Comments on Louis Proyect's articles on art and revolutionMay I respectfully disagree with you on a few points? (especially respectfully, as I was a lurker on the old list.marxism and drop into the Marxist school from time to time, so I know you, though you don't know me).
[This is in reference to Louis Proyect's comment that "The decline of culture is tied up with the decline of capitalist civilization. Attempts to reform art are doomed to futility, just as attempts to make the media more accountable are doomed. There are structural impediments that are insurmountable."]
Certainly, Trotsky and his contemporaries, intellectual men of letters all, were concerned to preserve an object of their love from their own revolutionary project. Bourgeois Literature would be endangered by any all out attack on Bourgeois Culture and Bourgeois Society, or so the feeling went. The effort continues among left intellectuals -- academics and art-producers -- but has taken a new tack since the 1960s. Instead of arguing for the inherent truth-giving and spirit-raising qualities of bourgeois monuments -- "a worker will learn something about himself from Hamlet because Hamlet speaks the truth about the human condition" -- left intellectuals who love literature and art have developed a critical discourse which is designed to expose to the ideology of these works and their collaboration in bourgeois hegemony, which operation is itself a pleasure and a tool of enlightenment, thus guaranteeing that consuming these works will continue to be a respectable activity for left intellectuals (and will be preserved, as we preserve classical tragedy, in the -- hoped for, doubted -- aftermath of the fall capitalism.) "What can be learned from Hamlet is human history and how ideology produces it. Consumption along the lines of this program is a pleasure."
One of the myths, I believe, which has been debunked as a result of these critical operations -- which produce an immense amount of literature themselves -- is the purely "bourgeois" character of "bourgeois art" and the "western" character of "western civilization." As Edward Said has pointed out in his Culture and Imperialism, whose argument is echoed in Toni Morrison's monograph Playing In The Dark, these achievements, these monuments of art and literature of which "bourgeois culture" and "western culture" are so proud -- Proust Is What Makes Us Fit To Rule -- are actually not the product of, nor to they exclusively belong to, the bourgeoisie or the west. Like a railroad, they are the product not of one individual but of the creators of the material conditions which allowed them to be written, including the culture -- which has for a long time been a global culture -- from which they arise.
Like coffee, tea, tobacco and sugar, Jane Austen arises from Empire and belongs to the labor of Empire. Now, Jane Austen may have nothing whatever to say to people, in the way Trotsky felt Pushkin did, except lies, but Jane Austen is a monument of Emp