The Creative Factor in Production

The most distinctively creative kind of human work is called art. In motive and in performance it is the freest expression of personality in work. The artist in what are termed the fine arts, e. g. as painter, poet, sculptor, musician, desires to give formal expression to some beautiful, true or otherwise desirable conception, in order either to secure for himself its fuller realisation or the satisfaction of communicating it to others. It is not, however, necessary for our purpose to enter upon the exact psychology of art motives or processes. Indeed, we are not concerned with the whole range of artistic activity. So far as the artist works simply and entirely for his own satisfaction, in order to express himself to himself, he cannot be deemed to be contributing to the economic income of the nation. For us the artist is the producer of a marketable commodity, and we are concerned to discover the 'economic' and the 'human' costs which he incurs in this capacity.

Now so far as the painter, poet, or musician works as pure artist, exercising freely his creative faculty, his economic 'costs' consist merely of his 'keep', the material and intellectual consumption necessary to support him and to feed his art. The net human costs of the creative work are nil. For though all creative work may involve some pains of travail, those pains are more than compensated by the joy that a child is born. Even if we distinguish the creative conception from the process of artistic execution, which may involve much laborious effort not interesting or desirable in itself, we must still remember that these labours are sustained and endowed with pleasurable significance as means to a clearly desired end, so that the whole activity becomes in a real sense a labour of love. In other words, the human costs are outweighed by the human utility even in the processes of production, so that the pure practice of art is a net increase of life. The artist, who, following freely his own creative bent, produces pictures, plays or novels which bring him in great gains, is thus in the position of being paid handsomely for work which is in itself a pleasure to perform and which he would do just as well if he were only paid his human 'keep'. The wasteful social economy of the ordinary process of remunerating successful artists needs no discussion. For the true art faculty resembles those processes by which Nature works in the organic world for the increase of commodities whose comparative scarcity secures for them a market value. A poet who 'does but sing because he must', and yet is paid heavily for doing so, is evidently getting the best of both worlds. Our present point, however, is that the 'economic cost' which his publisher incurs in royalties upon the sales of his poem is attended by no net 'human cost' at all, but by a positive fund of 'human utility'. And this holds of all truly creative work: the performance involves an increase of life, not that loss which is the essence of all human cost.

No comments: