Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Art and Ideology: Critical Theories: The Frankfurt School/ Materialist Aesthetics

The readings from this past week led into a deep examination the ideologies of a society and the power structures that form them. Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” was beneficial for me as it seemed to lay the ground work for all three articles. It was helpful to understand his attempt to “set Marxist theory on a new intellectual setting”. To get to this attempt he had to analyze the separate components that make up a society. Society is made up of an Infrastructure (economic base) and a Superstructure which is composed of Ideology and Instances. Instances are described as the politico-legal (law and state) and ideologies consists of the different ideologies of religion, ethics, politics, legal, etc. The infrastructure of a society is the base and the superstructure is the two levels on top of the base. The superstructure is completely dependent on the conditions of the infrastructure. Althusser seems it important to think about the relative autonomy of the superstructure and the reciprocal action the superstructure has on the infrastructure. It is important to know Althusser’s differentiation between Marxist (repressive) State Apparatus’ and Ideological State Apparatus’ (ISA). (Repressive) State Apparatus’ consists of the Army, Police, Courts, Prisons, etc., which all are functions of violence. Ideological State Apparatus’ include religion (churches), educational (schools), family, communication, culture, etc., which all function by ideology. Since the ruling class holds state power, that would mean it has the Repressive State Apparatus’ at its disposal. The ruling class then is active in the Ideological State Apparatus’ which in turn creates a ruling ideology. Althusser states his thesis as “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.” That means the ruling class controls the individuals view of reality. Even in the aspects of existence the individual thinks they hold the most power (church, family), they are still being controlled.
Adorno’s article “Culture Industry Reconsidered” relates to this article in the fact that the culture industry seems to be the result of the ruling class setting the standard for the Ideological State Apparatus’ in our society. The culture industry is considered a form of a state ruled ISA because the conscious and unconscious state of the masses is considered an appendage of the machine. It seems a though that as long as the masses are entertained and intellectually unchallenged they will remain complacent and fuel the machine of production. This is expressed further when Adorno writes that the consciousness of the consumers are split between the prescribed fun which is supplied to them by the culture industry and not a particular well-hidden doubt about its blessings. Knowing the full purpose for which it is manufactured, the individual of a society (although not stated directly, a capitalist American society) wants to be deceived because it is easier function.
Adorno addresses the central sector of the culture industry being that of film. He states that “although in film, the production process resembles technical modes of operation in the extensive division of labor, the employment of machines and the separation of the laborers from the means of production- expressed in the perennial conflict between artists active in the culture industry and those who control it- individual forms of production are nevertheless maintained.” This is important because it is an example of how even though individual forms of production are maintained, they are commercially exploited, which leads to the conflict with the artist and the culture industry because the product is dehumanized. Schapiro reinforces this in “The Social Bases of Art” when he describes that the artist, being completely separated from the upper class consumers (whom of which is buying the art), makes art for the upper class based upon the success of the ones before him.

No comments:

Post a Comment