Mr. Upton Sinclair's exhaustive study of the art of propaganda has at length caused him to turn the medal over, and examine the propaganda of art. In his newest book, "Mammonart," he champions the thesis that since the dawn of human history, the path of success for a writer or artist has been through the glorification of the ruling classes, and through teaching their subjects and slaves to stand in awe of them. With magisterial rod in hand, Mr. Sinclair proceeds to classify as evil all those writers who consciously or unconsciously voice the propaganda of the ruling classes, or who write without a moral purpose.
The difficulty here is not with the conclusions but with the promise. It is easy to classify most literature as tending either for or against a proletariat millenium, but it should be done without questioning the sincerity of the writers. Interest in the lower classes, "the cult of the poor," did not begin until the eighteenth century. Before that time proletarian milleniums were unheard of, and unimagined. Mr. Sinclair would have one believe that "when an artist embodies his emotions in an art form, he does so because he wishes to convey those emotions to other people . . . and he will change the emotions of other people. But emotions, unlike opinions, such as Mr. Sinclair's, are products of gradual evolution and are the common heritage of the times. The effect of art, is often too quicken the response of emotions already possessed not to change them.
The thesis of "Mammonart" is interesting and the classifications, to say the least, are original, but Mr. Sinclair's outlook on life has always been too suspiciously blased to permit his making accurate generalizations. Art for art's sake, after all, was true long before it was trite.