avant-garde Metaphorical term used in art theory and political philosophy. The French 'avant-garde', or English ‘vanguard' literally refers to the foremost part of an army. Metaphorically, since the beginning of the twentieth century, it has been taken to refer to the political or cultural leadership by an elite. Implicit in this idea are assumptions of political or cultural progress, which the avant-garde pursues. The mass of society will be more or less indifferent to, or ignorant of, their interest in this progress, and will resist or be hostile to the avant-garde. As a key aspect of cultural modernism, the avant-garde typically expresses itself through obscure and innovative techniques, deliberately resisting easy assimilation into popular or mass culture (see Adorno 1984). In political theory, the avant-garde is seen as a necessary intellectual elite, leading a mass that remains afflicted by ideology and thus by a false consciousness that blinds it to its own best interests (see Lukacs, 1971). With the increasing questioning of modernism, and indeed of marxism, the validity of the avant-garde has itself come into question (see Bürger 1984). [from: Edgar/Sedgwick, 2002]