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Two questions regarding the following paragraph:

First question: Which meaning is grammatically true for the first bold lines? (My problem is to know what the sentence "as the Marxist critic Herbert Marcuse has proposed" refers to)

  1. According to Herbert Marcuse's belief, the reason for such behavior to Steiner was that the experience of Beauty in the eighteenth century was not an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity.

  2. the reason for such behavior to Steiner was that in contrast with Herbert Marcuse's belief, the experience of Beauty in the eighteenth century was not an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity.

Second Question: Does the final sentence of the paragraph want to say:

Now, does not have Steiner any role in the conflict between feminists and the Marxists?

Context:

Steiner may be recognising a hitherto suppressed feminine aesthetic but even to dare to speak of beauty seriously is to lay herself open to accusations of naivety, self-deception and a lack of humour. And, also, of course, of gross political incorrectness. For was not the experience of Beauty largely reconstructed in the eighteenth century as an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity, as the Marxist critic Herbert Marcuse has proposed? Rich and powerful men desire to possess it as a sign of their wealth and power – their lovely architectures and landscaped vistas, their art and clothes, their beautiful women and children, indicative of their superior position, health and happiness. In the grumbling skirmishes between the feminists and the Marxists, is Steiner not complicit with this state of affairs?

  • 1. Impossible to say. You'll have to read both Steiner and Marcuse and hope that they're clearer than Ede. Part of the problem for you is the Ede has asked a question, not made a statement. It's impossible to know for sure what answer she expects or whether she's understood Steiner and Marcuse. – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 8:49
  • 2. Impossible to say. There's no standard meaning in experiences being an affirmation of identity. – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 8:50
  • Second Question: "Complicit" means something slightly different from having a role, and it's not clear what the "state of affairs" is. And again, it's a question, not a statement. – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 8:52
  • Previous question about this paragraph: english.stackexchange.com/questions/258794/… – Vladimir Kornea Jul 14 '15 at 8:55
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The Marxist critic Herbert Marcuse proposed that the experience of Beauty largely reconstructed in the eighteenth century was an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity. By recognising a hitherto suppressed feminine aesthetic, Steiner is disagreeing with Herbert Marcuse. Therefore, in the grumbling skirmishes between the feminists and the Marxists, Steiner was accused of being complicit with a state of affairs wherein rich and powerful men desire to possess Beauty as a sign of their wealth and power.

Update in response to comments: You have to understand that Marxism regards language as a weapon, and concepts like Beauty as capitalist propaganda. Therefore for Steiner to claim that "beauty" is a legitimate concept, is for her to imply that Marxism (Herbert Marcuse) is wrong and the bourgeois view is correct. Under the bourgeois view, we have a state of affairs wherein "rich and powerful men desire to possess beauty as a sign of their wealth and power". Some Marxists accuse Steiner of being complicit with this state of affairs. In other words, of being on the side of the "bourgeois capitalists". Because she was recognising a hitherto suppressed feminine aesthetic. Which disagrees with Marxism. Making her their enemy.

  • could you please explain what "Steiner was accused of being complicit with the state of affairs" means? can you rewrite it in more usual words? – user127733 Jul 14 '15 at 11:59
  • Does it mean "Steiner is involved in the conflicts and disputes between the feminists and the Marxists"? – user127733 Jul 14 '15 at 12:08
  • @user127733 No, it doesn't mean that Steiner is involved in the conflicts. I expanded the answer with a detailed look at what "complicit with the state of affairs" means. – Vladimir Kornea Jul 14 '15 at 15:44
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These are rhetorical questions. Negative questions like this often imply the positive assertion, as in

You should be able to write better than that. Didn't you get an A in English Composition?

So the implies that Marcuse proposed that the experience of beauty probably was reconstructed in the eighteenth century as an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity. And the second suggests that Steiner probably is complicit with the skirmishes.

  • You haven't read much postmodernist litcrit, I'm guessing. I agree with you that these kind of rhetorical questions often imply their answers. But that's when the questions are about decipherable statements from people who don't believe that all meaning and judgments are societal creations. – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 9:09
  • No I haven't. I'm just reading this as ordinary English prose. Are you saying that he's using this rhetorical device in the opposite way than it's normally used, perhaps to obfuscate the meaning? Is it a rhetorical double bluff? – Barmar Jul 14 '15 at 9:12
  • It should be obvious that this isn't "ordinary" English prose. If only from the idiosyncratic metaphorical and abstract usages. The author is Siân Ede, so I'm not saying that she's using this rhetorical device in the opposite way. I'm saying that it's impossible to tell from the text, not least because of her own hedging: "Steiner may." Or may not. And why is "Beauty" capitalized. Is that different from "beauty"? – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 9:19
  • I think the capitalization is similar to scare quotes. I've updated my answer to qualify the assertions. But the main point is that the negative in the questions does not mean that she's asserting the negative. As with the more conventional example I gave, it implies that the speaker thinks the positive is more likely. – Barmar Jul 14 '15 at 9:25
  • And that's about all you can do, take a guess. And why would "beauty" need to be in scare quotes? And what does it mean for this not-quite-beauty to be reconstructed as an affirmation of identity? What was the original construction? And, again, I'm not saying that she's asserting the negative. I'm saying you can't tell. Anything, basically. – deadrat Jul 14 '15 at 9:31
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Neither of your paraphrases is correct.

... as the Marxist critic Herbert Marcuse has proposed

This phrase attributes to Marcuse the proposition that in the 18th century the aesthetic category of Beauty was 'reconstructed' (redefined) in terms which imputed Beauty primarily to the sorts of things (lovely architectures and landscaped vistas, art and clothes, beautiful women and children) which rich and powerful men desire to possess as signs of their wealth and power.

The author suggests that Steiner's speaking seriously about beauty puts her on a collision course with the Marxist understanding of that aesthetic category as an affirmation of bourgeois capitalist identity. This exposes her to (Marxist) charges of naivety, self-deception, humourlessness, and, especially, political incorrectness. In reviving the outdated category of Beauty, Steiner makes herself (from the Marxist point of view) "complicit with this state of affairs"—that is, an ally of those who seek wealth and power.

Incidentally, you can mostly ignore the reference to Marcuse, whose understanding of bourgeois aesthetics was far subtler than that of the doctrinaire Marxists whom the author posits as critics of Steiner's position.

  • You say Marcuse believed in the Marxist capitalist definition of beauty in the 18th century. On the contrary, Steiner looked for a different kind of beauty that was somehow feminine. But, having said that, how Marxists can accuse Steiner of being an ally of capitalists (who seek wealth and power)? Maybe I am wrong about something? – user127733 Jul 14 '15 at 13:11
  • @user127733 The conventional Marxist critique holds that since the 18th century the very category of Beauty has been appropriated by capitalist ideology, so to speak of Beauty is to position yourself within the capitalist aesthetic. (Note, please, that I specifically dissociated Marcuse from this critique.) – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 14 '15 at 13:45
  • Could you please explain what "lack of humour" and "gross political incorrectness" mean in this context? – user127733 Nov 9 '15 at 5:23

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