First published in 1983, Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art provides a lucid account of two divergent tendencies in the study of aesthetics. At the one extreme, traditional aestheticians have assumed that art and literature are wholly independent, following only the laws and inspirations of artists and artistic movements, and that the question of aesthetic value is accordingly unproblematic. At the other extreme, some sociologists have treated works of art as no more than manifestations of the socio-economic circumstances which produce them, arguing that aesthetic value is therefore entirely relative matter. Janet Wolff shows how both the extreme positions are untenable, and argues convincingly that we must accept that the conceptions and criteria of aesthetic value are socially constructed and inevitably ideological, while stopping short of the reductionist alternative which fails to recognise the irreducible questions of pleasure and of aesthetic discourse.
This book provides an invaluably clear guide both to old debates and to otherwise obscure modern controversies, which will be welcomed both by students and scholars in the sociology of art, in aesthetics, in art history, and in literary criticism.
Acknowledgements 1. The Sociological Critique of Aesthetics 2. Sociology versus Aesthetics 3. Political and Aesthetic Value 4. The Nature of the Aesthetic 5. The Specificity of Art 6. Towards a Sociological Aesthetics Bibliography Index