Social Theories of Art: A Critique by Ian Heywood (auth.)

By Ian Heywood (auth.)

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But, of course, a theory about culture as a whole may not of itself be capable of defining a practice within the culture. Turning briefly then to what she calls the 'philosophical anthropology' of Timpanaro and Williams, Wolff seems uncertain that our understanding will be much advanced. , p. 99). Only psychoanalysis remains. Wolff's principal discussion of Fuller's application of Kleinian object-relations theory to the problems of aesthetics is generally critical. The mistakes of philosophical anthropology are repeated and make Fuller's conclusions dubious.

In this it differs from the supposed peculiar ideological blindness of art. But how secure are these beliefs? Thinkers from Nietzsche through to Bauman, Rorty and Lyotard have raised a succession of profound questions regarding them. Might not the dignified pursuit of truth and justice be just a selling point, a move in a rhetorical strategy? Might not the very claim to a higher, reflective self-knowledge be simply another, and more profoundly alienated, ignorance? And if the conceptual and methodological means by whi,ch sociology claims to differentiate itself from ideology do not escape the taint of history and society then how legitimate is this claim?

The discipline of enquiry cannot rest with this failure. Back to the Seminar On returning to her knowledge world Wolff's sociologist voices some of these doubts. The very intractability of the problems she sets herself is perhaps due not so much to the peculiar difficulties and complexities of understanding art as a particular cultural phenomenon, as to the fact that the aesthetic becomes the focus of doubts about what she feels compelled to see as the sociological project per se. Yet, despite her honesty and insight, Wolff does not reflect sufficiently on her conclusions.

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