The Possibilities of “Political Fiction”

“A response to Richard’s post at The Existence Machine:   

“Chomsky himself is not extolling the virtues of political fiction [in his remarks about literature giving great insight into the human condition]…. In fact, on several other occasions it has become clear that he keeps his reading of literature separate from his political reading.”

Quite true. However, I refer to Chomsky’s remarks about literature giving great insight into the human condition because, among other reasons, they are concise and powerful, in my view, in pointing to the great potential insight to be gained from fiction/literature. That’s surely reason enough to cite them when one wants to underline this capacity of fiction. I don’t cite them to “extoll the virtues of political fiction” but to point out the potential power of insight of literature. 

And although Chomsky has strongly cautioned about not mistaking fiction for fact, he has also noted that fiction/art has great powers to heighten people’s perceptions about the world around them and that it has a great influence on people in many ways. He has noted repeatedly the racist stereotypes coming out of the culture industry, Hollywood (and elsewhere), of Arabs and others, and how much damage this does. It surely follows that if racist art can have such a damaging influence, then progressive, even revolutionary art can have a liberating and otherwise constructive influence. Again, Chomsky has repeatedly pointed this out.

There’s nothing unusual about using fiction, poetry, cartoons, film, art generally to attempt to effect change, or to maintain the status quo. It’s done all the time, by the establishment, as well as by progressives, and others, and by the greatest of artists throughout history, for that matter. 

There’s nothing odd about denials of this either, since a lot of effort is expended trying to cover up or distort or ignore these basic facts. 

When you say Chomsky “keeps his reading of literature separate from his political reading” you may be thinking of the following comments of his:

“I’ve been always resistant consciously to allowing literature to influence my beliefs and attitudes with regard to society and history.” “There are things I resonate to when I read, but I have a feeling that my feelings and attitudes were largely formed prior to reading literature.” “Look, there’s no question that as a child, when I read about China, this influenced my attitudes–-Rickshaw Boy, for example. That had a powerful effect when I read it. It was so long ago I don’t remember a thing about it, except the impact. And I don’t doubt that, for me, personally, like anybody, lots of my perceptions were heightened and attitudes changed by literature over a broad range–Hebrew Literature, Russian literature, and so on. But ultimately, you have to face the world as it is on the basis of other sources of evidence that you can evaluate.” “If I want to understand the nature of China and its revolution, I ought to be cautious about literary renditions.” “Literature can heighten your imagination and insight and understanding, but it surely doesn’t provide the evidence that you need to draw conclusions and substantiate conclusions.” “I can think of things I read that had a powerful effect on me, but whether they changed my attitudes and understanding in any striking or crucial way, I can’t really say.” “People certainly differ, as they should, in what kinds of things make their minds work.” “I don’t really feel that I can draw any tight connections [personally].” 

Be “cautious,” he sensibly notes, about the social and historical impressions you get from fiction, because it’s necessary to turn to “evidence that you can evaluate,” facts not least. That’s why I so value heavily fact-based fiction, well researched.

Also, I’m no more writing for Chomsky than I am for Dan Green. Chomsky says he “can’t say” whether or not literature “changed my attitudes and understanding in any striking or crucial way,” but he also notes, “People certainly differ, as they should, in what kinds of things make their minds work.” I’m writing mainly for some of those people who differ in that way, not necessarily for Chomsky or Green, while trying to do the sort of work that Chomsky and others do in nonfiction, as I note. Fiction had a big impact on me in regard to public and private issues both, as it does on others. (After all, the “personal” – fiction’s strength – is composed of the “private” and the “public” both.)

Furthermore, Chomsky himself has tried to employ Swiftian satire to do his work. He wrote a Modest Proposal type satire before the US invasion of Iraq, in which he argued that Iran should be the state to invade Iraq because if the US invades, especially to democratize Iraq, as it claimed, then naturally the majority population in Iraq, the Shia, would want to ally with the Shia of Iran, which would be real democracy in action. So why not let Iran do the work? This is a basis for potentially great satire and it’s a very informative piece of writing. Unfortunately, totally unlike Swift’s Modest Proposal, Chomsky’s piece turns out to be a lousy piece of satire from an aesthetic viewpoint. Chomsky has acknowledged that he has no talent for such satire. But Swift’s masterpiece provides evidence that fictive satire can be informative, effective, and aesthetic (among numerous other such works of art even in the dominant media – e.g., see the best editorial cartoons). And Chomsky has asked, “Jonathan Swift, where are you now?” He has noted further:

“Caricature can be very well done. Swift is marvelous, for example. Animal Farm is pretty good, in my opinion…. Caricature is an art, and not an easy one. But when well done, a very important one. As for dealing with Orwell’s problem, I try to do it in the ways I know how to pursue; 1000s of pages by now. No doubt there are other ways, maybe better ways. But others will have to find what works for them.”

