THE AMOEBA WEEPS

Mistaken identity

October 29, 2016

Fetishism involves the mistaken attribution of properly subjective relationships (relations between or faculties of subjects / people) to objects (personification / anthropomorphism). Marx held that the value of products is a function of the relationships of labor/power between the people that produce them. Commodity fetishism involves the mistaken belief that the price (exchange value) is an objective property of the commodity itself. Something similar happens with autonomous art. Kant argued that aesthetic disinterestedness and purposiveness without purpose are characteristic of certain mental states -- that is, they involve a particular way that subjects can interact with objects (aesthetic experience). At some point these subjective characteristics get confused for objective properties of works of art themselves. The problems of autonomous art articulated by Taruskin and his breed lie in the fact of this mistaken attribution of subjective powers/attributes (namely, freedom / autonomy / purposive purposelessness) to objects qua works of art.

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