Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Aestheticism is the view that art is autonomous, should serve no other purpose and should not be judged by non-aesthetic standards.

explanatory context

In short, it is a view summed up by the phrase Ďart for artís sakeí. It represents and extreme form of romanticism.


Exponents of this view in one form or another include Kant, Goethe, Coleridge, Carlyle, Emerson, Poe, Gautier and Wilde.


The position has been attacked by Baudelaire as utopian; by Ruskin, Morris and the arts and crafts movement as out of touch with common life and as amoral and elitist by Tolstoy.


Aestheticism in its extreme form fell out of favour in the 20th century (except in some versions of formalism), rather it has tended to be diluted to a view that suggests that aesthetic standards are autonomous and that the creation and appreciation of art products is its own reward.

analytical review

The Art Story (2019), describing the Aesthetic movement of the 19th Century states:

Aestheticism penetrated all areas of life—from music and literature to interior design and fashion. At its heart was the desire to create "art for art's sake" and to exalt taste, the pursuit of beauty, and self-expression over moral expectations and restrictive conformity. The freedom of creative expression and sensuality that Aestheticism promoted exhilarated its adherents, but it also made them the object of ridicule among conservative Victorians. 

associated issues

Not to be confused with 'asceticism' which is the belief that hard work and a no-nonsense puritan ethic are signs of one's goodness and even salvation.

related areas

See also



Art Story, 2019, The Aesthetic Movement, available at, accessed 21 November 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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