See the weblist of articles and excerpts at my political novel site for some articles on quality art that is politically engaged, accomplished, and effective (scroll down to Views by Art: Society and Politics) .

“Second, the remarks strike me as highly unlikely to persuade anyone. Certainly not Dan Green, whose position on the matter is clear.”

It should be obvious that I’m not trying to persuade Dan Green of my views anymore than two debaters try to persuade the other of their views, as opposed to some audience, in this case the public. I’m entering a public discussion about matters of some importance in a public arena, for the sake of explaining my views and understanding in public, to whatever public there might be. 

“…it strikes me more than a little odd that one would continue to cite Chomsky (or for that matter, Howard Zinn, as he has also) in this context. It amounts to little more than an appeal to authority, and it does not further the debate.

I’ve cited a variety of thinkers at Dan’s blog, let alone elsewhere, and I purposefully often cite figures like Zinn and Chomsky because they are widely known as progressive workers. This helps further understanding, in a concise or shorthand way, of what I mean by progressive art. So in this way, citing these figures especially when they speak of art is highly useful, and quite appropriate, for purposes of clarity and brevity not least. 

Here’s more of what Chomsky has to say about Orwell’s fiction and the importance of culturally critical novels (with some key passages that I put in bold):

“About Orwell’s 1984, I thought, frankly, it was one of his worst books. Could barely finish it. Some parts (e.g., about Newspeak) were clever. But most of it seemed to me–well, trivial. The problem is not a very interesting one; the modes of thought control and repression in totalitarian societies are fairly transparent. In fact, they often tend to be rather lax. Franco Spain, for example, didn’t care much what people thought and said: the screams from the torture chamber in downtown Madrid were enough to keep the lid on. It’s not too well known, but the Soviet Union was also pretty lax, particularly in the Brezhnev era. According to US government-Russian Research Center studies, Russians apparently had considerably wider access to a broad range of opinion and to dissident literature than Americans do, not because it is denied them but because propaganda is so much more effective here. Orwell was well aware of these issues. His (suppressed) introduction to Animal Farm, for example, deals explicitly with ‘literary censorship in England.’ To write [in a novel…] about that topic would have been important, hard, and serious–and would have earned him the obloquy that attends departure from the rules….

“If Orwell, instead of writing 1984–which was actually, in my opinion, his worst book, a kind of trivial caricature of the most totalitarian society in the world, which made him famous and everybody loved him, because it was the official enemy–if instead of doing that easy and relatively unimportant thing, he had done the hard and important thing, namely talk about Orwell’s Problem* [as pertains to England and western states], he would not have been famous and honored: he would have been hated and reviled and marginalized.

“Caricature can be very well done. Swift is marvelous, for example. Animal Farm is pretty good, in my opinion. But 1984 I thought was a serious decline from his best work. Caricature is an art, and not an easy one. But when well done, a very important one. As for dealing with Orwell’s problem, I try to do it in the ways I know how to pursue; 1000s of pages by now. No doubt there are other ways, maybe better ways. But others will have to find what works for them.”


Furthermore, you might see my ZNet essay Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction for further elaboration. Also you might see my other ZNet essays, Progressive Political Fiction and A Few Notes on the Literary Establishment and additionally my other essays on the topic here. The essays would help show how you’ve misinterpreted and/or misunderstood my various blog comments.

“I should reiterate that I agree that the aesthetic experience of art is what is of foremost importance, by far.”

That’s fine if that is your preference, but it’s certainly not everybody’s, especially not in every case, every situation, all the time. Far from it. Many church services are works of art, intentionally and elaborately constructed, yet what is of “foremost importance” to the designers and other participants is usually not the “aesthetic experience.” This is commonly understood.

In a different vein, Kenneth Burke for one (along with many others) has done some interesting work on how tightly intertwined are aesthetic and moral qualities, which might make you reconsider your qualifier “by far” at least. See in particular Burke’s brilliant and important book, The Philosophy of Literary Form, excerpted at my sites and in some essays.

“I agree that attempts by artists to intentionally send political messages with their art most often fail to succeed as art.”

