I’ve just arrived in Auburn, Alabama (home of the Ludwig von Mises Institute), where I’ll be attending the “Commerce and Culture” seminar with Paul Cantor this week. At spare moments in the evenings, I’ll post some thoughts on the lectures.
I didn’t have the chance to get through everything on the recommended reading list, but the volumes I did read — The Economy of Literary Form by Lee Erickson, Tyler Cowen’s In Praise of Commercial Culture, Frederic Spotts’s engrossing Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, and Mises’s Anti-Capitalistic Mentality — were all well worthwhile. I’d recommend any of them. (Cowen can be reductionist in places, particularly when he’s discussing what he calls “cultural pessmists” — i.e., anyone who thinks that there’s something seriously wrong with high and low culture today — but as a primer on the economics that make culture possible, the book is valuable indeed.)
It’s been a few years since I read Professor Cantor’s own Gilligan Unbound, but time hasn’t eroded any of my admiration for the work. It’s a penetrating look at the social and cultural significance of four American television series (“Gilligan’s Island,” “Star Trek,” “The Simpsons,” and “The X-Files) emblematic of their eras. The book should have garnered a great deal more attention; unfortunately, it was released early in September 2001. (Sept. 10, if I recall…)