Nobody demands a fundamental discussion of opera (i.e. of its function), and probably such a discussion would not find much support. (…)
The modesty of the avant garde’s demands has economic grounds of whose existence they themselves are only partly aware. (…) that is, of men who are economically committed to the prevailing system but are socially near-proletarian — and processed it to make fodder for their public entertainment machine, judging it by their own standards and guiding it into their own channels; (…)
For by imagining that they have got hold of an apparatus which in fact has got hold of them they are supporting an apparatus which is out of control, which is no longer (as they believe) a means of furthering output but has become an obstacle to output, and specifically to their own output as soon as it follows a new and original course which the apparatus finds ackward or opposed to their own aims. (…)
This leads to a general habit of judging works of art by their suitability for the apparatus without ever judging the apparatus by its suitability for the work.
We are free to discuss any innovation which doesn’t threaten its social function — that of providing an evening’s entertainment. We are not free to discuss those which threaten to change its function (…)
Society absorbs via the apparatus whatever it needs in order to reproduce itself. This means that an innovation will pass if it is calculated to rejuvenate existing society, but not if it is going to change it — irrespective whether the form of the society in question is good or bad.