Commerce and Culture

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The Economic Basis of Culture

Commerce and Culture

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11/15/2018Paul A. Cantor

[From the 2006 Commerce and Culture Seminar, presented by Paul Cantor.]

Now that Marxists have lost the economic arguments, culture is now the last battleground between Marxism and free markets.

Marxists say mass production of anything ruins it. But this is elitist thinking. In Marxist thinking, there is a bias against commercial culture.

But, art and culture depends on a division of labor. Without attaining a certain sophisticated level of economic development, cannot have what we now think of as culture.

Up until 1800, the world was too poor to care about art. The triumph of capitalism created a mass audience for art and books. Art is an example of spontaneous order. Art is like the market. Art and culture are messy and experimental. Academics would like art to be predictable, but it cannot be. Art improves from being part of a market.

Lecture 1 of 10 from Paul Cantor's Commerce and Culture.


Contact Paul A. Cantor

Paul A. Cantor is Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American film and TV. He is the co-editor, with Stephen Cox, of Literature and the Economics of Liberty. See his interview in the Austrian Economics Newsletter.

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