Literature Under Capitalism

This passage in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, by Ludwig von Mises, caught my eye:

The tycoon of the book market is the author of fiction for the masses. It would be wrong to assume that these buyers always prefer bad books to good books. They lack discrimination and are, therefore, ready to absorb sometimes even good books. It is true that most of the novels and plays published today are mere trash. Nothing else can be expected when thousands of volumes are written every year. Our age could still some day be called an age of the flowering of literature if only one out of a thousand books published would prove to be equal to the great books of the past.

Many critics take pleasure in blaming capitalism for what they call the decay of literature. Perhaps they should rather inculpate their own inability to sift the chaff from the wheat. Are they keener than their predecessors were about a hundred years ago? Today, for instance, all critics are full of praise for Stendhal. But when Stendhal died in 1842, he was obscure and misunderstood.

Capitalism could render the masses so prosperous that they buy books and magazines. But it could not imbue them with the discernment of Maecenas or Can Grande della Scala. It is not the fault of capitalism that the common man does not appreciate uncommon books.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s