Issue 171, August 2022 – East European Marxism: Legacies and Entanglements

Abstract Painting (1932), Lajos Tihanyi, Hungarian National Gallery.

Issue 171, August 2022

East European Marxism: Legacies and Entanglements

Guest Editors: Fu Qilin and Peter Beilharz


Utopia or dystopia: On Eastern European Marxist insights into science and technology in aesthetics

Fu Qilin

This paper discusses Eastern European Marxists’ consideration of science and technology concerning aesthetic dimensions. Different from most of Western Marxists who take negative or dystopian attitudes towards modern science and technology from the aesthetic utopian perspective, those Marxists who come from countries such as Hungary, Yugoslav, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria or Romania, which once belonged to the socialist camp, under the influence of Soviet and Western culture, pay attention to the complicated tension between science-technology and aesthetics. In this paper, I probe into these notions by reading György Lukács, Budapest School, Romanian theorists and the Yugoslav Praxis Group, which are divided into four key points: basic nature of science in contrast with arts; modern tension of culture between science and arts; the possibility of scientific aesthetics; and development of arts in the world of technology. There is a dialectical understanding of science and technology here which contributes to contemporary recognition of science and technology from the point of view of neo-humanism, not only in aesthetics but also human existence. This is relevant to theoretical reflection on the present and future Chinese socialist aesthetics.

Notes towards the critical theory of post-industrialism capitalism

J.F. Dorahy

This essay aims to continue to develop the thesis that the welter of political-economic, social, technological, and subjective transformations that characterized the final decades of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st necessitate a re-thinking of the relationship between social criticism and the critique of political economy. Herein the focus is directed towards the critique of reification and industrial rationalization as developed in the works of Georg Lukács and Cornelius Castoriadis. Drawing on recent phenomenological and psychological analyses of work within contemporary capitalism, I argue for both the historical obsolescence of the critique of reification as it has been traditionally understood and, consequently, the need for novel conceptual responses to the pressing needs of our time.

Exilic Marxisms: Lukács and Balázs in Stalin’s Moscow

Galin Tihanov

This paper discusses exile and emigration as factors in the encounters of art, philosophy, cultural criticism, and political power in Soviet Russia under Stalin. While by now we possess considerable knowledge about emigration and exile from Eastern and Central Europe to the West in the 1920s and 1930s, we have tended to under-research and under-conceptualize the alternative destination. Seemingly less glamorous and lastingly tainted by the open glorification or silent acquiescence to Stalin and the purges, Moscow as a place of emigration and exile of left East-Central European intellectuals in the 1930s presents a uniquely important trajectory, the study of which contributes to enriching and refining our understanding not just of the history of international communism, but also – and perhaps more importantly – of the formation of the intellectual and political elites that were to shape life in the Eastern Bloc after 1945.

Housekeeping of feelings: On Heller’s ethical aesthetics

Liu Can

This paper discusses Heller’s aesthetic ethics in her feeling theory. ‘Feeling’ is an aesthetic problem as well as an ethical problem. Heller discusses the important role of emotions in modern life. ‘Housekeeping of feelings’ is the key category of Heller’s ethical aesthetics, which is related to one’s self-realization. It is beneficial to the formation of individual value and helps to reconstruct an increasingly atomized community. The housekeeping of feelings is some kind of care, which is important both ethically and aesthetically. Heller’s feelings theory is based on human value itself, which is of great methodological significance for the reconstruction of the broken emotional community in the post-epidemic era.

Agnes Heller: Changing Aspects of Her Socialist Theory in the 1980s

Ziyi Fan

Agnes Heller continued her commitment to socialist theory, seeking a democratic alternative to the actually existing socialist system in Soviet-type societies in the early 1980s. Heller conceptualized socialism as a long-term social experiment based on social imagination and the radicalization of democracy, which contrasted with the Soviet socialist project on the one hand, and went beyond Western parliamentary systems on the other hand. My aim in this paper is to examine the 1982 pamphlet, Why We Should Maintain the Socialist Objective, and present it as a crucial step that Heller takes to depart from Marxism and explore her post-Marxist socialist theory. This paper will examine the social imagination, radicalization of democracy, and other key ideas elaborated in the pamphlet, linking these ideas to her subsequent book, Dictatorship Over Needs, and her essay ‘The Great Republic’.

Autonomy of art and the limits of aesthetics: Sreten Petrović’s contribution to Marxist aesthetics

Marko Hočevar

The paper explores Sreten Petrović’s contribution to Marxist aesthetics. Petrović developed his theory within the framework of the Yugoslav Praxis School, although he was not a member of it. Petrović followed Danko Grlić, a prominent member of the Praxis School, in explaining art as a specific emanation of praxis – free, creative, autonomous and self-emancipatory activity beyond the commodity form of capitalist society. Art was thus understood as the liberation and emancipation of Being and its essence. However, Petrović also introduced a novelty – he claimed that art can never be fully understood nor explained. According to him, the only true Marxist aesthetics, given our limited cognitive abilities and the capitalist imperative of producing commodities, would be to limit aesthetics to meta-aesthetics and affirm the ‘critique of the aesthetic mind’. We argue that by limiting aesthetics to meta-aesthetics Petrović is following the young Wittgenstein and his proposition that the world is unintelligible to philosophy. Accordingly, we claim that Petrović’s contribution should be seen as an important contribution to Marxist aesthetics.


‘Why we should maintain the socialist objective’: Agnes Heller on the ALP (1981) – A document

Peter Beilharz

Review Essay

Qilin Fu (ed.) The Face of Janus: Selected Works of Agnes Heller’s Aesthetics

Jiayang Qin

Book review

Declarations of Dependence: Money, Aesthetics, and the Politics of Care

Jonathan Ben-Menachem

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