The past fifteen years have seen an important shift in the way scholars look at socialist realism. Where it was seen as a straitjacket imposed by the Stalinist regime, it is now understood to be an aesthetic movement in its own right, one whose internal logic had to be understood if it was to be criticized. International specialists remain divided, however, over the provenance of Soviet aesthetic ideology, particularly over the role of the avant-garde in its emergence.
In The Cultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic, Irina Gutkin brings together the best work written on the subject to argue that socialist realism encompassed a philosophical worldview that marked thinking in the USSR on all levels: political, social, and linguistic. Using a wealth of diverse cultural material, Gutkin traces the emergence of the central tenants of socialist realist theory from Symbolism and Futurism through the 1920s and 1930s.
The Red Atlantis
J. Hoberman Temple University Press, 2000 Library of Congress HX40H5673 1998 | Dewey Decimal 335.43097
For most of the twentieth century, American and European intellectual life was defined by its fascination with a particular utopian vision. Both the artistic and political vanguards were spellbound by the Communist promise of a new human era -- so much so that its political terrors were rationalized as a form of applied evolution and its collapse hailed as the end of history.
The Red Atlantis argues that Communism produced a complex culture with a dialectical relation to both modernism and itself. Offering examples ranging from the Stalinist show trial to Franz Kafka's posthumous career as a dissident writer and the work of filmmakers, painters, and writers, which can be understood only as criticism of existing socialism made from within, The Red Atlantis suggests that Communism was an aesthetic project -- perhaps the aesthetic project of the twentieth century.
Considering the meaning of Communist culture in its absence, these essays sift through the wrecking age of Marxist fantasy to exhibit exhumed fossils (Socialist Realist canvases), vanished monuments (the Berlin Wall), imaginary territories (the Jewish state, Birobidzhan), and ideological memories (the Crime of the Century). The Cold War notwithstanding, the greatest of these exotic artifacts and obsolete scenarios is the lost Communist utopia, which, in fact, never existed.
This book explores the tradition, impact, and contemporary relevance of two key ideas from Western Marxism: Georg Lukács's concept of reification, in which social aspects of humanity are viewed in objectified terms, and Guy Debord's concept of the spectacle, where the world is packaged and presented to consumers in uniquely mediated ways. Bringing the original, yet now often forgotten, theoretical contexts for these terms back to the fore, Johan Hartle and Samir Gandesha offer a new look at the importance of Western Marxism from its early days to the present moment-and reveal why Marxist cultural critique must continue to play a vital role in any serious sociological analysis of contemporary society.