H.P. Lovecraft on Big Business Corroding American Culture

I also found this quotation by the American SF/ Horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, in Fritz Leiber’s A Spectre Is Haunting Texas. The book’s about a skeletally thin actor from a lunar colony, who gets dragged into portraying death on stage to encourage the enslaved Mexican, Black, Indian and poor White populations to rise up against their oppressors in a post-holocaust nuclear America dominated by Texas.

Lovecraft is undoubtedly one of the great writers of his genre, but his political views were extremely unpleasant. He was a racist, and the threat of racial intermixture is a very strong element in his novels. In The Shadow over Innsmouth, he portrays a town, whose inhabitants are no longer entirely human due to generations of breeding with a fish-like undersea race. Several of his stories about families that have mutated or regressed through in-breeding, and the worshippers in the Louisiana swamplands of the dread god, Cthulhu, are described as ‘mongrels’.

The quotation makes it quite clear that Lovecraft was no Socialist, but he thought them far less of a threat than that posed by big business to genuine culture.

One thing I’ll say for labour (the British labor Party); and that is, that it isn’t as offensive as the corresponding mutatory force which now threatens culture in America. I refer to the force of business as a dominative motive in life, and a persistent absorber of the strongest creative energies of the American people. This intensive commercialism is a force more basically dangerous and anti-cultural than labour ever has been, and threatens to build up an arrogant fabric which it will be very hard to overthrow or modify with civilised ideas. (p. 163).

Now my views on what count as ‘civilised ideas’ are probably very different from Lovecraft’s. But he is right in one sense about the corrosive effect of business. Thanks to the massive influence of business on American politics, America is no longer a democracy. The country and its allies are sending their brave troops to fight and die in an ever increasing number of wars for the profit of the military industrial complex and the oil companies in particular.

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One Response to “H.P. Lovecraft on Big Business Corroding American Culture”

  1. guest Says:

    It is two years too late, but–

    In the US, especially since the First World War, people calling themselves “conservative” have been working very hard to sell us this idea that using the power of the State to facilitate radical and extreme social and cultural changes, brought about to create short-term wealth that will accrue to a tiny handful of people, leaving everyone else worse off in an adulterated, deteriorated culture, is a “conservative” idea. Moreover, they insist that George Washington and James Madison would tell you so if you just asked them.

    This is, of course, preposterous rubbish delivered with enormous chutzpah. The very first substantive piece of legislation the new Congress created in its very first meeting after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1789 was the Tariffs Act of 1789, in which all foreign goods and services were taxed at a rate of 20% or higher. It was intended to raise revenue and, secondarily, to encourage innovation and industrialization, the creation of “nascent industries,” in the new country. This tariff was the source of more US government revenue than all others combined prior to the Second World War.

    It was wildly successful and made the US an economic powerhouse and a global economic power–so, of course, it had to go, in favor of globalization, fractional-reserve banking, fiat currency. Surrendering our sovereignty, liberty, independence, and industrial base in favor of a bowl of pottage to be doled out by the United Nations, and direct taxes on the income of productive working people are the new unquestionable economic principles accepted by all right-thinking people, because these things, just like endless, pointless wars in which the US tries and fails to be the world’s policeman, more directly and efficiently make sneering Wall Street gangsters wealthy beyond the dreams of Croesus–people to whom the price in blood paid disproportionately by working-class white men is a feature, not a bug.

    We are all expected to cheer for new Wall Street records even as we find ourselves, at best, working longer and longer hours for lower and lower pay, with less and less security or stability, in a culture that becomes grimier, dirtier, coarser, more impoverished, and more resembling that of a backwards banana republic year by year. Worst case, of course, is coming home from Belleau Wood or Anzio or Hue or Fallujah or Kurdistan in a wheelchair, or in a flag-draped plywood coffin bought from the lowest bidder, so that Goldman-Sachs can keep on getting dividends on their General Dynamics stock. Or getting murdered in a back alley by illiterate Third Worlders brought in to be our very literal replacements–because they’ll work for five cents an hour less, and anyway, it’s so easy to keep Third World peasants happy, am I right? Oops, did you hear that? I meant, just let ’em stand on the Magic Dirt a few more weeks and they’ll turn into Americans, Real Soon Now, you’ll see! (“You RACIST! You should thank a veteran for not having to learn German to speak to your conquerors!” “You RACIST! You should learn to speak Spanish and Arabic to speak to your new neighbors!”)

    “Conservatives” who can’t even conserve the ladies’ room nor the public library from predatory child-molesting trannies have demonstrated they can’t be trusted to conserve anything else in our culture. They’ve been rolling over and shilling for a century now for people all too eager to turn North America into a paved-over irradiated maquiladora slum for one more nickel. They have nothing to offer, other than not being Leftists, who themselves have nothing to offer but the same warmed-over utopian Marxism that was tested to destruction in the real world in the 20th Century.

    As an observer of history, I offer the speculation that we will see a new politics for the new century, one in which the old definitions and old rules will no longer apply. I also speculate that it’s likely to be ugly and bloody for all concerned, but it’s too late to stop what’s coming. Maybe it’s been too late since 1965. Maybe since 1865. As others have noted, there is a lot of ruin in a nation, and we’ve had far more time already than I would have predicted, but history’s iron laws apply no less to America than they did to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or to Athens.

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