It could just as easily be said that attempts at art with no intentional political “messages” by artists more often fail to succeed as art, and that they fail more often than intentionally political attempts because the artists are not fully aware of the political messages their work inevitably sends.

Or, what your statement might indicate is an indirect acknowledgement that intentionally political art is more difficult than other sorts of art, maybe simply because more is intended, more is attempted, there is more to deal with. If so, it’s an imbalanced playing field for evaluation. It could also be an indication that successful intentionally political art is a greater — because more complex, at least — accomplishment than non-intentionally political art, or so-called apolitical art. 

“I wouldn’t try to convince someone, Dan Green in particular, by quoting vague remarks from Noam Chomsky.” 

Again, neither would I, nor do I. Chomsky’s remarks that I quote are brief, not vague.

“I think that when a writer’s primary goal for creating a work of fiction is to “debunk harmful propaganda and taboos” and “help energize, motivate, and inspire” then that work of fiction is highly unlikely to succeed as art.”

Again, of course you give no evidence for this, because it’s scarcely possible. Or even likely, as I suggest above. Quality editorial cartoons and plenty of quality films and corporate-broadcast songs, etc, that take care not to upset too many apple carts are clear indications that the social and political intentions and effects of art can be quite carefully crafted and controlled, as they are on a regular basis.

“(Note, also, that here again Chomsky is anyway not talking about fiction himself.)”

Nor do I remotely claim or imply that he is. Clearly and explicitly, on the main page of my Imaginative Literature and Social Change site I explain that what I work at via fiction is similar to what Chomsky and others work at via nonfiction. My site reads: “In its own way, fiction can accomplish something similar to what Noam Chomsky and many other progressive workers try to accomplish through nonfiction: the creation of works that clarify and better the world socially, politically, culturally….”

“Unfortunately, it appears that Tony Christini does subscribe to Dan Green’s definition of political fiction, as demonstrated, for example, in his same comment to Dan’s clarifying December post (where, again, the words of an authority [Michael Hanne] are provided):[…]”

Richard, I appreciate your patient analysis of my thoughts (unfortunately only drawn from blog comments apparently), but this remark is especially bizarre, I’m afraid. I don’t “subscribe to Dan Green’s definition of political fiction,” or any definition of political fiction, whatsoever. Such a concept is impossible to define because in certain ways everything and anything is political. See, for example, my response to the first question of this interview with Mickey Z.

Also, what is the problem, again, with referring to the research and thoughts of knowledgeable and relevant figures?

“…this passage does nothing to further the argument that fiction can be both politically motivated and literary.”

Not only fiction but many types of art are both “politically motivated and literary.” Not least a lot of art that is designed and crafted to reinforce the status quo, whether unconsciously or consciously motivated.

Also, if you’re serious about critiquing my views of political fiction, then it’s appropriate to critique the formal essays I’ve written on the subject, rather than turning to brief blog comments and quick excerpted references to the work of others that, in any event, you are taking far out of context. My book of criticism, The Novel and the Public, will be out later this year. In the meantime, a number of my formal critical articles and chapters are available here.

“I don’t think Tony’s comments, in the vein quoted above, further the discussion either, or indicate that he’s been paying attention to what Dan and others say.”

On the contrary, as I’ve again demonstrated above, I’ve dissected what Dan and others say in detail, even on the blogs, and more so in my formal articles and essays.

“It would be more interesting to read an actual demonstration of the political elements of a novel enhancing its aesthetics or not hindering them.”

I’ve done this in extensive detail in my formal writing. Again, I refer you to what’s available online and to my forthcoming book of criticism. Also, for such theory/analysis underlying potential critique of specific novels, there’s no shortage of criticism available historically. Again, I document and excerpt much of this at my sites. 

(To that end, I’m interested in taking a look at his own explicitly political novels, which are available through Mainstay Press, which he co-founded.) 

That would be great. Also, you might see some of my short explicitly political fictions online at my weblog A Practical Policy and elsewhere. 

(One note of possible confusion: I see at the Mainstay Homefront Trilogy page that the types of works are not indicated, unlike on the main page, which probably should be corrected. That is, as regards the trilogy: Homefront is a novel. Glory is a novella. And Washburn is essentially a long two part story.) 


