Marxism and art: unshackling culture from capitalism

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna)

Under capitalism, art and culture are nothing but business, to be exploited for profit. Meanwhile, the finest artistic accomplishments of humanity are locked up in the private vaults of the wealthy, or behind the gilded doors of expensive galleries and theatres – what Trotsky called the “concentration camps of the mind.”

The vast majority of people are prevented from producing art, forced to devote the bulk of their time toiling for a parasitic few, with barely enough time left over for rest. Expensive art colleges and elitist salons ensure the working class is kept out of ‘high’ culture, while the need to make a living prevents artists from experimenting and developing their craft.

The crisis of capitalism is also a crisis of culture: as we see in the endless parade of near-identical Hollywood superhero blockbusters, and stagnation in one discipline after another: from literature, to theatre, to music. Marxists’ fight for revolution is also a fight to liberate art from the profit motive, harnessing the whole of humanity’s creative potential.

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