Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 19: Criticism
Samuel Cameron Criticism is an enduring feature of arts and entertainment. This does not necessarily mean that it is important, although a strictly neoclassical economics perspective implies that anything that persists must be serving some socially useful function unless it is a manifestation of market failure from use of power by a dominant group. Criticism is a service that yields utility to consumers. The person who performs criticism is called a critic if they earn their living from such activity and/or have attained some acclaim for the status of their proclamations. Little empirical evidence exists on the labour market for critics. There do not seem to be any statistics on how many critics there are and what they earn. One also needs to distinguish between criticism and reviewing. Taken literally, reviewing simply means reporting on what has been consumed; indeed, some economics journals instruct book reviewers not to embark on criticism. One might envisage a distinction between the review as being ‘positive’ (factual) and criticism as ‘normative’ (value judgemental). In practice, the distinction is hard to maintain: for example, the reviewer of a production of Shakespeare may still pass some comment on whether or not it is one of the better productions of his plays. Such a remark might influence consumer demand. This takes us to the role of critics in terms of economic models of culture markets. If markets approximated to idealized perfect competition there would be no need for critics other than the possibility that their opinions might...
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