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1. Arts scrupulous or excessive adherence to outward form at the expense of inner reality or content
a. the mathematical or logical structure of a scientific argument as distinguished from its subject matter
b. the notation, and its structure, in which information is expressed
3. Theatre a stylized mode of production
4. (in Marxist criticism) excessive concern with artistic technique at the expense of social values, etc.
5. the philosophical theory that a mathematical statement has no meaning but that its symbols, regarded as physical objects, exhibit a structure that has useful applications


A style representing a new classicism in American architecture (1950–1965), manifested in buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe, Phillip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and Minuro Yamasaki.



a predominant attention to form over content in various areas of human activity. In human relations, formalism is manifested in a rigorous adherence to etiquette, ceremonies, and rituals, even when in a given situation they are meaningless, absurd, laughable, or overly dramatic. In such cases the observance of formal rules takes precedence over genuine human communication. In the areas of management and government, formalism is manifested in bureaucratism and in outwardly observing the letter of the law while completely disregarding its sense and spirit.

In the history of art, formalism has been manifested in a separation of form from content, in the assertion that form is the only valuable element in art, and accordingly, in a view that the artist’s perception of the world amounts solely to the abstract creation of form. Formalism emerged at a time when social conditions engendered among various social groups an attitude that favored the opposing of art to life, to practical activity, and to people’s true interests.

Formalist trends were apparent in 19th-century academicism, but formalism was manifested most consistently in such trends of 20th-century bourgeois art as cubism, cubo-futurism, dadaism, lettrisme, abstract art, pop art and op art, anti-theater, and the theater of the absurd. Formalism has thus proved to be one of the manifestations of the crisis in the bourgeois consciousness.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, numerous attempts were made to give formalism a theoretical foundation by the theorists of neo-Kantian aesthetics and by K. Fiedler (Germany), E. Hanslick (Austria), and R. Fry and H. Read (Great Britain). These scholars and thinkers viewed art as a superficial diversion involving only form, and as a means of creating allegedly pure aesthetic values that are free of any relation to moral, political, or practical content. Formalism has also been reflected in the methodology of art studies; an example is the formal method of literary theory and scholarship.

Marxist-Leninist aesthetics and literary and art criticism place a high value on the importance of form in art but at the same time have always waged a struggle against all manifestations of formalism, including aestheticism and the theory and practice of art for art’s sake. Marxist-Leninist aesthetics has shown that the formalist neglect of content undermines the social usefulness of art and art’s ability to participate in the social struggle and in education. Marxist-Leninist aesthetics has also emphasized that formalism has a destructive effect on the aesthetic values of art itself.


V. I. Lenin o literature i iskusstve, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Plekhanov, G. V. Iskusstvo i literatura. Moscow, 1948.
Modernizm: Sb. st. Moscow, 1973.
Kagan, M. S. Lektsii po marksistsko-leninskoi estetike, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Medvedev, P. N. “Formalizm v zapadnoevropeiskom iskusstvovedenii.” In V laboratorii pisatelia. Leningrad, 1971.
Ohff, H. Anti-Kunst. Düsseldorf, 1973.


References in periodicals archive ?
It explores the value of legal universality as articulated in formalistic "legal science" as well as its continuing influence in contemporary times.
Judge Sebutinde separately opined that the majority's approach was formalistic, procedural, inflexible and did not take due account of the parties' conduct.
Another doctrine favored by legal classicists was liberty of contract, a formalistic and abstract concept that presumed equality existed in the bargaining positions of employers and employees and reflected a longstanding notion that individuals possessed the freedom to pursue a lawful occupation on the same basis as other persons.
Formalism was reinforced by the teaching style in colonial schools and has resisted reform since because it is far more consistent with formalistic tradition than progressive Western alternatives (Guthrie, 2011, pp.
Moreover, the ambiguous nature of his haunting frozen-in-time expression has multiple potential meanings--a realistic twist to a formalistic device.
Without interfacing the financial system with the economic system of which it is a part, a financial system may have some formalistic and legalistic accomplishment, but it probably won't serve the broader goals of the economy.
Too often, codes of conduct are heavy on formalistic and complex policy and legal compliance statements, yet they are light on values and ethics.
Despite the formalistic inability of the Hungarian government to neutralize the treatyprescribed necessity for unanimity of votes for all decisions pertaining to EU enlargement, Budapest is already doing all it can to promote Macedonia's case in the Union by inviting Macedonian senior government officials to ever more EU meetings, and by giving Macedonia a bigger voice to present its reform achievements, those which contradict so much the absurdity of the unprecedented 'name dispute' imposed by Athens.
Studying the unique life of Yates and the dazzling work that she produced offers an implicit critique of the rigid, formalistic training her fellow historians received.
Agitators such as Sean Sheffey, Keith Morris, Jake Brown, Eric Dressen, Mimi Knoop, Julien Sheffey, Christian Hosoi, Clint Peterson, Lance Mountain, Mike V, Dave Duncan, and Eddie Reategui may permanently drive a spike through all that formalistic city diplomacy.
well-recognized formalistic nature of Federal Circuit patent
As the image from his imagination takes form, he limits his formalistic approach to the surroundings as seen in Untitled 2008 and renders them mostly in unsaturated colors with a dramatic addition of bright hues here and there.