In traditional bourgeois culture the avantgarde was successful in sustaining difference. Within the project of modernity it launched a successful assault on 19th-century aestheticism, which insisted on the absolute autonomy of art, and on traditional realism, which remained locked into the dogma of mimetic representation and referentiality. Postmodernism has lost that capacity to gain shock value from difference, except perhaps in relation to forms of a very traditional aesthetic conservatism. The counter-measures the historical avantgarde proposed to break the grip of bourgeois institutionalized culture are no longer effective. The reasons that avantgardism is no longer viable today can be located not only in the culture industry’s capacity to co-opt, reproduce, and comodify, but, more interestingly, in the avantgarde itself. Despite the power and integrity of its attacks against traditional bourgeois culture and against the deprivations of capitalism, there are moments in the historical avantgarde which show how deeply avantgardism itself is implicated in the Western tradition of growth and progress.