This book sets out to clarify the nature of the aesthetic as a category within the theory of historical materialism. It opens with an analysis of Marx's brief discussion of Greek art in the Grundrisse, moves through a series of readings of specifically bourgeois texts, including those of Ruskin, G.M. Hopkins, Nietzsche and Henry James, and then to the terrain of Marxism in the concepts of history underwriting the work of Fredric Jameson and Jean-Paul Sartre. Sprinkler detours through the recent works of Perry Anderson to set the stage for a systematic consideration of the theoretical itinerary and continuing relevance of the contributions of Louis Althusser.
Imaginary Relations is a cogently argued attempt to shift the terrain of Marxist theorizing about art from the domain of ideology considered as simply false consciousness to a concept of art which makes aesthetic texts sources of empirical data about the real, historical world.