Who benefits from an economy of scarcity— or a perceived economy of scarcity

Metropolitan Museum of Art (I Just Can’t Keep Trying And Failing) ©MAIERMOUL
Metropolitan Museum of Art (I Just Can’t Keep Trying And Failing) ©MAIERMOUL

Questions like “Is it a glut?” or “Is it a problem?” aren’t nearly as interesting as questions like “Who is it a problem for?”

and “Why do those people think it’s a problem?” For critics like [Stephen] Burt, it’s a problem because it challenges what it means to be an “expert” in American poetry.

Whenever someone’s status as expert is predicated on knowing everything— all the good poems (i.e., a canon), what everyone is saying, etc.— a glut is going to be a problem because, as Burt puts it, “I just can’t keep trying and failing to get myself to read everything,” and thus the governing paradigm for what it means to be a poetry expert is put into crisis; how can you be an arbiter of taste if you can’t read everything to pass judgment on it?

A glut is problematic for anyone who benefits from an economy of scarcity— or a perceived economy of scarcity— because that person’s status, prestige, or perceived self importance, is suddenly devalued by the glut, which goes by the name of “surplus” in other conversations. That’s the point at which governments start burning crops and paying farmers to let their land lie fallow.

– Mike Chasar, Glut Reactions: The Demographics of American Poetry, Boston Review