Art and Labour

On the Hostility to Handicraft, Aesthetic Labour and the Politics of Work in Art


This book provides a new history of the changing relationship between art, craft and industry focusing on the transition from workshop to studio, apprentice to pupil, guild to gallery and artisan to artist. Responding to the question whether the artist is a relic of the feudal mode of production or is a commodity producer corresponding to the capitalist mode of cultural production, this inquiry reveals, instead, that the history of the formation of art as distinct from handicraft, commerce and industry can be traced back to the dissolution of the dual system of guild and court. This history needs to be revisited in order to rethink the categories of aesthetic labour, attractive labour, alienated labour, nonalienated labour and unwaged labour that shape the modern and contemporary politics of work in art.

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Dave Beech, Ph.D., is Reader in Art and Marxism at CCW, University of the Arts, London. He is the author of Art and Value (Brill, 2015) and Art and Postcapitalism (Pluto, 2019).

1. Art, Labour and Abstraction
2. Arts, Fine Arts and Art in General
3. Guild, Court and Academy
4. Salon, Museum and Exhibition
5. Mechanic, Genius and Artist
6. Aesthetic Labour
7. Attractive Labour
8. Alienated Labour
9. Nonalienated Labour
10. The Critique of Labour



Art historians, aesthetic philosophers, cultural economists, critical theorists, social historians of labour and anyone interested in the politics of work.