Brecht, the Popular, and Intellectuals in Dark Times: Of Donkeys and “Tuis”

In: Philosophizing Brecht
Author: Philip Glahn

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This essay discusses Brecht’s “technics of aesthetics,” his attitude toward class struggle as the active engagement with the tools of intellectual-as-material production, as articulated through the playwright’s disdain for the passive politicking and complicit posturing of his contemporaries in the face of capitalist exploitation and fascist violence. Accusing the “Tuis” or “Tellekt-uell-ins,” including Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, Georg Lukacs, and the “Frankfurtists,” of wanting to save Geist and Kultur rather than addressing questions of ownership and power, Brecht instead sought a proletarian understanding of art as active contest over the mechanisms of representation and imagination, the devices that link the perception of the given to inscribed as well as latent histories and thus multiple, potential futures. Brecht’s attempt at determining a “useful” position of artistic agency and solidarity is traced through his writings on popular culture and communication apparatuses, his poetry, letters and plans to pen a “Tui-novel.”