Adrienne Rich on Politics and Art (1998)


“From 1980 on, as Reaganomics opened the way to out-of-control corporate power, I began turning to history and to Marx’s writings for a different grasp on events. At a time when Marx was considered a dead letter, I was finding his words very much alive. The sixties were declared buried, the women’s movement pronounced dead, then the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain were hailed as the ultimate victory of democracy. Yet I saw democracy–in the sense of that participatory spirit, which to survive must always become more inclusive–shrinking visibly here in the US: the richest becoming richer and the poor poorer, access to resources accumulating in fewer and fewer hands. This has influenced how I see both my art and my life.

The arts, a crucial human resource, are hated and mistrusted by capital unless they can be commoditized. The past two decades have been a hostile, demoralizing time in this country for anyone who wants to participate in building a more inclusive and hopeful social order, an artistic life fueled by anything but money. These, too, have been important political lessons.”

-Adrienne Rich, interviewed by Ruth E. C. Prince for Harvard’s Radcliffe Quarterly (1998)