THE AESTHETIC DIMENSION by Herbert Marcuse

THE AESTHETIC DIMENSION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Marcuse was the revolutionary guru who taught the generation of '68 to fight the system by saying NO to its repressive manners, rules, and rewards. Here he explains how art aids revolution by saying NO to the public world. Departing from Marxist orthodoxy, he denies that art simply reflects the ideals of social classes. Although affected by class interests, art finds its truth by breaking through all commonplace versions of reality to give aesthetic form to universal human experiences and aspirations--love, hate, joy, fear, etc. Art is, therefore, ""an essentially autonomous and negating productive force"" which subverts the authority of ""the realistic conformist mind."" Because Marcuse despises nothing so much as complacent acceptance of things as they seem, he reveres art as a teacher opposed to that acceptance; and he thinks Marxists are foolish to deny the revolutionary implications of its teachings, even if art is ""elitist,"" because now conformity is the enemy. This is revisionist Marxism informed by Marcuse's continuing belief that we live in ""the totalitarian age,"" dominated by pervasive, insidious powers unimagined by Marx. If Marcuse is not at his most convincing here, it is because he suggests rather than fully argues his case and shows himself such a lyrical traveler in the land of the beautiful and the good that, while an engaging guide, he may leave you wondering what happened to the revolutionary when he concludes: ""Art represents the ultimate goal of all revolutions: the freedom and happiness of the individual.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1977
Publisher: Beacon