Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class laments and bemoans the end of used bookstores that employed starving artists, stable journalism jobs, opportunities for architects and musicians, and in general the end of the middle-class of culture. At times, the book has poignant descriptions of hollowed-out job categories but the narrative is sometimes cruelly illogical. For instance, after sharing dire statistics about the cratering of journalism jobs, the author then rails against the steep decline in the ranks of English majors. Seems to me that undergrads are smart and avoid rushing into fields where opportunities are limited. This does not mean that English departments should disappear: a literature class or two is good for the soul and the general education of the populace — and now that everyone is expected to write blogs and other online contributions, it would make sense to teach everyone to write a solid expository paragraph, right? Ditto for graphic design and other previously specialized activities, the basics of which are now part of our lives.
Another more insidious strand of the book is the idea that “proper” journalists will cover serious news and “proper” art critics will separate good art from bad and guide the readers towards wisdom. Perhaps, but who made the critics gods? And who thinks that the masses won’t prefer Barbara Cartland, reality TV, and celebrities famous for being celebrities, regardless of what the NY Times tells us is good art. There is something inherently democratic and desirable in allowing everyone, not just established, bona fide journalists to determine what we should be reading. And the author’s so-called solution of returning newspaper ownership to wealthy, local individuals to save them from the big, bad corporations that manage purely by the numbers seems to go entirely in the wrong direction, towards censorship.
It must be gut-wrenching to watch one’s profession being gutted as journalism has been gutted, but I imagine that stone carvers had a hard time when papyrus came along. The real problem, the gutting out of the middle class in a bifurcated society, is a much more difficult issue that would be worth exploring further.