in the midst of the decay of our present society that we — some of us — have been unwilling to accept this last phase for our own culture. In seeking to go beyond Alexandrianism, a part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: — avant-garde culture.
A superior consciousness of history — more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism — made this possible.
This criticism has not confronted our present society with timeless utopias, but has soberly examined in the terms of history and of cause and effect the antecedents, justifications and functions of the forms that lie at the heart of every society. Thus our present bourgeois social order was shown to be, not an eternal, "natural" condition of life, but simply the latest term in a succession of social orders.