Evolution and Co-Optation. The "artist critique" of management and capitalism: evolution and co-optation


Third Text

2004, vol. 18, n°6, pp.585-594

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

'Artist critique' is an umbrella term, synthesising the many forms of critique first levelled against the new industrial capitalist, and bourgeois society of the nineteenth century, largely by artists in the name of freedom and individual fulfilment. Though many artists gave voice to this form of critique, they were neither the only ones to do so, nor did all artists participate in this movement. As a current of critical thought that has spanned modern society for almost two centuries, the social role of 'artist critique' is essential if the aspiration for a freer life -freed, that is, from the constraints of commodities - is to prosper. It is at the root of the intuitive opposition that can be made between art worlds and business worlds, between profit imperatives and those of artistic creation. Yet it must be acknowledged that over the past two decades this form of critique has fallen into unprecedented crisis. After first presenting what I understand by 'artist critique' and specifying its conditions of emergence, I will attempt to analyse some of the root causes of this crisis in the critique of capitalism. One of the key aspects to be analysed is neo-management's adoption of practices similar to those found in the art world. In many respects, one might say that neo-management practices are the result of paying careful attention to the complaints articulated by 'artist. critique'. In short, it is precisely the success of 'artist critique' that has led to its being co-opted by its adversary and losing so much of its poignancy.