455.1 Sociology of art and comparative civilisation

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Jeremy TANNER , Institute of Archaeology, University College London, United Kingdom
Some trends in recent sociology of art have sought a rapprochement with styles of analysis characteristic of art history. This paper seeks to develop the dialogue between the sociology of art, art history and social theory by proposing a genuinely synthetic research programme in comparative historical sociology of art. I develop the framework for this programme by staging two dialogues, first between the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin and the sociologist Max Weber, then between the sociologist of art Robert Witkin and the social theorist Shmuel Eisenstadt. I argue that far from being the arch formalist of stereotypical sociological critiques, Wölfflin developed an incipiently sociological orientation to art, which had certain affinities with Max Weber’s cultural sociology. Robert Witkin’s account of the relationship between style and social structure emerges out of the same critical idealist tradition as informed the work of both Wolfflin and Weber, but gives it a strongly Durkheimian twist which is at once a strength and a weakness. By returning to that critical idealist tradition, and synthesising Witkin with the strongly Weberian comparative civilizational approach of Eisenstadt, I seek to formulate a conceptual framework for a strong comparative historical sociology of art which could bring some analytical rigour to the confused field of ‘World art studies’.