Over at Comment, James K.A. Smith talks about patronage – the kind we all engage in, whether or not we’re wealthy:
At the heart of this sense of “patronage” is a vision of cultural life—not just the arts, but even the mundane aspects of commercial exchange—that is rooted inrelationship. When the hardware store thanked me for my patronage, it’s not because I made a donation to their business. There were things I needed, I paid a fair price, and the owner of the hardware store made a profit. But to see even this commercial transaction as a kind of “patronage” indicates a relationship between customer and proprietor that is not just economic or self-interested. In a way, I’m making a commitment to this shop, and (ideally) that relationship is reciprocated. I patronizethis hardware store because they’re also getting to know me: they know I’m pretty clueless about plumbing but don’t make me feel stupid when I ask dumb questions. They know I live in an old house and they can picture the challenges that come with it. I see Bill at football games on Friday nights and we appreciate that we are both more than customers and proprietors: we’re fathers, husbands, church members. This feels very different than the vast anonymity of so much of our economic lives transacted in big box stores.