This article critically compares two recent approaches to the problem of aesthetic autonomy: Dave Beech’s Art and Value and Nicholas Brown’s Autonomy. By recentering the differences between these critics’ works around Marx’s categories of subsumption, it evaluates the fraught relationship between labor and aesthetics, economy and form, art and the market. Although Beech provides a persuasive account of art’s “economic exceptionalism,” his focus on the qualitative irreducibility of artistic labor risks losing sight of what is socially unique about aesthetic production. Likewise, and inversely, while Brown’s original account of art’s internal overcoming of the commodity-form provides a generative way to rethink aesthetics in modernism’s wake, it rests on a periodizing claim for the total domination of the capitalist market that equivocates on whether artistic labor can truly be “really subsumed” under capital. The article concludes by pondering the political dimension to these theories of autonomy, which mirror in important ways debates within communization circles over subsumption, programmatism, and the aesthetics of revolution.

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