Disjecta Membra: Althusser’s Aestethics Reconsidered

Filozofski Vestnik 1 (41):7-59 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay takes a synthetic and critical approach to the scattered pieces of art criticism and aesthetic theory authored by Louis Althusser. Connecting these texts to his larger philosophical and political project, we argue that these reflections make an independent contribution to its worth and that they offer different perspectives on lingering theoretical problems. We piece together the insights that form the core of the Althusserian approach to aesthetics and show how these are formulated (in connection with the work of Pierre Macherey as well as the dominant controversies of the time) and trace how their formulations take shape in relation to the work of different authors and artists. In addition to helping us better understand his overall project, Althusser’s aesthetic theory is, we argue, a powerful and original contribution to Marxist aesthetics. Specifically, it points us to the idea that we need to take aesthetic production seriously as a practice with its own specificity - one that has its own logics of determination, rituals of production, circulation, and consumption, one that commands effects that need to be theorized on their own terms.

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William S. Lewis
Skidmore College

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