“Human energy, applied to finding ways of life that satisfy, to creating values which uplift the spirit, may improve the lot of man on earth as emphatically in the inner psychic sphere as man’s genius, directed toward conquering the outer material world, has ameliorated the conditions of his physical existence“
by Federico Soldani – 26th Mar 2021
The VI and second to last chapter of ‘Life in a Technocracy’, as discussed in the previous article in this series, is entitled ‘Art.’
“Incidental to the pursuit of profit – Loeb wrote – capitalism has fostered the development of those processes which provide the goods essential to life. In continuing to foster their development, it threatens to destroy itself.”
“Capitalism has also fostered the development of certain new art forms and, in particular, the development of a technique for the mechanical transmission of these and older [art, ed.] forms so that every citizen of today might have various aesthetic mediums in his house or at his door. The latter accomplishment is probably one of the greatest boons ever given humanity.”
“Beauty is not absolute. […] Aesthetic pleasure, being subjective, varies with the race and the time, in fact with each individual.”
In this passage, Loeb appears to believe that aesthetic pleasure is entirely subjective and mixes up concepts of absolute vs. relative with those of objective vs. subjective. “The art of capitalism helps man to endure a capitalist society.”
“The toys and the industrial technique which makes them possible, could give leisure and plenty to every man. They have permitted the population of the earth to increase, and man cannot reduce his numbers by edict. And most of the toys are beautiful in themselves and conducive to pleasure and experience. Nothing can be said against them really if one disentangles them from the capitalistic social system, from the capitalistic religion, the outrageous Mysticism of Money, which inspires the social system, and from the art which enshrines the religion.
The skyscraper is a direct expression of the religion. Unlike a motor car, it is not essential to the producing process. Consequently it would have to go, in a technocracy […] The New York skyline is unique, original, and imaginative. It fulfils, admirably, the intention of its creators. It possesses a nearly universal appeal […] It would have to go, in a technocracy, because despite its aesthetic virtue, it is nearly useless to human life. It thrills the beholder now and again but is painful to live with. […] The sixteenth century had the same difficulty in judging the Gothic cathedrals, some of which were still rising.. Many critics of that epoch called Gothic art barbarous. We tend to underestimate likewise the aesthetic appeal of our expressions. On the other hand, most of us from over-familiarity are blind to their anti-social character, to their devastating effect on life, to their ethical worthlessness.
A critical school which arose in the last years of the nineteenth century preached the unimportance of ethical values in art to such effect that many art twitterers have come to believe it. The theory, of course, was originally a stratagem mean to break down the effectiveness of the Victorian taboos which were cramping the artistic, and, as usual, ethical in the immorality or amorality, expressions of the time. The theory carried beyond some such purpose is of course absurd. Art must be ethical; perhaps the beauty cult, one of the most persistent ever preached by man, is the most ethical. At any rate, in the last analysis, expressions, whether primarily aesthetic or primarily utilitarian, justify themselves when they foster the good life among men. When they are conductive to unhappiness and all its concomitant ugliness, neither expressiveness nor technical excellence can restore the balance.
Technocracy requires the toys of capitalism as well as the instruments of capitalism. Technocracy does not need the Mysticism of Money, that religion of strife which makes avarice a virtue, and pretentiousness a policy, nor its expressions, no matter how magnificent. Buildings would no longer rise in competitive ostentation; advertisements would no longer entice the unwary to increase his wants […] Competition, at one time necessary for survival, is no longer necessary for survival. […] Man has become so accustomed to competition and strife, assuming that the tendency to strive was developed in man and not inherited from his predecessor, that a system which merely ceases to demand them will not, even in many generations, succeed in eradicating them.
It may be that human energy, applied to finding ways of life that satisfy, to creating values which uplift the spirit, may improve the lot of man on earth as emphatically in the inner psychic sphere as man’s genius, directed toward conquering the outer material world, has ameliorated the conditions of his physical existence.
That was what was meant by the suggestion that art might become the most important activity in a technocracy.”
[In the first photo ‘the Machinery’ / i macchinari, cover by Enrico Prampolini – his signature visible – of Vol. 3 No. 3: October 1922 of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts – the last issue that was published in Rome, the same month of Mussolini’s ‘Marcia su Roma’, before moving to Berlin – established and directed by Harold Loeb. Prampolini’s work nowadays is visible in museums outside of Italy such as Brooklyn Museum, MOMA, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all in New York City.
Prampolini was also the cover designer – his initials visible – of Vol. 1 No. 1 of Broom, in the second photo, and later became a designer of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista (Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution – Wikipedia), an exhibition opened by Benito Mussolini that was held in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni from 1932 to 1934, estimated to have had 4 million visitors.
Associate Editor of Broom at the time when the magazine was established in Rome in 1921 – main office was in Trinita’ dei Monti, 18 – was Giuseppe Prezzolini. “Initially, the magazine was printed in Europe, first in Rome and then in Berlin, with the intention of bringing new, avant-garde art back to the U.S.”]
Last Updated on March 28, 2021 by Federico Soldani