Two Kinds of “Art Production”: A New Exploration of Marx’s “Art Production” Theory

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2020


Two Kinds of “Art Production”: A New Exploration of Marx’s “Art Production” Theory



Yao Wenfang


The theory of “art production” was first invented by Marx. The words “after artistic production as such has begun” in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” may reveal the important mystery of Marx’s theory of “art production.” Marx’s research on “art production” is mainly a political and economic consideration of art activities, rather than a general art review. He put forward two concepts of “art production.” One refers to the art activity as the mode of human spiritual production, which embodies the general artistic laws and aesthetic characteristics, and is relatively independent of material production and social development; the other is the production labor carried out by the spiritual production department in the capitalist production system, which takes spiritual products as commodities to create surplus value and realize capital proliferation. Marx distinguished productive labor from non-productive labor in the capitalist economic system, and classified the artistic activities as the mode of spiritual production as non-productive labor, which was often excluded in the study of political economy and the writing of the Capital. However, only when the artistic activity as a mode of spiritual production is separated and detached from the capitalist production system can it be studied independently and abstractly to reveal its special nature. It is in this sense that Marx made a classical exposition of art production as a special way to grasp the world, the free nature of art production, the “indirect” function of art production, and the aesthetic value orientation of art production.