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Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between architecture and theories of the avant-garde in the critical projects of the 1970s, with a focus on the theories of Peter Bürger and Manfredo Tafuri. Both Tafuri and Bürger were writing from within the context of a radicalized Marxism and were fuelled by an intellectual pessimism towards the totalizing systems of cultural production that questioned the role of resistance in aesthetics and the inability of the historical avant-gardes to engage within the political and economic fields of contemporary society. While there is a common ancestry to these two approaches, and mutual acceptance of the failure of the avant-garde project, the work of Tafuri has had an enduring influence on architectural history and theory, while Bürger’s synchronous work has attracted only a modest amount of scholarly attention in architecture despite its ongoing legacy in art theory and, particularly, within an American context. This paper argues that Bürger’s dialectical approach has a significance for architectural theory and presents a discursive position through which Marxism and architecture can be advanced. Through a detailed reading of these two approaches, the paper attempts to position architecture as a particular strategy of the avant-garde that overshadowed all fields of aesthetic production in the period.

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