How has Art, Literature etc. thrived through the human history? True there have been people who just loved their work so much that they did not care for any other worldly considerations and went ahead with it. Still for a large part artists and writers were dependent on the royal patronage for their survival and enrichment. It was due to this patronage that a poet or an artist could devote himself (in rare cases herself) to his interests.
Why was this patronage required? Amongst other things largely it was so because with the art forms it is difficult to satisfy any immediate human need. No wonder, in many circles full time artists and poets would be classified as “Good for nothing” fellows, especially when they are not under any patronage. Not that these things never served any ‘useful’ (yeah – useful in the sense in which it prevailed in these critical circles) purpose, but it was not possible to recognize their need immediately most of the time.
Think of Research in present day scenario. True many research outcomes have lead to great commercial and social successes in past, still large part of it can not be justified on that ground. The way a poet or artist would be devoted to his/her profession for the love of it, a researcher would do things for the love of it. And researchers are supported by the government grants etc. (all right there are several variations, but on a broad level it is true) which is very similar to the royal patronage artists would receive in those days.
Now, how did the patronage to the artists and poets got removed. It got removed with the establishment of democracy mostly. When the riyasats in India were abolished, a major hue and cry of those against it was that it would take away support from many artists.
Now, is it likely that some other revolution, some other change of system would take away the support for researchers too?
(Do not get me wrong – I am not in favour of something like this! I a only discussing a thought that came to my mind.)
And if that happens, what kind of society we are moving towards? Good or bad? There are all reasons to have contradictory views. It’s a fact that it is so much more difficult to live in today’s society as an artist or author as compared to say an Engineer or Doctor. Is it all right? On the other hand too much of emphasizing patronizing of arts forms may lead to the kind of absurd situations that existed in the days of royalties – with every Tom. Dick, Harry, as an artist getting patronized, while large number of people are dying out of hunger.
And then, patronization was not always a “goodie-goodie” thing for art or literature always. At least not for their independent expression. While, they relieved the artists of the necessity of succumbing to populist pressure for earning the livelihood, in most cases they did have to succumb to the wishes of the royal patron in terms of content of their writings. And a rebel against such situation itself has produced quite some amount of literature and art. Research also has to see the interest of funding agencies; but that probably is for good and, at least as of now, does not look like a major hindrance.