early 20’s, also framed a
> Marxist critique of art. Much more sympathetic to
> modernism, he focused his attention on assaulting the
> notion of a uniquely proletarian art and argued
> against some of the ideas associated with the
> Proletkult groups of the early worker’s state. Like
> Lukacs, he felt the best of bourgeois literature would
> enrich the consciousness of the working class.

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