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Discourses and Strategies

The Role of the Vienna School in Shaping Central European Approaches to Art History and Related Discourses

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Ján Bakos

This book consists of essays on the Vienna School’s impact on Central European art history, Walter Benjamin’s move from transhistoricism to historical relativism, Jacob Burckhardt’s legacy and its metamorphoses, two competing conceptions of the social history of art, and Ernst Gombrich’s life long struggle against metaphysics. All share a common denominator: concern with the trajectories of art historical ideas and their ideological instrumentality. However, the author’s aim in analysing the premises and intentions of art historical discourse is not to undermine the credibility of art history by reducing it to total epistemological relativism. The historiography of art historical theories and critical reflection on their ideological background is understood by the author as an auxiliary art historical subdiscipline.
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Preface & Acknowledgement

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The essays collected in this book were drafted and written during the previous decade. Many were delivered as papers at international conferences and appeared in various journals or conference proceedings. Here they are published in their original form, without correction.

All share a common denominator: concern with the trajectories of art historical ideas and their ideological instrumentality. Seen thus, the history of art history appears not simply as a history of theoretical constructs but as a story of concealed political interests and implicit ideological strategies. Nonetheless, the author is also more than aware that the zenith of research into the relationship between epistemology and ideology is almost over and that searching for the hidden ideological dimension of art historical research is, therefore, no longer on the main agenda of present day art history. However, it must also be said that the author’s aim in analysing the premises and intentions of art historical discourse in its many forms, together with his reconstruction of their historical paths, is not to undermine the credibility of art history by reducing it to total epistemological relativism. The historiography of art historical theories and critical reflection on their ideological background is understood by the author as an auxiliary art historical subdiscipline. Therefore his chief ambition has been to demonstrate that ideological involvement is an unavoidable part of art historical research, from which it must follow that art historians, to be worthy of their salt, must always be extra vigilant when it comes...

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