2 thoughts on “The Possibilities of “Political Fiction””

  1. Thanks for responding, Tony.

    I should have been clear that I did not think that you thought, in the passages you quoted in your comments, that Chomsky was talking about fiction himself. However, I did think that the placement of the quotes in the comments did imply that he was. Similarly, when I noted that, in the Chomsky passage quoted at your site, he was not talking about fiction, I did not mean to imply that you were saying he was (I see that it does appear that I am). I was merely trying to emphasize the point to whomever might read my post. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “referring to the research and thoughts of knowledgeable and relevant figures”, but your references have at times seemed ill-suited to the purpose at hand. For example, to address Dan Green’s assertion that “If the goal is so resolutely political, it can’t also be literary, or the two terms are simply washed of their meaning” you cite the passage from Michael Hanne in which he gives us some of the political effects, but does not discuss literary matters.

    You’re right that I was responding mainly to things read on blogs. I will take a look at the other items you’ve written at your sites. And thank you for the reference to other articles and books, for example the Burke.

    I should say that I am working through these issues. I am torn between being genuinely interested in art that engages with radical ideas (hence my desire to expand the definition of “political fiction” beyond Dan’s conception) and being turned off by didacticism. I anticipate various posts about this topic. You make an excellent point when you refer to artists not being “fully aware of the political messages their work inevitably sends.” So, in a sense, I suppose I am indirectly acknowledging “that intentionally political art is more difficult than other sorts of art, maybe simply because more is intended, more is attempted, there is more to deal with.”

  2.  I should have been clear that I did not think that you thought, in the passages you quoted in your comments, that Chomsky was talking about fiction himself. However, I did think that the placement of the quotes in the comments did imply that he was.

    I do quote Chomsky talking about fiction. And I have also quoted him talking about how fiction can be used to address Orwell’s problem.

    Did you mean: _political_ fiction? If so, then you think that my placement of his quote inappropriately implies that he is talking about political fiction….

    Doesn’t seem so to me. Using that quote in that situation is my way of not dumbing down the conversation. Obviously, Chomsky is not explicitly mentioning what is commonly (and often confusingly) known as “political fiction,” but his point is about literature writ large, which would include any useful notions of political fiction, so in that sense a reference to political fiction can surely be seen to be implied – accurately and appropriately – even if it’s not necessarily the primary focus.

    Again, his quote refers to literature generally, that it can give “deep insight” into “the full human condition.” I often use that quote when talking about the political power of fiction because it is obvious that a significant part of the “the full human condition” is political. Chomsky is not talking overtly or solely about what is often referred to as “political fiction,” obviously. But it is also obvious that when one speaks of “literature” and “the full human condition,” political literature and political conditions must necessarily be contained within such broad categories. So, again, in this sense, Chomsky’s quote may be understood and ought to be understood to accurately and appropriately include political fiction, very much, but not explicitly, and certainly not in the often debased understanding of the phrase. To see this, one need not even know that Chomsky asserts that all literature is political to some extent.

     …your references have at times seemed ill-suited to the purpose at hand. For example, to address Dan Green’s assertion that “If the goal is so resolutely political, it can’t also be literary, or the two terms are simply washed of their meaning” you cite the passage from Michael Hanne in which he gives us some of the political effects, but does not discuss literary matters.

    Yes, but isn’t it obvious why I don’t quote Hanne discussing literary matters? Is Werther not literary? Is the work of Dickens not literary? Does The Jungle have no literary qualities of note? It doesn’t take much research to find thoughtful analyses that show that it does.

    I could have painstakingly unwound Green’s very convoluted false and nonsensical statement. Or I could more quickly note examples, as I did, of novels that, whether intended or not, have simultaneously a) literary qualities and b) socio-political qualities or c) some socio-political effect in the world.

    Again, as you note, Dan Green merely asserts and explains nothing: If too political, then non-literary. Oh really? Why? To prove his assertion false, one simply needs to identify works that are both literary and political. Hanne obviously does so.

    Take the first example: Hanne notes the great effects of The Sorrows of Young Werther, albeit unintended. It’s simply not controversial that this novel is quality accomplished art. Thus, socio-political effect and quality aesthetics are not mutually exclusive – in fact, as this example shows, the one may help cause the other, whether intended or not. And so one had better pay careful attention to what one is doing in literature beyond aesthetics, as well as with aesthetics, because it is bound to matter, even make a huge difference.

    Take the second twinned example: Hanne again notes the existence of social effects, and I don’t know about Kingsley but the aesthetic quality of Dicken’s novels, though not without flaws, has been lauded to the skies.

