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By Janet Wolff

Explores sociocultural impacts at the building of conventional aesthetic theories and judgments

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Extra resources for Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art

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36). Other contributors also reassert traditional assumptions about art, in similarly traditional and uncritical vocabulary. Political and Aesthetic Value 51 Dickens appears to be the hero of the conference (see Hoggart, 1970/1, pp. 23-4; Holbrook, 1980/1, pp. 89-93) against whom the excesses of contemporary or experimental literature are measured. But throughout, the defence of 'standards' is absent, at least in the necessary analytic terms which would take issue with the specifically aesthetic criteria employed (rather than returning to discredited notions like 'humanity struggling to understand itself ...

As a social scientist he must confine himself to social evidence, and this evidence can, in the nature of things, have no bearing on values. , p. 57). But we have already seen that it is highly problematic to accept this 'canon' uncritically, for, as social science itself makes clear, the art historian who is supposed to have this peculiar, professional access to 'values' is in fact operating Sociology versus Aesthetics 29 within ideologically constructed discourse, and from an ideological position (that is, class-bound, institution-based and biographically influenced).

This is both vague and unsatisfactory, in the context of a theory which insists on a clear distinction between science and ideology. It is hard to see what is intended by the assertion that art 'makes us see' ideology (1971b, p. 204), and in any case we may still ask whether this making us see is itself scientific or ideological. The implication of this for a theory of aesthetics is that, once again, the question of the specificity of art is both acknowledged and avoided, by the device of an arbitrary discovery of an intermediate category of thought or knowledge, in terms of which such specificity is defined, but which has no existence or argument outside the terms of this definition.

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