Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Commerce and Art - Most writers are liberal?

The disdain is largely one-sided.

Jul 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 40 • By STEPHEN MILLER - The Weekly Standard

John Kinsella, a highly regarded Australian poet who teaches at Cambridge, was quoted not long ago in the Times Literary Supplement as saying that he has “not sold his soul to market fetishization.” Kinsella means that he doesn’t want even to think about making a profit from his writing. But Kinsella is also doing what comes naturally for most poets and many literary essayists: He is expressing a disdain for the commercial world. To think about selling books is tantamount to worshipping Mammon.

Disdain for commerce is what might be called a topos—a recurrent theme in Western literature. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is insulted when a Phaeacian thinks Odysseus is a trader because Odysseus declines to participate in an athletic competition. In the Homeric world, traders supposedly lack athletic prowess. Odysseus is furious. “Your slander fans the anger in my heart!” Greek, Roman, and early Christian writers often argued that commercial men were avaricious because a desire for profit is an insatiable desire—an obsession. Or, as Kinsella would have it, a “market fetishization.” Taking a cue from Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas said that “trade, insofar as it aims at making profits, is most reprehensible, since the desire for gain knows no bounds but reaches into the infinite.” 

It was not until the late 17th century that some English writers began to challenge the traditional view of commerce. In the Spectator, Joseph Addison defended merchants:
There are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great.


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