The "esthetization" of political life : culture and fascism / by Titus Thomas Suck
Includes bibliographical references (p. 303-314)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
In his book Literary Theory (1983), Eagleton argued that literature is a form of social ideology. This assertion may seem obvious in the case of the writings of the pro-fascist intelligentsia in France and in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, but it is less readily accepted when we talk about the literary tradition in general. The present study analyzes various elements of fascist ideology in literary texts and seeks to relate them to the position of the pro-fascist intelligentsia in the social structures of its time and culture. Specific ideological and esthetic conceptions can thus be identified as esthetic representations of a social interest defined by an agent's adherence to the intelligentsia. The understanding is that writers and intellectuals form a social group bound up in conflicts at the very heart of which is the quest for power, influence, and prestige. Writers, who are no different from other social groups, seek to make the most of their talents. But unlike non-intellectual groups, they express their social interests in terms of their medium, i.e., they represent them esthetically. The peculiar and historically variable concerns of the intellectual elites are thus hidden behind a discourse on culture, esthetic values, taste, style, and beauty. As a result, the political dimension of art and literature is lost: it is "esthetized." However, this "esthetization" of politics is not restricted to the case of a pro-fascist intelligentsia and its works. A probing reading shows that seemingly unpolitical, literary, and esthetic positions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are tied up in concrete social conflicts prevading bourgeois society. These positions are functions of the class position of the cultural and literary producers. A theoretical construct, "esthetization" thus allows us to determine a structural continuity between non-fascist and pro-fascist writers and artists in bourgeois society while admitting that there may be a certain discontinuity in terms of basic social and esthetic values.
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