Austrian Economics vs. Romantic Aesthetics


Paul Cantor proposes "an 'Austrian' theory of culture, drawing chiefly upon Friedrich Hayek's theory of spontaneous order." Here's an extract:

[U]nlike many forms of art, a television series cannot be created all at once, but must of necessity be produced over long stretches of time—weeks at first, but over years if the series is successful. This is one reason the television series does not fit the "perfect plan" model of artistic creation, but it is very well suited to the feedback model. Creating episode after episode, and unable to go back and alter earlier efforts in light of subsequent developments, television producers often find themselves in the embarrassing position of having introduced lapses in continuity into their shows, if not outright contradictions. A devoted fan may have fun pointing out such inconsistencies, but they mark television shows as failures according to the strict demands of coherence imposed by the organic model of poetic form. But what a television series loses in coherence over the years, it gains in its ability to experiment with new possibilities and find out ways to improve the show and expand its range.

The whole essay is here.


NEXT: Remembering the Inkifada

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  1. 1/3 of the essay explains why its fundamental premise is crap, then it has about 2 paragraphs of “well, there was, like, a famous book one time that, like, had some editorial changes and stuff,” and then Cantor is off to the races comparing the X-files to War and Peace. Yeah, a poem is easier to produce than a TV show, but not as easy as The Hallucinogenic Toreador. I dunno, maybe this guy is correct in saying that art is no longer a recreation of reality according to the value judgments of an author. Maybe art is now just a quick fix entertainment with incredibly hot people showing some skin.

  2. Yea, whatever happened to Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days?

  3. According to Cantor, “art” happened to Chuck.

  4. Lamar,

    When I clicked on the link I must have gone to a very different article, because the one I read didn’t match you flip summary.

    His premise is that the romantic notion of a single Artist with Great Vision is required to produce Great Art is bunkum, that people seem to enjoy and even prefer art that is constructed collboratively, with customer feedback and not according to some great plan.

    In other words that the Romantic conception of how good art is created is flawed and not complete.

    Seems pretty reasonable to me.

  5. Tarran, we read the same article.

    “Seems pretty reasonable to me.”

    If a couple thousand years of art history can be compared to 50 years of self-congratulatory TV history, then I guess it is reasonable. People seem to enjoy and prefer Kelly Clarkson over Johan Sebastian Bach. I guess the elitist in me sees a distinction.

  6. Well, I guess if we ignore ancient Greek and Roman drama and statuary, renaissance painting, Elizabethan theater, the late 19th and early 20th century novel industry, then yes, you’re right.

  7. Comparing a novel to a television series is like comparing a steak to a salad.
    Pointless, but the two can coexist nicely.

  8. Tarran: I know it’s a stretch, but I would actually include “ancient Greek and Roman drama and statuary, renaissance painting, Elizabethan theater, the late 19th and early 20th century novel industry” in my statement “a couple of thousand years of art history.” My assertion is that Cantor did ignore these art forms, except to cherry pick a few examples he thought supported his point.

    I guess I am unsure how you accuse me of ignoring the very point I brought up.

  9. Well, I always thought the cathedral at Chartres was a lot like “Happy Days.” As far as Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order goes, how’s that working out in Iraq?

  10. Never mind Chuck Cunningham any number of things might have happened to him. What I want to know is, from what alternate universe did Sondra Huxtable tunnel in from?

    Clair: Why did we have four children?
    Cliff: Because we didn’t want five

  11. Never mind Chuck Cunningham, what happened to Donna’s little sister Tina?

  12. Someone should make a fan video explaining where ol’ Chuck is and why he not only disappeared from Happy Days but was never mentioned again. Pretty harsh, even for Mr. C.

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