‘Function beyond Function? Reflections on the Functionality of the Autonomous’ by Mladen Dolar

WAGNER: MANUSCRIPT, 1866. Orchestral score for Act II (‘cudgel scene’) of Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg,’ 1866.
Download link updated on 23. June 2021.


What purpose does music serve? Of all the arts, music has always seemed to be the most autonomous, free from the bonds and limits of representation. Hence its functionality within this very autonomy or non-functionality: its link with the sacred, elevation over the economics of survival, its ritual value. This traditional view was brought to a crisis in the nineteenth century with the autonomy of art within the autonomization of different social spheres. This demanded a redefinition of autonomy and function which, through a radicalization, eventually led to modernism.

Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as the Advising Researcher in Theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His principal areas of research are Psychoanalysis, Modern French Philosophy (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, et. al.), German Idealism, and Art Theory, especially Musicology. With Žižek and others, Dolar was the co-founder of the Ljubljana Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis, whose main aim is to read late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. German Classical Philosophy through the frame of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. His main field of expertise is the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, on whom he has written several papers, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit first published in Slovene between 1990 and 1991. Dolar has lectured extensively across many different Universities in Europe and the United States and is author of hundreds of papers in different scholarly journals and in various collected volumes. Apart from over twelve monograph publications in Slovene, his books published in English most notably include A Voice and Nothing More and Opera’s Second Death, both of which were translated into several languages. His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

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