The Triumph of Mediocre Literature

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:

Democracy not only gives the industrial classes a taste for letters but also brings an industrial spirit into literature.

In aristocracies readers are few and fastidious; in democracies they are immensely more numerous and easier to please. In consequence, among aristocratic nations no one can hope to succeed unless he takes a great deal of trouble, and even then, though he may win great renown, he will never gain much money, whereas in democracies a writer may hope to gain moderate renown and great wealth cheaply. For this purpose he does not need to be admired; it is enough if people have a taste for his work.

The ever growing crowd of readers always wanting something new ensures the sale of books that nobody esteems highly.



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