Marx is first of all a revolutionist and then a thinker. Marx’s all kinds of theoretical activities including dealing with the problem of beauty is a particular part of his revolutionary carrier. Come Straight to the point, the issue of beauty in Marx’s works is tightly linked with the proletarian revolution and cannot be limited within the realm of aesthetics.
In this paper, I do my research in two steps:
The first part of paper is about human activities, mainly its laws of beauty and estrangement.
According to Marx, “man is directly a natural being.” It means that on the one hand man has natural powers inside as tendencies, abilities and instincts; and that on the other hand, the objects of his instincts exist outside, so he needs to objectify his essential powers to satisfy these tendencies and instincts. The reason is that, in Marx’s eyes, a non-objective being is a non-being. But, “man is not merely a natural being and he is a human natural being.” As a species-being, the activities that man objectifies his essential powers are not directly but directed by consciousness which is the representation of his species-character. That is to say, man forms objects in accordance with laws of beauty. As Marx said, “man knows how to produce in accordance with the standard of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object.” What one should pay more attention to is that the inherent standard is the standard of both every species and human being, and that it is not just human’s or object’s.
Moreover, man’s objective activities must be going on in some certain society. In Marx’s eye, in its reality the human essence is the ensemble of the social relations. “In its reality” is the key phrase in above sentence. According to Marx, society is not a kind of general abstract forces which is independent of individuals but a kind of inner space in which human’s self-realization can be achieved. So in a society where the relations of individuals are free association, man’s activities will be his own life, his own pleasure and his own wealth. But in a society where class-antagonistic relations exist, life itself appears only as a means to life, so “the better formed his product, the more deformed becomes the worker.” Marx called this as alienation or estrangement of labor. The alienation comes to a climax in the bourgeois civil society. But the dialectic character of this development is that bourgeois civil society not only makes the alienation come to a climax but also prepares for the transcendence of alienation, i.e., Communist society. It is only in Communist society that the genuine and free development of individuals can be realized.
As far as problem of beauty is concerned, in bourgeois civil society, nature is the only object that man wants to possess and plunder. It is not “man’s inorganic body”, not to mention its beauty. Marx said: “The care-burdened, poverty-stricken man has no sense for the finest play; the dealer in minerals sees only the commercial value but not the beauty and the specific character of the mineral: he has no mineralogical sense.” At the same time, most of creation and enjoyment of art becomes to be a kind of industry which is for exclusively some privileged persons and for the interest of the ruling class. On the contrary, in the communist society, beauty of nature such as the beautiful character and natural shine of gold and silver have been entirely brought out. The creation and enjoyment of art is no longer limited to some art genius or experts due to labor due to labor division. Moreover the art activities are no longer limited in the domain of some special kind of art, for instance, painting and sculpture. According to Marx, in communist society, there is no painter, or at the most there are some ones who are engaged in both other work and drawing.
But communism or the transcendence of alienation cannot be realized peacefully and must be realized through the proletarian revolution. There are many frontiers on the fields of revolution and one of which is frontiers of literature and art. And this involves the following question that will be discussed in the second part of my paper.
In the second part of paper, I deal with the problem of production of art and its relation to proletarian revolution and communism.
Production of art, as a production of certain kind of ideology, must be understood from the mode of material production. Some significant forms in the realm of arts are possible only at certain stage of social development. One of the Greek art, Eliad, take for example, is possible only at an undeveloped stage of social development. At the same time, the critique of the work of art must be linked with the critique of philosophy, politics and law etc, just as Marx criticized Mystéres de Paris by Eugéne Sue in The Holy Family.
The first question stemmed from this issue is that some works of art which derived from the undeveloped stage of social development such as the Greek art still affords us artistic pleasure. In a certain respect, it counts as a norm and as an unattainable model. Marx’s answer is as follow: “A man cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does he not find joy in the child’s naïve’, and must he himself not strive to reproduce its truth at a higher stage? Does not the true character of each epoch come alive in the nature of its children? Why should not the historic childhood of humanity, its most beautiful unfolding, as a stage never to return, exercise an eternal charm? ” Does Marx hint the limit of the association of aesthetics and politic in his tongue here? This is a question, at least to me.
The second related question is the particular mode of production of art. When Marx spoke of the opera The Economic Golden Root by La Salle, he commented that artist should have more of Shakespeare and not of Schiller in whose works the character was changed into a mere mouthpiece of the spirit of the times. In other words, the production of art should concern the work’s forms as well as contents, such as language and personal character etc. while dealing with its topic in accordance with the reality. After all, for the art as beautiful art form is indispensable.
Since production of art as the realization of man’s possession becomes a part of the production of ideologies of the ruling class and the disguise of rule of the ruling class in bourgeois civil society, proletarian art is in a greater degree on the representatives of revolutionary forces such as those of revolutionary peasants which La Salle ignored. When proletarian art casts away the greed and cunning of the bourgeoisie and cowardice and stupid, woman-like sentimentality etc vulgar gas of petit-bourgeoisie, when proletarian art dares to show their fearlessness, their proletarian nature and revolutionary claims that are opposed to all private ownership society, the performance of dignity of human can undoubtedly be called beauty.
The proletarian art is closely related to the proletarian revolution and communism. It is helpful for waking up and forming the class consciousness of the proletariat which is crucial to the success of the proletarian revolution. Of course, art only plays a subsidiary role in waking up and forming the class consciousness for which the organization and positive activities of the communist party is requisite. That is why György Lukács emphasizes the question of organization in his History and Class Consciousness which is on Marxist dialectic.