Joseph Campbell on Entrepreneurship

 

Tape #1901: "Call of the Hero" with Joseph Campbell interviewed by Michael Toms New Dimensions Foundation audio tape from a live interview on San Francisco's radio station KQED

 

The following exchange was part of a discussion of the question of: What is creativity?

 

Toms: In a sense it's the going for, the jumping over the edge and moving into the adventure that really catalyzes the creativity, isn't it?

 

Campbell: I would say so, you don't have creativity otherwise.

 

Toms: Otherwise there's no fire, you're just following somebody else's rules.

 

Campbell: Well, my wife is a dancer. She has had dance companies for many, many years. I don't know whether I should talk about this. But when the young people are really adventuring, it's amazing what guts they have and what meager lives they can be living, and yet the richness of the action in the studio. Then, you are going to have a concert season. They all have to join a union. And as soon as they join a union, their character changes. (emphasis added, but Campbell changed the tone of his voice) There are rules of how many hours a day you can rehearse. There are certain rules of how many weeks of rehearsal you can have. They bring this down like a sledge hammer on the whole thing. There are two mentalities. There's the mentality of security, of money. And there's the mentality of open risk.

 

Toms: In other societies we can look and see that there are those that honor elders. In our society it seems much like the elders are part of the main stream and there is a continual kind of wanting to turn away from what the elders have to say, the way it is, the way to do it. The union example is a typical one, where the authority, institution, namely the union comes in and says this is the way it's done. And then one has to fall into line or one has to find something else to do.

 

Campbell: That's right.

 

Toms: And it's like treating this dichotomy between elders and the sons and daughters of the elders. How do you see that in relationship to other cultures?

 

Campbell: This comes to the conflict of the art, the creative art and economic security. I don't think I have seen it in other cultures. The artist doesn't have to buck against quite the odds that he has to buck against today.

 

Toms: The artist is honored in other cultures.

 

Campbell: He is honored and quickly honored. But you might hit it off, something that really strikes the need and requirements of the day. Then you've given your gift early. But basically it is a real risk. I think that is so in any adventure, even in business, the man who has the idea of a new kind of gift (emphasis added) to society and he is willing to risk it (this is exactly what George Gilder says in chapter three, "The Returns of Giving" in his book Wealth and Poverty). Then the workers come in and claim they  are the ones that did it.      Then he (the entrepreneur) can't afford to perform his performance. It's a grotesque conflict, I think between the security and the creativity ideas. The entrepreneur is a creator, he's running a risk.

 

Toms: Maybe in American capitalistic society the entrepreneur is the creative hero in some sense.

 Campbell: Oh, I think he is, I mean the real one. Most people go into economic activities not for risk but for security. You see what I mean. And the elder psychology tends to take over.

 

This discussion ended and after a short break a new topic was discussed.