A Note on Proletarian Art

In lieu of my last post, I think that it could be fairly interesting to quickly discuss the relationship between art, as a product, & hegemony. This is a broad sketch of something which, rather obviously, manifests itself in various different ways: production, consumption etc are not isolated phenomena. So, aye, what the fuck is that art shit all about then? 

Artistic formations presuppose a cultural relevance. In a broad sense, this means that an art with a specific form & a given class content may only arise in the context where the attitude of a class has assumed a hegemonic nature. By class content, I refer to the political characteristics of a class, to posit otherwise misses the point. The proletariat, as it is real, may become enamoured by bourgeois ideas. Indeed, at this moment in Britain, it is; presently, the proletariat possesses a bourgeois hegemony.

This observation – that art arises in the context of a hegemonic attitude – is true & can be seen as true. The conclusion follows from a previous observation, only necessary to disclose in elaboration. Really, the point is simple: we write for an audience. Any given artistic work is the product of human labour, combined with what Lev Vygotsky referred to as the ‘raw material of life’, ie the impression left upon the “artist” by the world, the living & actual world. Both human labour & this ‘raw material’ are (directly or indirectly) the product of human relationships. Therefore, that which is produced in the sphere of art is a reflection of human relationships: the nature of art is, inarguably, social. Further, the use-value of a commodity may only be realised if it fulfils a human need. The use-value of art can only fulfil a need if it is relevant to some social interaction. The production of art presupposes a cultural relevance, that is, an audience of actual human beings. If this were not so, art would not fulfil a human need: it would not possess a use-value & cease to exist.

When considering what this means for the construction of a proletarian art, Gramsci says this:

‘It seems evident that, to be precise, one should speak of a struggle for a “new culture” and not for a “new art” (in the immediate sense). To be precise, perhaps it cannot even be said that the struggle is for a new artistic content apart from form because content cannot be considered abstractly, in separation from form. To fight for a new art would mean to fight to create new individual artists, which is absurd since artists cannot be created artificially. One must speak of a struggle for a new culture, that is, for a new moral life that cannot but be intimately connected to a new intuition of life, until it becomes a new way of feeling and seeing reality and, therefore, a world intimately ingrained in “possible artists” and “possible works of art”.’ (Antonio Gramsci, Art & Culture)[1]

[1] The Gramsci Reader:PDF.


6 thoughts on “A Note on Proletarian Art”

  1. “Therefore, that which is produced in the sphere of art is a reflection of human relationships: the nature of art is, inarguably, social.”
    Dunno how much I agree with that.
    I think that a great deal of art is intensely personal, and any social meaning can be largely accidental.
    It’s frightening to think how many masterpieces have been lost to time because they were never bequeathed to the wider world.

    1. Your personal identity is created through society. Whatever 1 writes about, it is somewhat impossible to do something detached from the social reality we live in. Irrespective of whether the product is intended for personal or wider consumption, its use & content are social.

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