Thursday, October 18, 2007

We've all been hip to this for years, but it's good to have a social scientist confirm it

In an idealized view of the fashion and art world, the gatekeepers of taste coolly evaluate the work they see according to Platonic criteria. Currid's conclusion, based on dozens of interviews, is less sublime. "There is very little that gets done in New York that is merit-based," a musician told her. "It boils down to the same maxim: 'It's all who you know.' " And in order to know the right people artists and designers inevitably gravitate to New York, because it's where previous generations of artists and designers, now powerful, gravitated to. The result is a classic case of what economists call network effects: success in the past creates success in the future.

From an aesthetic standpoint, "It's all who you know" may be a grim conclusion, but from the perspective of New York's economy it seems an entirely happy one.

More at the New Yorker

This explains why there's so much bad theatre done by people who get paid well for it - all the decision-makers are their pals, and you can't give your pals the red light.