From a journal entry, July 19, 1982
Hilton Kramer has resigned as art critic for the NYT and announced the appearance of a new review: The "New Criterion." In reading the publishers introduction, I detected a familiar tone. When I came to names from "Commentary" and the "National Review", the source was plain.There have been several articles and review on music in "Commentary" recently. They have taken a critical tack I've found odd and unsettling. Not criticism of individual works, but generic criticism. Attacks on jazz, on popular music, on the dilution of the teaching of "serious" (European concert) music in the curricula of American conservatories and schools of music. This seems to be a posse of writers and intellectuals, politically right wing, with an active agenda to correct modern culture, which they are sure has gone miserably astray. They are anti's: anticommunist, anti-populist, antidemocratic, anti-soviet, anti-liberal (who, by design or unconsciously, are the handmaidens of Marxism). They are authoritarian elitists.The new thing here is this emphasis on controlling culture. The arts, literature, music, theater; all are seen through a kind of backwards Marxist lens, busily purveying hidden social programs. The real purpose of criticism, it seems, is to expose the hidden social agenda a which is the matrix and context of the work, then to demonstrate the political/economic wrong-headedness of that context. The work itself is but a means or foil for the serious business of promoting political and social orthodoxy. Art is taken seriously, the way Marxist criticism takes it seriously. Not for its own sake (whatever that may mean), not for the meaning or importance inherent in any particular work, but for the place a work occupies in the social-political matrix of which it is both example and creator-advocate. This new-conservative, neo-classical-authoritarian criticism begins with its own dogmatic orthodoxy, but an orthodoxy that is clear and formally articulated only on the political-social level. In other words, it's not about art, it's about politics. Art held up to political ideology.Their problem is, they can't deal with art. It's too slippery. Like a guerrilla army in the hills. So the New Authoritarian eliminates the enemy by a master stroke; it transforms by magic thinking art, artists, and all their supporters, into pure ideological terms. For ideological battles the Authoritarian's rhetorical weapons are well honed.It's characteristic of the these guy to be more eager to attack the supporters of the arts than the artists or their work. They're realists. They know where the money is. And in the White House, having not the slightest idea what any of this is about, they have no mere sympathizer, but a crusading general.8/20/82An article in the Inquirer this week on the New Criterion. The Village Voice a critical piece. They're (NC) funded by some right wing foundation.