Now you can view this blog on your mobile phones! Give a try.

Saturday, August 07, 2010




The definition of autonomy underlie the concepts: the autonomy concept of l’art pour l’art and the autonomy concept of a positivist sociology that sees autonomy as the merely subjective idea of the product of art.

Autonomy of art can be defined as the art’s independence from society. This definition involuntarily adopting the l’art pour l’art concept of art and simultaneously making it impossible to explain this apartness as a product of historical and social development. On the other hand the definition puts forward the view that art’s independence from society exist only in the artist’s imagination and tells nothing about the status of works. Both these approaches miss the complexity of autonomy whose characteristic describes something real but simultaneously expresses this real phenomena in the concept that block recognition of the social determinacy of the process. Thus autonomy of art can be defined as a category of bourgeois society that both reveals and obscures an actual historical development.

B.Hinz traces the history of the genesis of the idea of the autonomy of art . During the phase of historical separation of the producer from his means of production , the artist remained as the only one whom the division of labor had passed by. The reason is that his product could acquire importance as something special “autonomous”. Artist’s studios were still places of handicraft in the fifteenth century . According to Hauser, the social status of the artist changed around the beginning of sixteenth century because of the new seigneuries and principalities, and wealthy cities which became the sources of an ever increasing demand for qualified artists , who were capable of taking on and executing important orders.

Houser also speaks of art market s, which are growing number of important commissions. This resulted in a loosening of the guild ties of the artists. The development of art market furnishes a kind of fact from which it is difficult to infer anything about the developing autonomy of aesthetics. The process of growth of social sphere that we call art, which extended over centuries and was fitful because it was inhibited time and again by counter movements, can hardly be derived from any single caus.


The modern concept of art as an umbrella term for all the aesthetic activities came into being by the end of eighteenth century. This concept of art came into being with the constitution of aesthetics as an autonomous sphere of philosophical knowledge.

Kant’s Critique of judgment (1790) is an aesthetic judgment that laid the foundations for modern aesthetics. Subjective aspect of the detachments of art from the practical concern of life is reflected in this work. According to this the judgment of taste is determined by the delight, which is independent of all interests. Where interest is determined by the ‘reference to the faculty of desires’.

In Kant’s argument Bourgeois is the demand that the aesthetic judgment have universal validity. The pathos of universality is characteristic of bourgeois society , which fights the feudal nobility as an estate that represents particular interests. For Kant the universality of the aesthetic judgment is grounded in the agreement of an idea with the subjective conditions of the use of judgment that applies to all, in the agreement of imagination and understanding. Kant declares aesthetic as independent of sensual, moral and theoretical sphere.

In Kant’s philosophical system the central place is occupied by judgment. Judgment has the task of mediating between the theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. According to Kant aesthetic is a position between sensuousness and reason. The judgment of taste is defined as the free and disinterested.

According to Schiller the development of civilization has destroyed the unity of senses and reason. Schiller never interprets the results of hid analysis anthropologically. According to him the class society cannot be abolished by a political revolution. Because the revolution can be carried out only by those men who, having been stamped by a society where the division of labor prevails, have for the reason been unable to develop their humanity.

Art according to Schiller is suited to restore man’s wholeness. He seeks to find liberation from the spell of sensuousness through the experience of the beautiful. Schiller assigns the central social function to art as it is removed from all the contexts of practical life.

Autonomy of art is a category of bourgeois society that permits art’s detachments from context of practical life as a historical development. Detachment of art from the practical context is a historical process, that is art is socially conditioned. The category autonomy does not permit the understanding of its referent as the one that developed historically. The relative dissociation of the work of art from the praxis of life in bourgeois society thus became transformed into the idea that the work of art is totally independent of society. Autonomy is thus an ideological category that joins the element of truth( the apartness of art from the praxis of life) and an element of untruth (the hypostatization of this fact , which is the result of historical development as the essence of art) .


The classification of art based on its purpose/ function , production and reception is given below;

Sacral Art Courtly Art Bourgeois Art
PURPOSE Cult object Representational object Portrayal of Bourgeois self- understanding
PRODUCTION Collective craft Individual Individual
RECEPTION Collective(sacral) Collective(sociable) Individual

Sacral art is wholly integrated into the social institution ,’religion”. It is part of the praxis of faithful.

Courtly art serves the glory of prince and self portrayal of courtly society. Thus it is the part of the life praxis of the courtly society.

Bourgeois art is the objectification of the self understanding of the bourgeois class. It is not tied to the praxis of life. Here one can unfold the abundance of talents. Thus the separation of art from the praxis of life becomes the decisive characteristic of the autonomy of bourgeois art.

European avant-garde movements are the attacks on the status of art in Bourgeois society. Avant garde negated the concept of art as an institution, which is unassociated with the praxis of men. They didn’t negate the earlier form of art and its style. They demanded art to be practical but do not mean that the contains should be socially significant.

Aestheticism had made the element that defines art as an institution, as the essential content of works. So Avant- gardists view the dissociation of art from the praxis of life as the dominant characteristic of art in bourgeois society.

Avant Gardistes proposed the sublation of art, the essential element of aestheticism: art was not to be simply destroyed but transferred to the praxis of life where it would be preserved although in a changed form. The art, the contents of whose individual works is wholly distinct from the (bad)praxis of the existing society can be the centre and starting point for the organisation of a new praxis of life.

Art has a contradictory role in bourgeois society. It projects the image of a better order and to that extent protests against the bad order that prevails. By realizing the image of a better order, it relieves the existing society of the pressure of those forces that make for change.

Historical Avant-garde movements negate those determinations that are essential in autonomous art:

  1. The disjunction of art and praxis of life
  2. Individual production and
  3. Individual reception.

The Avant- garde intents the abolition of autonomous art by which it means that art is to be integrated into the praxis of life.

A literature whose primary aim is to impose a particular kind of consumer behavior on the reader is in fact practical, though not in the sense the avan- gardistes intended.


  1. Compare and contrast between Kant’s and schiller’s idea on aestheticism.
  2. Define the concept of autonomy of art and trace the history and development of the concept.
  3. Is autonomy of art reveals and obscures the actual historical era?

Arya Augustine


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sources needed