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Artistic Critique on Capitalism as a Practical and Theoretical Problem

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Abstract

This chapter examines the interactions between artistic critique on capitalism and the social change, focusing on the normative role of artists in the context of “network capitalism” and the imperative to creativity in the “Creative Age” (Florida). Drawing on recent debates about capitalism, critique, and crisis prompted by Boltanski and Chiapello’s seminal work The New Spirit of Capitalism (2005) and other subsequent interventions, as well as on the notion of “critique” supported by Foucault, the author reconsiders artists’ role in the normative change through artistic critique on capitalism. Thus are shown both its paradoxical consequences in terms of the emergence of new norms of excellence and creative lifestyles, adaptable, hyper-mobile and flexible, and artists’ divergent contribution to redevelop a particular sense of self-realization and self-fulfilment.

Keywords

  • Artists
  • Artistic critique
  • Capitalism
  • Crisis
  • Normative change
  • Creativity
  • Lifestyles

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Ideology is understood as a justificatory collective value system, not as a set of false ideas or deception. To detach themselves from the conception of ideology as a deceptive mask serving to veil reality, Boltanski and Chiapello , in the Preface to the English edition of their book (2005a, xx–xxii, xxvii), make it clear that there are three distinct components in what they term the “spirit of capitalism”: the social “justice” that specifies how capitalist mechanisms are geared toward the common good is one of them, along with two other components that involve propositions in terms of “security” and “stimulation.” Hence, if “ideologies” are to be successful, they must be rooted in organizational, institutional, and legal mechanisms which give them a “real” existence.

  2. 2.

    In the Preface of the English edition, Boltanski and Chiapello (2005a, xxvi–xxvii) envisage a rebalancing of this model, which implied that critique inevitably always ensues capitalistic displacements, and a revision of the issue of the “lateness of critique” in favor of the simultaneity and equal distribution of relative capacities for displacement and categorization to all actors.

  3. 3.

    In an “Introduction” and “Response” to Boltanski in Under Pressure: Pictures, Subjects and the New Spirit of Capitalism (2008), Isabelle Graw mentions the example of the conceptual art and its emphasis on projects, communication, networking, self-management, and the staging of one’s personality. Furthermore, the “project culture” which has emerged in some segments of the art world in the early 1990s sees its limits and guidelines set by the “project-oriented city” described by Boltanski and Chiapello (2005a) . Most activities in this world present themselves as short-term projects, the distinction between “work” and “nonwork” becoming obsolete, as in the post-Fordist condition: “Life turns into a succession of projects of limited duration, and subjects are expected to quickly and flexibly adapt themselves to constantly changing conditions and unexpected developments” (Graw 2008a, 11–12; 2008b, 76–77).

  4. 4.

    The latter contradiction is revised in the English edition, with reference to justice as a distinct component of the spirit of capitalism; see the Preface, Boltanski and Chiapello 2005a , xv, and Note 1 in this chapter.

  5. 5.

    This issue has been previously addressed in a section, pp. 43–46, of my article “Artistic Critique and Creativity : how do Artists Play in the Social Change?” Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai. Philosophia (2011), 56:3, pp. 27–49.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS-UEFISCDI (Consiliul National al Cercetarii Stiintifice–Unitatea Executiva pentru Finantarea Invatamantului Superior), project number PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-1010.

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Ratiu, D.E. (2018). Artistic Critique on Capitalism as a Practical and Theoretical Problem. In: Alexander, V., Hägg, S., Häyrynen, S., Sevänen, E. (eds) Art and the Challenge of Markets Volume 2. Sociology of the Arts . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64644-2_7

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