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Synopsis

In this lucid and stimulating new book, Peter Burger, one of the foremost literary critics in Germany today, addresses the relationship between art and society, from the emergence of bourgeois culture in the eighteenth century to the decline of modernism in the twentieth century. In analysing this relationship, Burger draws on a wide range of sociological and literary-critical sources - Weber, Benjamin, Foucault, Diderot and Sade among others. He argues that in questioning the formal relationship between art and life which had dominated the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the avant gardist movements of the early twentieth century brought about the crisis of postmodernism.

Burger charts the establishment of literary and artistic institutions since the Enlightenment and their apparent autonomy of the prevailing political systems. However, he argues that the discovery of the obverse of Enlightenment, namely barbarism, revealed the interdependence of art and society and set the scene for the avant-gardist protest against aesthetics formalism.

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