Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In art there are practitioners who are not formally trained and their work is called folk art, or naive art. It can't be produced by people who are trained in color theory and persective and the art historical canon, although certainly it can be imitated by formally trained artists. There is a value to naive art that I think comes from its spontaneity and innattention to conventions. Thus, my fine art background has taught me to value contributions from people who produce work from outseide the canonical freamework.

This makes me think that there is an interesting perspective to be gained from approaching economics in a naive way. I am reading seriously a lot of books- on the order of two daily- but they are not being screened for me by professors or represented by an accredited institution. So, I am gaining a book-based body of knowledge from outside the canon. I don't have a sense of which authors subscribe to widespread theories versus outsider theories, and except for year and writing style, I don't have a framework for evaluating the texts.

My art professor in the class for which I am undertaking this reading proposed that I present myself as an economist. I was charmed by this idea, because in my department the Picasso quote- "every child is an artist. the problem is how to remain one after he grows up" has a lot of credence. They teach us early on to identify ourselves as artists rather than art students- in fact, we devote more time now to art than we will likely be able to once we are in the loan-repaying-and-self-sustaining chapter of our lives. So self-identification feels adequate and appropriate for many things, including a soft science like economics.
I excitedly shared with a friend that I get to tell people I am an economist. (I am considering using the modifier "naive" except that outside the art community that word has a pejorative connotation) He said something to the effect of "that is an interesting lie," given that I don't have formal training and I got really frustratedly excited. The historical model of theorists and writers working outside the academy is dear to my heart, and in fact to this friend's heart as well, so I was pretty much aghast.

Auxiliary: I have a house mate who has studied economics for ages, and is working on his PhD. I asked him if he would describe himself as an economist, and he said "not quite yet." I completely respect that decision, and yet it reinforced my determination to just, you know, commit to calling myself one. Maybe I am not the best economist ever, but I am smarter than some of these authors, and more engaging than a third of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment