Aesthetics & Alienation

Aesthetics & Alienation

What is the role of the aesthetic state apparatus?


This is an expansive, philosophically materialist, theory which seeks not only to bridge Marx and Freud via ‘the aesthetic’ but to define a distinct territory of its own in the ‘gap’; in effect an attempt to ‘scientificize’ art theory.
The book develops the theory both as a rational synchronic system, using and extending specific concepts of Louis Althusser and Walter Benjamin, such as state apparatus and the producer aspect of art practice, and historically, the latter with examples in art drawn from the French Revolution as well as more recent art history.
The author deploys the classic Marxian concepts of base and superstructure, divided into economic, ideological, and political levels, but adds an ‘aesthetic level of practice’ coming between the economic and the ideological. He argues this level of human practice has hitherto been ‘held back’ as a concept for reasons of class struggle. It is on this level that he sees ‘aesthetic state apparatuses’ (ASAs) operating for the social reproduction of human feelings. Art education and practice are presented as ASAs, (along with the family and the hospital) that ‘work up’ the aesthetic ‘traffic’ mediating between base and superstructure. Therefore, the theory argues, intrinsic to this aesthetic mediation process are the state methods of dealing with existing social alienation (Marx), and the generation of aesthetic practices that manipulate given human dispositions such as the attempted sublimation of alienation through kitsch:
Thus, we have class struggle in the field of aesthetics. And, this struggle is not reducible to or identical with the same struggle in ideology, indeed we find different and sometimes contradictory syntheses of the two in practice.

Gary Tedman
Gary Tedman Gary Tedman was a professor at the faculty of design and art at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy, and a visiting lecturer at the ...

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