In this lucid and stimulating new book, Peter Burger, one of the foremost literary critics in Germany today, addresses the relationship between art and society, from the emergence of bourgeois culture in the eighteenth century to the decline of modernism in the twentieth century. In analysing this relationship, Burger draws on a wide range of sociological and literary-critical sources - Weber, Benjamin, Foucault, Diderot and Sade among others. He argues that in questioning the formal relationship between art and life which had dominated the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the avant gardist movements of the early twentieth century brought about the crisis of postmodernism.
Burger charts the establishment of literary and artistic institutions since the Enlightenment and their apparent autonomy of the prevailing political systems. However, he argues that the discovery of the obverse of Enlightenment, namely barbarism, revealed the interdependence of art and society and set the scene for the avant-gardist protest against aesthetics formalism.
Part I. 1. Literary institution and modernization. 2. Walter Benjamin's 'Redemptive Critique': some preliminary reflections on the project of a critical hermeneutics. 3. The Decline of Modernism. 4. The return of analogy: aesthetics as vanishing point in Michel Foucault's The Order of Things. . Part II. 5. Some reflections upon the historico-sociological explanation of the aesthetics of genius in the 18th century. 6. Morality and society in Diderot and de Sade. 7. Naturalism, Aestheticism and the problems of subjectivity. 8. Dissolution of the subject and the hardened self: modernity and the avantgarde in Wyndham Lewis's novel Tarr. 9. On the actuality of art: the aesthetic in Peter Weiss's "Aesthetic of Resistance.". 10. Everydayness, allegory and the avant-garde: some reflections on the work of Joseph Beuys.