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Taylor, CF (2015)
Publisher: University of Leeds
Languages: English
Types: Book
This critical review contends that accounts of cultural value designed to articulate the specific value of culture within contemporary polity and governance cannot but fail to achieve their objective. Trammeled by economistic utilitarianism on the one side and an uncritical aestheticism on the other, culture’s articulation is either quantitative or mute. This state of affairs has arisen as a result of a set of intellectual reflections on social order which can clearly be traced as far back as the fourteenth century, arguably achieve their hegemony by the late eighteenth century and have continued to dominate thought intio the twenty-first century. Whilst it has been common to argue that such reflections codified the distinctions of economy and aesthetics, or as is often said today the instrumental and the instrinsic, this critical review argues that these positions are the product of a singular process and that therefore the persistent representation of them as antagonists is false. That process is called abstraction and is the form in which the political codification of market society took place over that period. These categories are a product of that process, co-defining each other in mutual exclusion. This is one aspect of abstraction. There are two others. In defining the public sphere as one governed by market relationships, ethics was disembedded from the social and re-cast in a form appropriate to the new form of society – utilitarianism being its clearest expression. In a similar way, human labour was both abstracted by exchange and instumentalised as a simple means to an end. The instrumentalisation of labour completed art’s isolation from the routines of social production. The paper concludes by suggesting that the emergence of a set of new cultural economic imaginaries in the last twenty years draws the historical limitations of abstraction to critical attention.
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    • Adorno, T., Benjamin, W., Bloch, E., Brecht, B. and Lukacs, G. 2007. Aesthetics and Politics. London: Verso.
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