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The Beauty of a Social ProblemPhotography, Autonomy, Economy$
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Walter Benn Michaels

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226210261

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226210438.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 01 December 2021

The Art of Inequality: Then and Now

The Art of Inequality: Then and Now

(p.105) 4 The Art of Inequality: Then and Now
The Beauty of a Social Problem

Walter Benn Michaels

University of Chicago Press

The “then” part of this chapter compares the social order of the world imagined by the photographs of August Sander with those imagined by James Agee and Walker Evans in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and argues that they present two fundamentally different accounts on inequality as injustice. Sander imagines a world in which injustice consists of excluding people or depriving them of their proper place, and justice consists above all in recognizing that place. Evans and Agee imagine a world (emblemized most vividly in their own inevitably adversarial relation with their subjects) that is organized by a class antagonism that makes the effort of inclusiveness at best irrelevant and at worst reactionary. The “now” part reads the work of the photographer Liz Deschenes as structured by a contradictory but revelatory engagement with both models.

Keywords:   James Agee, Walker Evans, Liz Deschenes, August Sander, inequality, exclusion, inclusion

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