Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Mar 3, 2006


I try to make a habit of identifying and challenging anti-concepts whenever I find them, and here's one that I've stumbled upon: "sell-out".

For those that don't already know or may have forgotten, "anti-concept" is a term invented by Ayn Rand to designate any word "designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept." ["'Extremism' or The Art of Smearing," CUI, 176].

The term "sell-out" purports to be a condemnation of artists that turn their talent to crass or vulgar uses in order to make a buck. However, in my experience this is not how the term is used. Instead, it has become a blanket condemnation of artists that use their talent for commerical purposes. The fact that those money-making uses covered by the term were previously crass and vulgar has been replaced with the shortcut of assuming that any kind of commercialism is crass and vulgar.

It's all right to sell your paintings in a gallery, where the displays are elegant and the exchange of funds is kept politely out of sight. It's crude and vulgar if you sell them by the box as advertisements.

When will we stop being ashamed of commercialism? This is a wonderful country, and one of the really wonderful things about it is that there are so many ways to make your living doing something you love. That's something to be proud of, not despise.


Ergo Sum said...

Cool blog. I came over from Diana's too. Keep blogging!

Jennifer Snow said...


Toiler said...

Isn't it especially obnoxious when hippies and Leftists level this accusation at successful artists. How ironic, when you see so many hippy "idealists" doing the exact same thing that all of their other hippy friends are doing (that being supposedly what "nobody else" is doing), then cleverly marketing their obnoxious nonsense and selling it for hundreds or even thousands more than it's really worth. And the buyers are often rich people who desperately want to be seen buying things that aren't "commercial". It also reminds me of the amazing marketing ju-ju that Jackson Pollock had going for him. Talk about crass commercialism. Hippies are the experts. (Who knows, maybe it was the hippies who actually absconded with the term "sell-out" as you described it -- because they needed a fig leaf.)