As a Sociology student and non-artist working at the Saskatchewan Craft Council, I think I have a unique view of the artist and their work. I admire the courage it takes to choose to be an artist for a living and I have developed an understanding of the value of the unique work produced by our membership.
Anyone who has taken an “Introduction to Sociology” course knows about Karl Marx’s theory of alienation. If you haven’t, or you need a refresher, here is a summary: Marx theorized that Capitalism creates alienation between the worker and the products he or she is hired to produce.
In Capitalism, the lowest working class citizens are employed as factory workers and in other production-line type positions. For example, imagine a job in which one’s only responsibility is to place toothpaste caps on toothpaste tubes as they roll down a conveyor belt, day in and day out. These types of positions do not allow the worker to have a voice in what they are producing and have no impact on what later happens to these products.
Consider the Line Cook: he has no say in what kind of food is prepared, he just knows which ingredients to put together to create the exact same dish every time. The Head Chef designs the dishes, and the Line Cook simply follows instructions. Obviously this Line Cook is not going to stay very excited about food, when he’s creating the exact same dishes every single day for weeks or months on end. Marx labeled this lack of passion for the products the worker is creating as alienation from the product. This leads to alienation from the act of producing – which is basically a lack of passion for one’s job. If a person has no part in designing the product they create, and no influence on what happens after they do their part, of course they are not going to gain any happiness from their job!
As I was sitting in class learning about Marx, my professor asked us how one can avoid such alienation from one’s job and the product one creates. This sparked an obvious answer within me: become an artist! The artist is someone who rejects the basic ideas of capitalism. An artist designs whatever he or she wishes to create, and then follows through with the creation process. An artist never creates the same piece twice and, as I've seen from the members of the Craft Council, can choose to create a vast array of different types of products in different mediums. The artist then has the power to choose what happens to his or her products. He or she sets the price and decides to who they will sell. This type of power in the process of production avoids the capitalistic alienation of which Marx warned.
I write all of this just to say that although the life of an artist may not be a wealthy one, and it may not be the easiest road to choose, I truly believe it can lead to happiness. If you were meant to create, then you should be creating in any way you know how!
For more information about Marx’s theory of alienation, check out the Wikipedia page on the subject here
|The book in which Marx presents his theory of alienation|