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How to Study Art Worlds

How to Study Art Worlds: On the Societal Functioning of Aesthetic Values

Hans van Maanen
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    How to Study Art Worlds
    Book Description:

    This necessary and thought-provoking study brings together the organisational side of the world of the arts and the understanding of the many functions art fulfi lls in our culture. The author sets out to establish how the organisation of art worlds serves the functioning of the arts in society. The book is divided into three sections, the first of which presents a comparative study of approaches to the art world as practiced by Dickie, Becker, Bourdieu, Heinich, and Luhmann, among others. The second part focuses on the philosphical debates concerning 'aesthetic experience'. Besides Kant, scholars such as Gadamer, Foster, Shustermann, Schaeffer and Carroll come to the fore. In the third part, the author traces the consequences of these theoretical approaches for the organization of art world practices. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1090-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-14)

    From 1960 onwards, first art philosophy and then art sociology gave birth to a stream of theories describing and analyzing the dynamics of the world of arts. This was in reaction to the difficulties encountered when attempting to understand artworks as artefacts with particular distinctive features that are produced by the unique activity of artists. While each of the scholars who contributed to this approach emphasized the importance of the relationship between the production of art and the reception of it, they mainly studied the domain of production; very little attention was paid to the domains of distribution and reception...

  4. PART ONE The Art World as a System

    • 1 The Institutional Theory of George Dickie
      (pp. 17-30)

      George Dickie (born 1926) devoted 25 years of his active life, from 1964 until 1989, to the promotion and further development of his institutional theory. In a number of articles and four books published during this period, he defended his approach against what he called instrumental, traditional or romantic theories; all of these, however, were discussed by Stephen Davies as functional theories in his thorough comparison of institutional and functional definitions of art (Davies 1991). Davies’s book provides a detailed picture of the fight which took place from 1964 until the mid-1980s between Anglo-Saxon – particularly North American – institutionalists...

    • 2 The Institutionalist Pragmatism of Howard S. Becker and Paul Dimaggio
      (pp. 31-52)

      Art Worlds, written by the sociologist Howard S. Becker and published in 1982, was a book-in-between. In the first place, it could have been based on the art world discussion of the 1960s and 1970s, but it only devoted an isolated chapter to this discussion, while at the same time it came out too early to react to Bourdieu’s field theory, which was not to be extensively explained and demonstrated until 1992 inLes règles de l’art (The Rules of Art, 1996).¹ Secondly, Becker’s book does not make any theoretical choices, except for the one that the art world has...

    • 3 Pierre Bourdieu’s Grand Theory of the Artistic Field
      (pp. 53-82)

      Undoubtedly Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was the most influential art sociologist of the second half of the twentieth century. Leaning on, although also attacking, the French neo-Marxist-structuralist tradition of the 1960s (Althusser,¹ Hadjinicolaou, Macherey) he began his career with the critical study of education, in particular how educational systems reproduce class distinctions. In 1970 he wrote, together with Jean-Claude Passeron,Réproduction: Élements pour une théorie du système d’enseignement, which was translated into English in 1977 (Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture) and reprinted in 1990. Bourdieu’s lifelong themes – the character of social distinction and the processes of societal reproduction of...

    • 4 From Theory to the Methodology of Singularity: Bruno Latour and Nathalie Heinich
      (pp. 83-104)

      Generally speaking, critical comments on Bourdieu’s field theory have come from sociologists who have problems with his efforts to uncover ‘objective’ relationships and mechanisms within the field of art and to develop a theory based on this effort. The theoretical heterodoxy which Gielen has defended, for example, tends to grant more significance to individual agency in shaping a field of artistic positions, at the expense of the idea that (general) regularities should govern the field. In his approach to the fields of dance and visual arts in Flanders from the perspective of systems theory, he has obviously been strongly inspired...

    • 5 Niklas Luhmann’s System of Artistic Communications
      (pp. 105-124)

      Like Howard S. Becker, Niklas Luhmann has written only one book, albeit a very thorough and large one, concerning the world of art, among a very broad oeuvre that finds strong cohesion within the author’s system-theoretical thought. Educated as a jurist, he started his career as a scholar in the 1960s, with publications in the field of law and the organization of government administration. Already in the titles of those works his system-theoretical approach can be seen:Funktionen und Folgen formaler Organization(1964),Grundrechte als Institution(1965) andZweckbegriff und Systemrationalität(1968). This line of investigation ends in his synthetic...

    • 6 How Art Worlds Help the Arts to Function
      (pp. 125-146)

      The main goal of the first part – which will be completed by this chapter – was to discover what the different authors have contributed to the understanding of how the organization of art worlds serve the arts to fulfil their functions. At the end of the introduction a schema was introduced to present the various aspects of functioning in the art world, varying from the organizational structure of the different domains and their mutual relationships, via the question of which processes are going on in these domains, to – what may be the main question – which types of...

  5. PART TWO On Values and Functions of the Arts

    • 7 What Philosophers Say that the Arts Do
      (pp. 149-202)

      As has become clear from part one, the most important task of the sociology of art is to explore how the internal and external organization of art worlds makes the functioning of art possible in a society. At the core of this study is the answer to the question: ‘What does artdo?’ In the first part of this study, the question was introduced and discussed, but certainly not conclusively answered. In the second part, this subject will be examined more closely, albeit without attempting to write a short philosophy of art or even to try to do justice to...

  6. PART THREE How to Study Art Worlds

    • Introduction
      (pp. 205-206)

      At the end of the first part of this study, the two most important and challenging tasks for the sociology of art today were defined as 1) to investigate the conditioning impact of organizational structures – within and between the domains of production, distribution and reception – on what the arts do in society and 2) how aesthetic communication is related to other types of communication. What the arts do was expressed in the values of art formulated in the second part and summed up in figures 7.1 and 7.2. The functioning of art can simply be defined as the...

    • 8 Foundations for the Functioning of Art Systems
      (pp. 207-240)

      Referring to the foundations of the functioning of an art system leads us back to a broader meaning of the term ‘functioning’ than used in the second part, in which particularly the functioning of aesthetic utterances, or art as such, was under discussion. The title of the first matrix in the introductory chapter was ‘Fields and relationships to be studied concerning the functioning of an art world on the societal level’. The same matrix might also be called ‘87 ways to study the functioning of an art world’, which means that possible outcomes of the various processes can be studied...

    • 9 How Distribution Conditions the Functioning of Art
      (pp. 241-274)

      Precisely because aesthetic utterances and users of them meet in the domain of distribution, for a clear understanding of this encounter and the conditions it places on the functioning of art, it will be necessary not only to investigate the organization of this encounter as such, but also to answer two other questions: a) what types of aesthetic communication are brought in by the artists, and b) who are the participants in the communication taking place. When these questions relate to the domains of the art world as a whole – including the domain of contextualization in which realized values...

    • 10 How Aesthetic Values Become Contextualized
      (pp. 275-290)

      In the third part of this book, and particularly in this final chapter, the question asked was how the values of art obtain a function in society. Chapter eight was principally about the ways in which financial and economic, as well as political and legal, factors condition the production and realization of aesthetic values. Chapter nine investigated how the distribution domain, which had already been shown to be the central domain within an aesthetic system, brings together the production and use of art in aesthetic events and thus organizes the aesthetic communication in a society. This resulted in the PAM...

  7. Epilogue: For a Second Life of Artistic Experiences
    (pp. 291-294)

    In the introduction this book set itself the task of examining ‘how the organization of art worlds serves the functioning of art in society’. Later, this functioning of art was understood to be the realization of its potential values. In the first part it could be observed that the authors discussed there who, in general, took an institutional approach or variations thereon, hardly broached the way in which art acquires meaning in a society. Their focus was mainly on the dynamics in the field of the aesthetic production – possibly influenced by forces in adjoining fields – and on the...

  8. References
    (pp. 295-302)
  9. Index
    (pp. 303-312)