A note on Nick Zangwill's `against the sociology of art'

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (3):363-374 (2003)
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Abstract

Zangwill's recent article offers a provocative and compelling account of the alleged deficiencies of the sociology of art. However, his main targets—christened, respectively, `production and skepticism' and `consumption skepticism'—are, in fact, only decontextualised and one-sided caricatures of the leading theories in this area. Zangwill has misrepresented some of the discipline's leading theorists including Bourdieu, Eagleton, Pollock and Wolff. His own `aesthetic' explanation of artistic acts appears, at first glance, attractive, not least for its repudiation of radical sociological reductionism. But it turns out to be altogether too simplistic an alternative. Zangwill is a sociological `primitive' who understands adequately neither how society exists in the mind itself, nor, paradoxically, in artists' embodied sense of the right feel for the game. A less `enchanted' approach toartists' practices is required. This needs to stress both artists' role in the public sphere and also their specific interests in the artistic field. Key Words: sociology • art • aesthetics • canon • pleasure.

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