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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 ?
define what protections were required from this formalistically civil
24) Rating agencies formalistically assess borrower creditworthiness based on models, (25) expressing their ultimate conclusion through "an ordinal ranking of a borrower's, or a security's, credit quality" relative to other borrowers and securities.
Section 7701(a)(4) of the Code defines a corporation as "domestic" formalistically, by reference to the place of incorporation.
Indeed, at certain points he is willing to say that legal obligation should be formalistically constrained.
all similar fact patterns are treated formalistically.
Indeed, one of the fundamental issues that arose during the debate that preceded the adoption of the new Verticals Block Exemption Regulation and Guidelines in 2010, was exactly this: whether the EU regime treated hardcore vertical restraints too formalistically and whether there should be greater willingness to assess their potential procompetitive effects within the Article 101 framework.
Hutcheon, in particular, comes under fire for her focus on fictional narratives primarily and her desire, as Christian Bok articulates and Jason Wiens underscores, to "radicalize the many, formalistically conservative, texts at the expense of the few, formalistically progressive, texts" (298).
He would do so by advancing a formalistically defined, inherent executive war power possibly immune from any congressional limitation or judicial scrutiny, without reference to the circumstances of the particular case.
You learn immensely new things from whatever is formalistically unfamiliar in his productions.
1 was by a student, who did not play an especially active part in the discussion, but here demonstrates that he has understood the way in which we had worked with the software by including the correct dimensions and working out the area of the remaining shape formalistically.
This form of US sociology is formalistically professionalized, especially at the more elite research universities (McLaughlin and Turcotte 2007)--as distinct from being "professional"--and results in institutionalized practices that are unnecessarily rigid and exclusionary.
This audience wants to know whether the budget is really balanced (or only formalistically balanced), the legal requirements for balance, and when the document is required to be balanced.