Art and geopolitics : politics and autonomy in Argentine contemporary art

Rinaldi, Juan (2013) Art and geopolitics : politics and autonomy in Argentine contemporary art. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis critically analyses the implications of a now global capitalist modernity for Theodor W. Adorno's theory of art. The thesis takes as its starting point the sociological presuppositions at play in his social theory and problematises the spatial and historical dimensions in which they are embedded. The analysis of the process of homogenisation of social relations that Adorno presents as a constitutive feature of societies during monopoly capitalism brings to the fore the centrality of the state as administrator. This thesis claims that there is a spatial contradiction in Adorno's definition of society, given that the interconnectedness of capitalism as a system is negated by the restriction of that definition to industrialised societies. In other words, there is a universalisation of the particularity of industrialised societies underlying Adorno's social theory, that hides a functionalist understanding of the state and disavows its constitutive character for capitalist social relations. The introduction of an analysis of the particularity of the state in latin American societies serves as a counterpoint to the societies analysed by Adorno. latin American societies are analysed from the point of view of Dependency Theory, particularly in relation to Henrique Cardoso's and Enzo Faletto's concept of dependent development. This concept allows a further differentiation internal to latin American societies and problematises the common assumption that structural heterogeneity is a key concept for understanding these societies. Consequently, the thesis focuses its analysis on the socio-economic and political situation of the societies in the Southern Cone of South America, particularly Argentina, given their relative social homogenisation during the 1960s. The thesis claims that contrary to Adorno's assumption that capitalist social development destroys collective subjectivities while producing homogenisation, the Southern Cone societies show that development and relative social homogenisation in contexts of dependency do not necessarily produce political neutralisation but rather its opposite. The problematisation of Adorno's social theory is further complicated by the historical development of capitalism during neoliberalism. The decoupling of the spatial grounding of the relation between capital and labour constituted during monopoly capitalism is presented from the point of view of the radical transformation of Argentine society from the mid-1970s onwards. The thesis introduced the concept of the 'destruction of the social' in reference to the central role that the process of accumulation by dispossession, as theorised by David Harvey, has for the transformation of Argentina. Given this expanded global context, the thesis then discusses the effects that the transformation of the relation between capital and labour has for the conditions of production of artistic labour during neoliberalism. In particular, it claims that the 'developmentalist' dynamic that aligns technological development, industrialisation and artistic material in Adorno's concept of the new, has been problematised by the primacy of financial valorisation as a form of accumulation, and the dynamic role that accumulation by dispossession has in it. The emergence of a globally expanded labour theory of culture is analysed in relation to the contemporary art produced in Argentina between the late 1960s and the 2000s. The relation between the socially regressive tendencies developed during this period and artistic technique is analysed throguh the introduction of the notion of the 'return to craft.'

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