Most conversations that try to connect ”the arts” to ”the economy” are exercises in frustration. For arts enthusiasts, the conversations seem cold and disconnected, but necessary to advance the cause. For non-enthusiasts interested a strong economy, the conversations seem like sales pitches more than substance.
Each economy can only thrive because we get its boundaries right and allow it to operate according to its own internal logic while meaning and money pass to and fro across the boundaries with other economies. Our human society is forever finding new ways to relate economies to each other that keep them all ‘healthy’, that is, each operating in ways that preserve its integrity while supporting each other.
For some reason artistic genres are particularly attacked if they pursue art for art’s sake but this is as ridiculous as criticising a jockey for racing for racing’s sake or a physicist on the new Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator for doing physics for physics’ sake. The confusion is now easy to understand: within the race, the jockey must indeed operate according to the values that connect all the participants and make the race a race — anything else is to defeat the whole object. And surely physicists who do anything other than good physics will not find what they are looking for — you certainly can’t persuade new particles such as the Higgs boson to turn up for any political imperative to improve society or any monetary incentive. The race and the experiment are each part of a particular cultural economy in which the individual event must sustain, and be sustained by, the integrity of the currency which relates it to other events.