What is the acceptance of art

Social sculpture - art and society with Joseph Beuys


The question of the importance of art for a society has not only received greater attention for a long time in artistic circles, but also in sociology and other sciences. In this context, some theories arose that attempt to grasp or refute the connection between art and society.

A particularly interesting theory within this complex of topics is that of Joseph Beuys' expanded concept of art. He looks at the relationship between society and art from an anthropological point of view, starting from the assumption that the holistic human being has been lost in modernity.

In today's technologically advanced society, according to Beuys, the importance of art seems to be reduced to a few peripheral areas of life. The world organized in this way, however, shows more and more obvious weaknesses. The individual step more and more in favor of material and the like. Interests in the background. Since not only social coexistence suffers from this state of affairs caused by scientific progress, but this system also leads to total collapse from an ecological point of view sooner or later, according to Beuys, a reflection on the artistic characteristics of man is essential . In his opinion, a social system based solely on scientific principles is not enough to enable ideal co-existence within a society. For Joseph Beuys, socio-political engagement is closely related to art, because “art is the only evolutionary force. That means that only through the creativity of the person can the circumstances change. "[1]

To formulate these considerations by Beuys in more detail and to further develop them into the complex theories of this much-noticed and often misunderstood artist

to penetrate should be a goal of the present work. To this end, I would first like to address some general, sociological and historical approaches to this topic, so that the conceptual background becomes more understandable. After an in-depth treatment of Beuys' concept of art and society, I will conclude with a closer look at the sociological aspects of these theories.

A relative simplification of this multi-layered and multi-faceted topic can unfortunately not be avoided in the context of this housework. For this reason, the most important aspects, which also represent the pillars of the expanded concept of art, should be given special attention here.


In both his artistic and socio-political work, Beuys always emphasized the historical and sociological relationships on which his theories are based. A brief summary of these backgrounds is therefore indispensable for a general understanding of Beuys' thought complex.

2.1. A historical consideration

The original concept of art was based on a close connection between the function of art and its function. In the context of cultural activities, art always had a religious or decorative aspect. It was integrated into people's everyday life. Only gradually did art break away from this approach: Immanuel Kant, for example, already assumed “disinterested pleasure” when looking at art. Finally, at the end of the 18th century, there was a distinction between art and craft, or art and science. Along with these historical and social prerequisites, the idea of ​​what specific human abilities are necessary for the production of art also changed. Kant, for example, viewed aesthetic ability, i.e. an intellectual achievement, as a prerequisite for the act of creation, while in the 18th century a concept of genius based on intuition prevailed, according to which the artist reveals the form of what is to be created in a moment of divine inspiration ( Storm and stress)[2].


[1] Beuys, Joseph quoted in: Harlan / Rappmann / Schata: “Social plastic. Materials too

Joseph Beuys. ”, P. 32. In future cited as“ SP ”.

[2] My explanations are mainly based on the representations of HAUSKELLER, Michael: “What is art? Positions of Aesthetics from Plato to Dante ”.

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