Art as Ideology

  • Janet Wolff
Part of the Communications and Culture book series (COMMCU)


The major focus of critiques of traditional studies of literature, art and culture in general, from Marxists and sociologists, has probably been the task of exposing the ideological nature of art.1 A secondary concern has been to expose the ideological nature of art criticism and literary criticism.2 This is opposed to approaches which see art as somehow ‘above’ historical and perspectival determinants, and the history of art as the intrinsic development of style, independent of social or historical factors outside the aesthetic sphere. These approaches themselves are shown to be partial and historically specific, and thus, in a particular sense, ideological.3 Works of art, on the contrary, are not closed, self-contained and transcendent entities, but are the product of specific historical practices on the part of identifiable social groups in given conditions, and therefore bear the imprint of the ideas, values and conditions of existence of those groups, and their representatives in particular artists. In this chapter, I want to look at what is meant by the claim that art is ideological, and to review some of the work on the theory of ideology in general and the analysis of art in particular in order to try to arrive at an adequate understanding of art as ideology. Some problems with the notion of ‘ideology’ itself will be raised in this connection; others will be discussed in the following two chapters.


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Copyright information

© Janet Wolff 1993

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  • Janet Wolff

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