Rethinking aesthetics in the politics of theatre : a road to Edward Bond : the ethical
Jacques Derrida contended that Marxism is dead, along with its hopes, and its discourses (1994: 52). This thesis arose from an assertion that the socialist utopia as a paradigm of perfect justice, equality and freedom, has been progressively effaced from most cultural and artistic enterprises, supplanted by economic need, political consensus, and social compromise. Class differences remain acute, yet the notion of class struggle is effectively absent across the Humanities. I propose Edward Bond's philosophical model as a unique route to reclaiming this neglected utopian function of culture. Bond's plays and theoretical writings have been marginalized by the British theatrical mainstream. This study demonstrates that Bond's creative and ideological position is incompatible with any reactionary notion of 'mainstream'. Bond's radical materialism demonstrates an inherent and inevitable critique of most genres of theatre and performance. Through an exploration of key philosophical theories that underpin the work of the dramatist, I reach a re-evaluation of aesthetics as an ambiguous medium of the dominant bourgeois ideology. Art is a repository of cognitive truths, but not of universal cognitive truths. In terms of class culture, it really forms part of a tradition "of the oppressed" (Benjamin, 1999: 248). Habermas proposes a unity of experience in the arts by bridging "the gap between cognitive, ethical, and political discourses". I contend that these discourses are undermined by bourgeois aestheticization, which distorts values and understanding, manifested in the daily delivery of most culture as an industrial enterprise. Bond contends that, "[his] philosophy ... makes ethics an ultimate reality" (Stuart, 2000: 56). Identifying an interaction between Marx's theory of reification and Nietzsche's evaluation on men of ressentiment, I construct a platform for approaching this complicated ethical question. I evaluate the dialectical validity of what Bond calls "the problem"; the "extreme" lives we lead in our liberal democracies, establishing his philosophical position not as provocatively controversial but as logical, realistic, and materialistic. Capitalist reification progressively conceals human meanmg under "the essence of commodity-structure [ ... ] in all its aspects" (Lukacs, 1990: 83). With its emphasis on the meaning of the human self, Bond's dramatic strategy is in a sense the application of Lukacs's prescription against the reified mind. For Bond, drama is crucial because it allows reified individuals to enact human choices that are impossible in their daily lives. I conclude by addressing issues that arise from Bond's involvement in Drama in Education (DIE). Bond's theoretical output is evolving into a discrete, autonomous field and needs to be approached as such. Volume II, a transcribed interview with the dramatist himself, contributes further to the issues arising from this thesis.