Marx and Art

Martin Hirst


It might seem odd to be talking about art in a journal about the political economy of communication, but I would counter that art is one of humanity’s oldest and most stable forms of communication. The decoration of the body and of the dwelling go hand in hand (literally) with human development. The creation of aesthetically pleasing and culturally symbolic artefacts and performance is a hallmark of human society. Art emerges alongside the use of tools, expanding material wealth, increased social interaction and the beginnings of class society. Art is also closely aligned with the aesthetic/spiritual development of humanity and, thus, is directly related to the development, content and dissemination of ideology, including religious beliefs and superstition. In a nutshell, art makes the subjective realm of mental production material through the application of creative concrete [1] labour. Further to this, the contemporary theoretical debate about the political economy of art—particularly, how to properly evaluate or theorise the labour of artistic producers—has resonance with similar issues in communication, such as the valorisation of play on social media platforms. Finally, I think communication scholars can also benefit from an engagement with the aesthetic that is often missing from studies of contemporary media forms.

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