The Art Of Capitalism
Jesse Myerson posts at Salon Why You’re Wrong About Communism: 7 Huge Misconceptions About It (And Capitalism).
My favorite part is when he ends the piece with this claim –
…most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.
Cafe Hayek (where I found out about this) quickly and efficiently dismantles this claim –
Overlook the questionable claim that most great artists under capitalism were oppressed and alienated. (Were Lennon and McCartney, Berry Gordy, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, and Andy Warhol truly “oppressed and alienated”? How about Jackson Pollock? Thomas Hardy? Ernest Hemingway? Lawrence Olivier? Raymond Loewy?) Focus instead on the critical reality that, in fact, there are countless great artists, and Niagaras of profound art, produced under capitalism. The same cannot be said for communism.
The reason is simple. Capitalism supplies artists not only with abundant materials and media for producing and sharing their works, but also with the freedom and personal space for them to create. In stark contrast, communism necessarily prohibits would-be artists from pursuing their muses. All means of production under communism are owned by the state, and, hence, remain off-limits to artists whose individual plans do not mesh with the central plan.
I hadn’t seen Myerson’s piece when I did this post of my own earlier, but mine suggests a basic flaw in his claim – would a communist society permit a publishing house to print sympathetic stories about a character who fought for the enemy side in the biggest war it had ever seen?
He’s half right about great artists often being alienated and oppressed. But this isn’t political, it’s social alienation… sometimes actively rejected by peers, other times because of their own issues which have nothing to do with anyone else’s reaction to them. Artists are usually different from most people. If anything, capitalism helps them reach out and speak to other rare people like them.
There’s another way that capitalism has helped artists. In the 1950s, profits from their high-selling horror magazines allowed E.C. Comics to subsidize the science fiction books they wanted to do. Until Congress threatened to censor them, that is (shades of communism).