    Take the third example: The Jungle and its well-known political effects. The aesthetics of this novel are much derided, but you don’t have to dig far in research to find some thoughtful appreciation for some of its aesthetic qualities, however limited. Apparently the aesthetic qualities were sufficient to allow the novel to be a popular success that moved many people, and the political machinery as well.

    And remember I’ve supported the main assertions here in fairly exhaustive detail elsewhere, readily available.

    But if one wants to examine what Dan Green is saying in detail, fine, it can be readily done. He is not merely making an assertion and not explaining it. He is “begging the question”; he is saying, the answer is X because the answer is X. To paraphrase his statement that you quote above: If an author aims to be very political, the resultant work cannot be literary, because what is literary cannot be political (or, vice versa, what is political cannot be literary).

    That’s the plain English version. But notice how convoluted it remains. He is begging the question by way of a non sequitur, since his statement that “the two terms are simply washed of meaning” apparently means political and literary qualities cannot coexist without each type of quality losing all meaning – an obvious non sequitur. Take a simple case: do all parables have no literary qualities? Obviously in many parables, moral qualities and aesthetic qualities coexist. And politics in many ways is morality writ large. Also see the many highly aesthetic editorial/political cartoons. Do parables have no effect on human behavior? On personal – private and public – behavior? Of course they very well have and may. Just as parables writ large as political stories have and may. Or again see highly aesthetic editorial/political cartoons.

    But this is only half the problem of the statement. Notice we have left aside – at least explicitly — the notion of the goal or the aim, that is, the intention, because this has nothing to do with the (nonsensical) gesture towards explanation. Not only do we see that moral and political qualities and literary (or aesthetic) qualities can and do coexist in literature, we see that they can be crafted to coexist on purpose – which is precisely how, one assumes, parables were and are constructed: on purpose. And in any event, this is clearly how political editorial cartoons of aesthetic accomplishment high or low are constructed: on purpose.

    This disconnect should be obvious: intent has nothing to do with whether or not political and literary qualities and effects can coexist. Such work can be crafted on purpose as with parables and editorial cartoons, as we have seen, or such work can happen accidentally, which goes without saying. Has anyone ever claimed there are never any unintended political and aesthetic qualities and effects of art, some quite striking, quite fortunate or unfortunate? The claim would be absurd.

    And so, is Green’s assertion really about whether or not literary work can be political in quality or political in effect or politically created intentionally?

    Surely he would not deny that literature can be both literary and political in some unintended effect or in some (not too “resolutely intended”) quality. But get too “resolute” about intending any political quality and effect in literary writing and suddenly that gets very threatening for some people and so they must deny it can happen in the first place. That’s one possible explanation.

    Okay, if that’s the case, if that’s what must be addressed, then maybe Goethe, Dickens, and Sinclair are not the best examples because possibly not clearly intended or literary enough. Fine. What about my first example on Green’s weblog: A Modest Proposal? It’s unquestionably literary and caused public protest. And there are plenty of other examples from editorial cartoons, to songs, to films, to plays, to poems, to, yes, even novels. For as even a conventional critic like V. S. Pritchett notes in The Living Novel:

    “The fact is that, from the beginning, the English novel set out to protest and to teach. Its philanthropic campaigns in the nineteenth century are paralleled in the eighteenth century by its avowed desire to reform the brutal manners of the age. The explanation is not necessarily that there has been an extra allowance of public spiritedness in our novelists; it is simply that the crucial problems of his own time provide a novelist with his richest material, whether he deals with it directly or by inference. The reform of manners was as vital in the eighteenth century as the reform of the Poor Law was in the nineteenth….”

     I should say that I am working through these issues. I am torn between being genuinely interested in art that engages with radical ideas (hence my desire to expand the definition of “political fiction” beyond Dan’s conception) and being turned off by didacticism.

    Immediately, there is a problem. To a certain extent, all art is didactic or propagandistic. There is much literature on this, much of which I’ve documented and excerpted and made available online. Similarly, much mainstream art that is often called apolitical is actually often heavily imbued with the radically unjust status quo. So it makes sense to look at what is commonly called radical and didactic and what is not and to think about whether or not such labeling and understanding actually makes any sense whatsoever, or whether or not it actually flips reality on its head, or falsifies, guts, or badly distorts it.

    Terry Eagleton notes the obvious in his “Conclusion: Political Criticism,” Literary Theory: An Introduction: “Radical critics [and, one might add, novelists]…have a set of social priorities with which most people at present tend to disagree. This is why they are commonly dismissed as ‘ideological’, because ideology’ is always a way of describing other people’s interests rather than our own.”

