As providence would have it… I got a book in the mail today, sent to me by my genius musician cousin, John Gruntfest (you can google him). He called me last week, weeping (we are sentimental types), to say he was sending me a book that belonged to my father. That book is called " The Theory of the Leisure Class" by Thorstein Veblen, copyright, 1899, 1912. Veblen was a Westerner of Scandinavian stock, Yale PhD., university professor. His specialty was "shedding light upon difficult economic complexities" (you can google him). I was quite delighted by this gift, as it is exactly the kind of reading my wise old pal, another genius musician, Michael Sahl (you can google him, too) recommended to me just yesterday!!!
I am a member of the leisure class who comes from working-class stock; a worker bee trapped in the body of a queen, or queen bee trapped in the body of a worker? I also suffer from reductionist tendencies, thereby in a perpetual search for ways to untangle my confusing life. I have a deep belief in providence, and trust that where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Too many fortuitous things in my world have collided in a manner that I cannot merely accept as random. But why? I also believe that, as they say, with great gifts come great responsibility. Thus, in the tradition of a responsible, modern reductionist, I googled “reductionism.” Google-ability is such a great convenience.
As providence would have it, here is what I found:
“There is a certain degree of reductionism in the social sciences, which often try to explain whole areas of social activity as mere subfields of their own field. As an example, Marxist economists often try to explain politics as subordinated to economy, and sociologists sometimes see economy and politics as mere sub-spheres of society.”
If you are like me, you are laughing and re-reading the above. If that doesn’t say it all, or anything…
I am neither an economist nor a sociologist, but I am most definitely interested in the social sciences. As the creator of the cell, I am deeply committed to promoting artists and art in a city whose economy is as difficult to understand as its politics.
I suspect that those who perceive art as the result of an abundance of leisure time are inclined to diminish its significance. Given the abundance of ‘art’ that exists in this day and age, I would venture to agree. However, as an artist, I know that some art comes from a place much deeper. I could argue that when the basic survival needs are paramount, the art does not come or even matter. I would be lying. Before I was a member of the leisure class, I was driven by my gut to create. I struggled to earn a living through menial work while searching for the medium that would free me from my existential demons. Creation is as essential to my being as breathing. But enough about me!
Art matters. As I meet the many artists who present themselves to the cell, I am as interested their histories and drives as I am in their art. Life does weird things to people. So does commerce. Everyone deserves to make a living, especially in a city whose leisure class ensures the survival of everyone else. I am fairy certain I am here to represent artists for whom art is not a choice, but an imperative.
Anyway, I am going to set myself about the task of reading this little old book about American capitalism and see if I can reduce it to something relevant to my life.