international cultural exchange. But, instead of taking suchnexchange as a good in itself—admiring the Tutankhamennexhibition as a manifestation of ancient Pharonic geniusnrather than as an indicator of modern Egyptian benevolencen—we politicize art, values, and ideas. After a review ofnarguments that those who support culture are given creditnfor a kind of moral reform of their national politics, EdwardnBanfield of Harvard has concluded that there are nongrounds for such assumptions. He denies that the UnitednStates can increase what has been called its “nationalnprestige” by the internal support of painhng, sculpture, orndance. He thinks it polihcally naive to claim that artsnsubsidy contributes to internahonal understanding. And henery much doubts that we can prove “that America has ansoul” (the phrase is taken from one of his adversaries) byngiving away grant money.nBanfield asks a certain number of inconvenient questionsn—this one, for example: “What exactly is national prestige?nHow is it measured: why should Americans want more ofnit?” Logic may be on his side. It is not only that these thingsnare imponderable and—possibly more than anything elsenin this breathing world—beautiful only in the eyes of thenbeholder, but that there may be better ways of obtainingnthem. His recent book (The Democratic Muse: Visual Artsnand the Public Interest) suggests that, if you want internationalnunderstanding, practice diplomacy. If you wantnpeace, develop a strategy for getting it in Lebanon or innAfghanistan.nAnd, of course, many other nations—the ones we wishnto impress by artistic subsidy—seem to have less interestnin that than in our produchvity and power. Even duringnthe Renaissance, in Florence and Venice, art coexistednnicely with political depravity. Its support by the state oftennmeant that Florentines and Venetians could be culturednMachiavellians.nAs we search for reasons for the political order to supportncultural activity we come inevitably to the ideology ofntherapy. For some years now the arts lobbies have claimed andirect connection between subsidized culture and thenresolution of social problems. We have been advised thatnthe appreciation of art softens angst, anxiety, anger, anomie,nand all the other resentments and displacements of ourntime. But, of course, it is clearly part of the ideology of artntoday that it should create such conditions: that the bourgeoisnpublic should be more or less incessantly reminded ofnits shortcomings by painters, sculptors, and other moralists.nPerhaps more should be said of this later, and, for thenmoment, we should simply remind ourselves that one of thencommonest conceptions of art, implanted through exhibitionsnof empty canvases or accumulated junk or othern”statements” of the kind, is that the achievement of uglinessnin art is a kind of punishment for middle-class expectations.nThe well-fed, badly educated, morally inert public outnthere deserves to have ugliness in view, for it is a reflectionnof the social order they have achieved.nI don’t think that the argument holds that art reduces ournsocial tensions. Nor that it—to use a phrase often invokedn—“brings people together.” This is a second therapeuticnidea about art which avoids aesthetics and focuses exclusivelynon morality. Clearly, anything that brings us togethernmust be a social good. But of course we are “broughtntogether” by movies about ghouls and murderers andnchain-saw massacres. These seem to me to be masqueradingnas art, and as forms of cathartic purgation. And ofncourse, in the real world of art, in the world of Hemingway,nJoyce, Baudelaire, and Flaubert, there is also a real andnpossibly irreducible hostility to “us”—to consumers, exhibiters,npurchasers, and critics who represent the clutches ofnthe social order. The artist is often trying to escape thatnorder, not please it. And we recall that historically Americannliterature has been a literature of exile; that it wasnwritten by T. S. Eliot in London, by Scott Fitzgerald innParis, and by Ernest Hemingway in Madrid. I think thatnonly the French novel can rival the American in itsndispleasure with its great audience.nThere is an even worse argument that art not only bringsnus together but makes us better. Materially better—betternable to cope with adolescent violence or life in the ghetto ornold age or drug addiction or terms of imprisonment. Thesenthings are often adduced when the National Endowmentnfor the Arts goes to Congress. The idea is propagated thatncertain serious crises in life or in society can be melioratednby the practice or the viewing of art. It is an audacious andnin some ways a splendid fiction. We would all like it to bentrue. But there are two hidden assumptions in this argumentnfor the support of culture by politics that, whennexamined, undermine everything. One is that we arenall—felons and adolescents and unhappy bourgeoisn—artists at heart. But few of us are, and not many more arenreally interested in the good and the beautiful. The many gonto movies and read comic books; the few go to the Met. Inwould not go so far as Ernest Van den Haag, who has saidnabout modern democratic society that:nThe mass of men dislikes and always has dislikednlearning and art. It wishes to be distracted from lifenrather than to have it revealed; to be comforted byntraditional (possibly happy and sentimental) tropes,nrather than to be upset by new ones. It is true that itnwishes to be thrilled, too. But irrational violence ornvulgarity provides thrills, as well as release, just asnsentimentality provides escape.nI might agree not to the extent that the many hate art, butnthat they are indifferent to it.nThe second hidden assumption is a much bigger one:nthat interest in art means interest in art. Here is a statementntaken from the Congressional Record:nIowa has one of the highest percentages of populationnaged 65 and older. It is therefore particularly fittingnthat the Iowa Arts Council this year provided assistancento the Iowa State Commission on the Aging for ansenior citizen arts festival, an event which provednhighly successful and which I hope will be repeatednyearly. We have an immense reservoir of training,nexperience, and talent in older Americans—upon retirementnthey have increased time to devote to thesentalents, to their crafts and hobbies. The federal, state,nand local programs in the arts should take particularncognizance of their needs and their potentialities.nOne wonders if there is anything in this otherwise publicmindednstatement which actually refers itself to art. As InnnAPRIL 1985/19n