The Necessity of Art, Ernst Fischer, with an Introduction by John Berger, London: Verso, 2010

In: Historical Materialism
Jeffrey Petts University of York

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In The Necessity of Art Ernst Fischer develops a Marxist aesthetics in the humanist tradition, arguing art’s necessity as both a vehicle of social criticism and as an essential element of humanity. These twin themes place Fischer’s work, then, at the centre of issues in Marxist aesthetics that have traditionally proved contentious: firstly, about the function of art, both under capitalism and universally; and about the relationship – causal or otherwise – between economic conditions and art. Fischer’s aesthetics overemphasises the humanising possibilities of great works of art to the neglect of an everyday aesthetics that argues the possibilities for aesthetic lives based on good work under communism. But he provides a theoretic start to effectively countering structuralist Marxism, and he was in his lifetime – as John Berger’s Introduction movingly conveys – a powerful opponent of the bureaucratisation of art under Zhdanov’s Socialist-Realist creed.

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