Economics editor: Classical music ‘refutes the demand of neoliberals for us to be acquisitive, selfish individuals’

Economics editor: Classical music ‘refutes the demand of neoliberals for us to be acquisitive, selfish individuals’


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2015

Paul Mason, economics editor of Channel 4, studied music in Sheffield in the late 1970s. Here’s his considered view on what it does to us:

‘Music – I mean the classical music I studied – taught me above all: no act of imagination is futile. Music is the imagination running wild, through a landscape that is only colour and emotion. Its mere existence refutes the demand of the neoliberals for us to be acquisitive, selfish individuals.’

Not bad. Not bad at all.



  • Simon Evnine says:

    Excellent, thanks for sharing. This guy is wasted on the ‘dismal science’ !

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Paul Mason – the Grauniad’s resident rent-a-gob neocon when they can’t afford Timmy Garton-Ash.

  • Halldor says:

    He’s clearly never found himself suddenly afflicted with a ticklish cough at a sold-out classical concert in London…he’d meet plenty of “acquisitive, selfish” individuals then. “How dare you make even the slightest noise in a concert which I have paid £50 to hear in silent isolation!! Stewards, throw this man out!”

  • John Borstlap says:

    Well said. The best of ‘classical music’ is aspirational, pointing towards the human potential. (‘Inverted commas’ because it is not a collection of museum pieces but music that is contemporary forever, capable to speak over long distances of time and place.)

  • herrera says:


    It is entirely because of “neoliberal acquisitive, selfish individuals” that Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, David Geffen Hall, David H. Koch Theatre exist.

    Wipe away the neoliberal acquisitive selfish class in America, you wipe away all the opera houses in America. Forget the Big Five Symphony Orchestras, all you’ll have left are the Big Ten College Marching Bands.

    • Will Duffay says:

      The UK doesn’t have the same tradition of private patronage as the US. Which is a bad thing, perhaps – the alternative is public funding at the whim of politicians – but also means that there aren’t individuals dictating artistic policy. I do think a combination of the two is best: the wealthy can fund big projects, but the regular funding comes from the public purse as a socially worthwhile project. Utopian and socialist, perhaps, which doesn’t bother me, but the state is often more prepared to fund the difficult and the arcane, and also to fund the economically unviable in areas where there’s little else going on. The wealthy seem more interested in the grand gestures than an educational project in the sticks.

    • Ross says:

      Well, we can be grateful that they chose to give large amounts to an art that we love. Of all the worthy causes they chose this.
      And they gave in such large amounts rather than being certain that their grandkids and great-grandkids can live as billionaires.

    • william osborne says:

      Genuinely functional opera houses in the USA = ca. 6
      Full time opera houses in Germany publicly owned and operated = 83.

      Full time orchestras in the USA = 17.
      Full time orchestras in Germany publicly owned and operated = 133.

      Similar story for much of central and Northern Europe.

    • Anon says:

      People love to think simplistically – the absence of one thing does not automatically lead to the absence of another. In the case of the arts, the evidence around the world does tend to support the view that the less the impact of “neoliberal acquisitive, selfish individuals” on society and public service, then the healthier the artistic life will be (among other things).