In certain modern careers the union of a keen aesthetic intelligence with the imperatives of a radical political commitment would appear to be so complete that there is hardly any way to separate the one from the other even for the purposes of analysis. Yet about such a union of art and politics there is nonetheless something that requires explanation—something that remains, if not exactly an enigma, then at least a paradox, the kind of paradox that illuminates not only the minds of the individuals in question but the larger contradictions that have been endemic to the phenomenon of avant-garde culture in bourgeois societies since the concept of the avant-garde first emerged in nineteenth-century France. It is not always from the most towering figures, moreover, that we can learn the most about what these contradictions have meant in practice. Certain lesser figures—critics, editors, publicists, even...


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