Towards a Critical Sociology of Art?

  • Ian Heywood


This chapter continues the consideration of sociological accounts as moral constructions. It has been argued above, with specific reference to the work of Howard Becker, that in some sociological accounts of cultural phenomena like art there can be found a characteristic tension: a careful attention to the details of everyday, routine social life is coupled to a critique of beliefs and values so fundamental that their negation would engender a grave social crisis for the practice. Art is urged to secure itself by rejoining the familiar, everyday world from which philosophical theories and elitist attitudes have divorced it. The price of this new security is the relinquishment of its claims to be extraordinary, and of the belief that a life lived with art is significantly different from a life lived without it, other than subjectively. To seek to return art to its real grounds in everyday social life in the hope of avoiding dangerous and intractable disagreements about these representations is to presuppose that everyday social life reflects a real community of interest, a substantial practical agreement about fundamentals which, once established, is simply reproduced, providing the distractions and temptations of exclusive values and hierarchies are avoided. Art should not be encouraged to put itself at risk. But in every genuine artistic act conventions and settlements with the demands and interests of everyday life are put in jeopardy; the ideas and values essential to art demand rebirth in new forms.


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© Ian Heywood 1997

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  • Ian Heywood

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