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From Commodification to Exceptionalism

Conference contribution
Authors David Beech
Published in Left Forum 2017: The Resistance
Publication year 2017
Published at Valand Academy
Language en
Links https://www.leftforum.org/sessions/...
Keywords commodification, exceptionalism, economics, value, artwork, Marxism, capitalism
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Art History, Performing Arts, Music, Visual Arts, Economics


A panel at Left Forum was convened to discuss Dave Beech's book Art and Value, organised by Bryan Pankhurst (Oberlin College). The abstract for the panel read as follows: Dave Beech’s groundbreaking 2015 text Art and Value is the first systematic critique of the analytical approaches to art that have arisen within the frameworks of classical, neoclassical and Marxian economics. In addition to diagnosing a series of foundational mistakes that undermine the conclusions of historically significant economic treatments of art, the book also makes the positive argument that art is economically exceptional, in that the dynamics of its production and consumption are dissimilar to the dynamics that characterize the production and consumption of commodities in the context of capital accumulation. That is, contrary to the conventional pessimistic wisdom of much Marxist art theory, art has (by and large) not been relentlessly commodified, and art production has (by and large) not been subject to formal or real subsumption under capital. In this author-meets-critics panel, four music scholars who are sympathetic to Beech’s project develop and reflect upon themes from Art and Value. Topics to be explored include: 1) the applicability of Beech’s analysis, which centers on visual art and the gallery system, to various spheres of musical production and consumption; 2) the broad class of saleable items whose use-value is inseparable from the (authentic, traditional, non-exploitative, etc.) manner in which they are produced (such as art objects); 3) the welfare economics behind justifications for government support for the arts; and 4) the methodological errors committed by “Weberian” Marxists, such as Adorno and Lukács, in their impressionistic attempts to correlate artistic phenomena and the capitalist mode of production.

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