Corruption in the trickle-up economy

One thing that makes artists, community groups, thinkers, and activists important in society and attractive to philanthropists, is their perceived integrity and authenticity. They are, in some way, outside of the corporate world which commodifies, costs, calculates and competes. The businessman’s activities have instrumental value–their value is determined by the extent to which they generate wealth; what artists produce has intrinsic value–it is  valuable not for what they can do but simply in virtue of what they are.

If the trickle-up economy is to function, these qualities need to be protected. But what if the very act of seeking funding–filling out those applications, writing bids with outputs, objectives, quantitative measures of success, and feedback mechanisms–erodes those qualities? What if self-actualization is inconsistent with binding yourself to a funder’s conditions? What if describing what one does–as an artist or community or thinker–using the language of the corporate world is itself corrupting? Can I reframe my community group’s work in terms of social enterprise, entrepreneurialism, and customer satisfaction without devaluing that work?

I’m interested in the special kind of faking it, pretence, hypocrisy, and cynicism that seems necessary when one has to reframe that which is intrinsically valuable to make it seem instrumentally so. What does it do to those of us who fake it, and to the projects thus re-imagined, when we pretend that what we know to be valuable in itself is valuable only as a means to an end?