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Postmodernism and art theory: A comparison of Marxist and Foucauldian perspectives

Marcon, Marco (1992) Postmodernism and art theory: A comparison of Marxist and Foucauldian perspectives. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis analyzes the attempts made contemporary theorists to deal with the changes which have affected contemporary art theory as a result of the transformation brought about by Postmodernism. The authors I have chosen to discuss have developed their positions on the basis of the influence of either the Marxist tradition or the thought of Michel Foucault. In the context of my discussion, the relevance of a theoretical comparison of authors of Marxist or Foucauldian inspiration is justified by the fact that while both schools of thought are united by a similar emphasis on the social and political nature of cultural productions, they also are divided by profound epistemological and methodological differences. These differences have proved to be a fertile source of debate and provided many art theorists with new and diverse perspectives on the status of art theory in a Postmodern context.

In the first chapter I will discuss some influential Marxist readings of the Postmodern phenomenon and try to show that underlying these theories is the attempt to test the current adequacy of fundamental methodological Marxist notions. I will therefore try to show that Marxist explanations might be fraught by their desire to salvage some traditional theoretical postulates and that some of the new problems posed by Postmodernism might be better understood within a Poststructuralist framework. The second chapter will examine the interpretative potential of one of these new Poststructuralist perspectives originating in the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault's rejection of economic relationships as the ultimate determinant of cultural change, his refusal of global or universalist interpretation of culture, his emphasis on the relationship between power and knowledge and on the institutional nature of cultural productions are all elements which might shed light on aesthetic aspects peculiar to Postmodernism. Finally, in the conclusion I will argue that both Marxist and Foucauldian approaches to an aesthetics of Postmodernism might be limited by their exclusive insistence on the socio-political dimension of art. I will therefore conclude by proposing that key elements in Postmodernist art might be better explained if one admits the possibility that art theory recognize the relative autonomy of the specific type of knowledge produced by artistic texts.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Felski, Rita
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/53028
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