What are the basic rules of art

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The Parisian sociologist Pierre Bourdieu searches for the "rules of art" in his latest book. He finds it in the novels of Flaubert and in France in the 19th century, when art and commerce were still strictly separated from one another

 

By Gustav Mechlenburg

 

When sociologists write about art, not much is left of it. It doesn't have to bother the art lover, and certainly not artists. But there are always those, be they art historians or philosophers, for whom such interference means breaking a taboo. They see the uniqueness of the individual threatened by the scientific analysis of creative works. Pointing out the limits of reductionist analyzes has therefore always been a common strategy. With Gadamer's distinction between scientific explanation and hermeneutic understanding, a place is kept free for art and thus for individual perception and production.

 

But it is precisely this distinction between "understanding empathy" and "mechanistic dissection" that the Parisian sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wants to destroy. In his opinion, sociology is scientific understanding, the understanding of social necessities. He defends himself against any essentialist point of view that suspects an authenticity or a timeless core of truth in the works of art.

 

The rules that Bourdieu follows in his book "The Rules of Art", which has just been published in German, are not aesthetic, but obey the logic of a specific social field, in this case that of culture, whose autonomy Bourdieu based on the French literature of Reconstructed in the second half of the 19th century.

 

It is the time of the salons, the newspapers and the birth of the intellectual. At this time, taste in art emancipated itself from the stately institutions, especially the academies. Questions about what art is and what its appropriate form represents are negotiated in a complex structure of positions within the field. Artists from various fields (theater, literature, visual arts) and journalists, publishers and gallery owners are involved. Bourdieu's thesis is that the respective art form or genre results from the strategies of the producers who take certain positions between recognition from their own ranks and economic success. Through constant demarcation and fine distinctions, they gain meaning and at the same time generate a never-ending change in art forms.

 

In examining Flaubert's novel "Upbringing the Heart", which makes up the bulk of the book, Bourdieu shows that Flaubert must have been aware of his own position in the artistic world. The structure of his novel resembles a sociological experiment in which the poles of art and money form the main framework. In the society described, the trump cards represented by the various forms of capital - cultural, economic and social capital - are distributed differently than in the external social world. The autonomy of the literary field is expressed in the reversal of values. As in science, denial of interest, especially profit, increases prestige. Commercial success is considered suspect. The artist appears as a patron, for whose gift there can be no consideration. A possible later profit is obscured by the inserted time interval.

 

As in other studies, Bourdieu shows in this book how the position in the power system can be maintained or increased by converting certain types of capital. It turns out that even in the most intimate feelings of the protagonists, which Flaubert describes, this structure of the superordinate field of power is reflected. And this, according to Bourdieu, is precisely where the advantage that literature has over sociology lies in its "ability to condense the entire complexity of a structure and history, which scientific analysis has to laboriously unfold, into the concrete singularity of a sensual and sensually comprehensible figure ".

 

It almost seems as if what represents the golden age of Greece for the humanistic hermeneuticist, for Bourdieu the France of the last century. He mourns a time when, in his opinion, the boundaries between art and commerce were still preserved. According to Bourdieu, the autonomy of the literary-artistic field is the prerequisite for the effectiveness of political action. For the intellectual tries precisely to make the values ​​of independence that have asserted themselves in the literary field effective in politics. This is where Bourdieu's more recent contributions come in, whether they deal with Europe or the media. He is concerned with the autonomy of critical intelligence. However, in this book he buys it by recourse to a time that he himself regards as outdated.

 

Pierre Bourdieu: "The rules of art. Genesis and structure of the literary field". Suhrkamp 1999, 551 pages, 98 DM Review taz No. 5922 from August 26, 1999 page 16 Culture 156 lines

Comment Gustav Mechlenburg © Contrapress media GmbH

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