    It has been argued that “that any politicized or scientized art project is going to eventually be proved to be ‘wrong’, because no politics lasts forever and no science remains unchanged. Saying that such a project ‘succeeds or fails on the truth of’“ something seems to want to make such projects eternal, when they probably can’t be. As such it devalues their possible success during their time.”

    But this is clearly false. Has Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” been “proved ‘wrong’”? Has such Swiftian satire been “proved ‘wrong’”? It doesn’t get more “politicized” than that. What about Aristophane’s “Lysistrata”? Etc and so on.

    No one has been able to demonstrate that human nature has changed; thus, why should political insights of millenia past necessarily be “proved ‘wrong’” even in relation to today?

    In any event, in many ways so-called apolitical art is as political, as politicized, as anything else. Lila Rajiva notes that great Indonesian novelist “Toer and Chomsky both write that the apolitical position is the most thoroughly political position. To live in a society and pay taxes is to accept the power relations in that society and thus to be political and to a lesser or greater degree complicit in the acts of the state” in one’s art and otherwise. Terrible things “can take place only because not enough people protest or rebel against these developments” in art and otherwise.

    Or, as the progressive historian and progressive playwright Howard Zinn says, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train,” not in life, and not in art.

    Or, as the “political” and literary novelist Frank Norris writes in The Responsibilities of the Novelist: “‘The novel must not preach,’ you hear them say. As though it were possible to write a novel without a purpose, even if it is only the purpose to amuse.”

    Or, as Bernard Smith writes in Forces in American Literary Criticism:
    “‘Propaganda’ is…used [here] to describe works consciously written to have an immediate and direct effect upon their readers’ opinions and actions, as distinguished from works that are not consciously written for that purpose or which are written to have a remote and indirect effect. It is possible that conventional critics have learned by now that to call a literary work ‘propaganda’ is to say nothing about its quality as literature. By now enough critics have pointed out that some of the world’s classics were originally ‘propaganda’ for something.”

    And V.F. Calverton in The Liberation of American Literature:
    “That the attempt to be above the battle is evidence of a defense mechanism can scarcely be doubted. Only those who belong to the ruling class, in other words, only those who had already won the battle and acquired the spoils, could afford to be above the battle. Fiction which was propagandistic, that is, fiction which continued to participate in the battle, it naturally cultivated a distaste for, and eschewed. Fiction which was above the battle, that is fiction which concerned only the so-called absolutes and eternals, with the ultimate emotions and the perennial tragedies, but which offered no solutions, no panaceas – it was such fiction that won its adoration. “It is possible that we are growing a bit tired of the novel with a purpose,” The Nation declared in its issue of April 18, 1912, reflecting that change in the process of consummation, and then adding in a carping vein that the “American novelist, like the American playwright, has listened to the counsel which urged him to look for his materials in problems of the nation and the day.” The new aim was to escape social reality and to exalt individual emotionality. In short, this new ideology, like that of all leisure classes, sought to cultivate literature as a form of escape – escape either from boredom or from its own limitations of self and soul.”

    And Kenneth Burke in The Philosophy of Literary Form:
    “The contemporary emphasis must be placed largely upon propaganda, rather than upon ‘pure’ art…. Since pure art makes for acceptance, it tends to become a social menace in so far as it assists us in tolerating the intolerable. And if it leads us to a state of acquiescence at a time when the very basis of moral integration is in question, we get a paradox whereby the soundest adjunct to ethics, the aesthetic, threatens to uphold an unethical condition. For this reason it seems that under conditions of competitive capitalism there must necessarily be a large corrective or propaganda element in art. Art cannot safely confine itself to merely using the values which arise out of a given social texture and integrating their conflicts, as the soundest, ‘purest’ art will do. It must have a definite hortatory function, an educational element of suasion or inducement; it must be partially forensic. Such a quality we consider to be the essential work of propaganda…. And incidentally, our distinction as so stated should make it apparent that much of the so-called ‘pure’ art of the nineteenth century was of a pronouncedly propagandist or corrective coloring. In proportion as the conditions of economic warfare grew in intensity throughout the ‘century of progress,’ and the church proper gradually adapted its doctrines to serve merely the protection of private gain and the upholding of manipulated law, the ‘priestly’ function was carried on by the ‘secular’ poets, often avowedly agnostic.”

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