Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 1. 1962.
T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot.
One of the most recent detailed works on the subject is a pamphlet published by the Fabian Society four months ago, by Richard Wollheim, a Reader in Philosophy at University College. London. Wollheim points out that we live in a compromise between middleclass culture and mass-culture. Middle-class culture is humane but exclusive and mass-culture is killed by commercialism. The great proponent of the case for middle-class culture has been T. S. Eliot, who once said: "It is an essential condition of the preservation of the quality of the culture of the minority that it should continue to be a minority culture." Unfortunately, this extreme snobbery is not an isolated case but is typical of reactionary thought. Wollheim goes on to condemn mass-culture. (This term refers to such things as television, radio, films, cheap paper-backs, comics, etc.) He argues that mass-culture is essentially a passive or spectator culture, which is another way of saying that it is of poor aesthetic quality, and also, it is bound up with the consumption and display of goods—T.V. Sets, clothes, magazines, records, cars, films. Wollheim's desire is for an integrated society, which would be unified by a common culture, common interests, common activities and common "meanings." This vision of an integrated society, a recurrent theme in the political speculation of the last hundred and fifty years, has a close connection with some of the traditional ideals and aspirations of Socialism. For in the new society (or the old society revived, as Wollheim wishes) commercialism will exist no more, work will be humanized and reacquire significance, and the exploitation of Nature by Man will supersede the old exploitation of Man by Man. The main defect in Wollheim's pamphlet is his notion that one could, or should, revive the old working class-culture. This integrated society is often identified with a rural or pastoral society, but. as Freud points out, there is a great nostalgia for a return to the earth, and it is just a romantic, poetic expression of the emotional frustrations generated by "civilised" sexual morality.
The main arguments supporting the Capitalist's point of view are usually, I have found, the ones that are anti-socialism. The most common one is that the nationalization of intellectual life, which must be attempted under Socialism, must make all intellectual progress impossible. This has been presented by Ludwig Von Mises in his "Socialism." He says that under Capitalism the artist and the scientist have many alternatives open to them. If they are rich they can follow their own inclinations; they can seek out patrons; they can attempt to live on the sale of their creative work. Each of these has its dangers, though. Nowadays, patrons are not as abundant as in, say, the 18th and 19th century; and how many creative artists can live on their creative work alone? And how many genii are born rich? If Von Mises had considered these sides of it, he would have come closer to presenting a well-balanced case. His generalisation at the end of the chapter titled "Art, Literature, Science and Journalism" which reads "No censor, emperor or pope has ever possessed the power to suppress intellectual freedom which would be possessed by a Socialistic community," is altogether too blatant to be taken seriously, just as it is equally unjust to say that all Catholics worship in a state of fear or that all Jews are detestable misers. But this view is accepted by many people, just as the other two irresponsible generalisations I mentioned are also held by many.