This is also similar to the old idea of Classicism vs. Romanticism (or, Apollonian vs. Dionysian). The theory is that throughout history, there is a constant alternation between two approaches to art.

On the one hand, we have Classical or Apollonian periods wherein formal elements such as line, color, balance, and proportion are lifted up as the essential aspects of artistic expression. This focuses on the abstract and shies away from things like social context or subjectivity. Under this approach, emotion is said to be induced in the listener or viewer by the work of art.

On the other hand, we have the Romantic or Dionysian periods wherein the focus is placed on the emotional aspects of the work of art and lack of perfect balance is preferred to absolute balance. Emotion, in the context of a Romantic period, is said to be present in the work. Subjectivity and social context are the order of the day.

In so-called "serious" (read: academic) art, the 20th century up until the 1970s is considered to have been a Classical period. It is believed that we are progressing toward a Romantic period as I write this.

While this may hold true for academic art (which is in quite a stunted state of growth), I believe the "real" Classical/Romantic alternation has shifted to popular culture. Every decade or so, we get a shift and every two decades is a full cycle. For example, the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s were all Classical periods while the 1960s, 1980s, and upcoming 2000s are Romantic periods. If you remember, the 1970s revived music and social fashion of the 1950s (albeit, in somewhat modified form) and the 1990s did the same for the 1970s. Likewise, the 1980s reacted against the 1970s by reviving the music and culture of the 1960s.

Academics largely refuse to believe that popular culture is now the "real" culture to be examined and that the traditions carried on by academia from the old European world of the 19th century are obsolete. Mass communications have had an enormous effect on the speed of Classical/Romantic alternations and this can be seen in popular culture but not in academic culture because academic culture is pedantic and artificial.