By Hans Robert Jauss
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Additional resources for Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics
It must rid itself of the abstract "either-or" of negativity or affirmation and attempt to turn the norm-breaking forms of avant-gardist art into normcreating achievements of the aesthetic experience. There are at least three good reasons in the history of aesthetic PREFACE □ x experience which suggest that even today the norm-creating function of aesthetic experience need not necessarily slide into ideologically manipulated adaptation and end in the mere affirmation of existing conditions. However hopeless the situation of the arts under the hold and impenetrable manipulation of the new mass media may appear to ideology-critical puritans, it is nonetheless true that in the history of the arts, there have been times of servitude for the arts which more nearly justified the prognosis of their decline than does our period.
Given the total consumption-andexchange society in the age of an administered world, the paradoxically pointed thesis that "refraining from praxis, art becomes the schema of social praxis" (p. 3 39) can clearly be vindicated. And Adorno's aesthetic theory is also the best conceivable instrument for doing away with those misleading antinomies, formalism and realism, Van pour Van and litterature engagee which are nineteenth-century legacies. But if one takes literally the principal element in this theory according to which what is social in art can only derive from the determinate negation of a determinate society, a dilemma is created which Adorno himself described in these terms: "This does not mean, of course, that all positive and affirmative works of art-almost the entire store of traditional works —are to be swept away or eagerly defended by the excessively abstract argument that they also are critical and negative because they abruptly contrast with empirical reality.
If one leaves undecided the question whether a merely "a priori polemical" polemic is not also contradictory, this curious negativity surely defines the work of art only as the object of theoretical reflection, not as a schema of primary aesthetic experience. Regarding the latter, polemics against what exists or the "negation of an objectively binding meaning" (p. 239) is not theonly legitimate social function of art. This does not mean that the affirmative in the practice of the experience of art therefore deserves the taint of a conservative mentality, of the transfiguration of existing relations of domination.