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Art Worlds and Patrons Despite Themselves

THE INADVERTENT CLEVERNESS OF Howard Becker’s Art Worlds is that it shows us how mundane the art world really is. The inadvertent cleverness of Patrons Despite Themselves is that it shows us how mundane minds, not interested really in art, but in the public welfare, use its banal terms to explain the art system satisfactorily. These are powerfully demythologizing books, showing us that no matter how individualistic the art world thinks it is, it is in fact really nothing but another social system, subject to the same sociological and economic analysis as any other. It is as much bracing as deflating to know that one is another cog in another machine, for it is the beginning of wisdom. The leveling matter-of-factness of these books, heroic in the face of the mystification, self-importance, and sense of uniqueness that surround the art world, may not be the final word on it, but is worth

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