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Revolution or Renaissance

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D. Paul Schafer

Part II - The age of culture

7. Functioning of a Cultural Age

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The systematic interpretation of culture brings us close to the thesis that global development is in reality the development of cultures and civilizations.—Nada Svob-Dokic (1991), p. 299

1Now that firm foundations have been laid for a cultural age, it is possible to turn our attention to how a cultural age would function in fact. What worldview would underlie it, what model of development would drive it, and what concerns would dominate it?

A Cultural Worldview

2One of the biggest challenges for a cultural age will be piecing together, making known and using a cultural worldview to replace the economic worldview, which has the advantage of being reasonably well-known and accepted throughout the world. Since there are obviously many different concepts and definitions of culture in use throughout the world today, the most promising approach in piecing together a cultural worldview may be to examine what individuals and institutions working in the cultural field have been most concerned about. While construction of this worldview from ideas and practices across such a wide range of disciplines is fraught with difficulties, and is subject to numerous qualifications and generalizations, it simply must be done if we are to ascertain the way in which the world would be viewed from a cultural perspective.

3From anthropology, sociology, history, and philosophy there is the concern with the whole, discussed in an earlier chapter. From the arts there is the concern with excellence, creativity, beauty, diversity, and the search for the sublime, as well as the ways in which knowledge and understanding of cultures are enhanced through signs, symbols, and stories that stand for the whole. From the humanities there is the concern with people, cooperation, equality, and the connection between spiritualism and materialism. From ecology, biology, and other disciplines that have a close historical and contemporary affinity with culture there is the concern with the natural environment, other species, and the relationships, including the similarities and differences, between these and human beings. While none of these concerns is exclusive to any of the disciplines cited, it is these disciplines that tend to place a relatively high priority on them.

4When these concerns are looked at in totality, they provide the basis for the construction of a cultural worldview. In contrast to the economic worldview, a cultural worldview would be predicated on the conviction that the best way to view the world and everything in it is through the prism of culture. The priority would be placed on the whole, not just on economics or any other part of the whole, and on the need to achieve balanced, harmonious and equitable relationships between the parts and the whole. This would then be used to address the complex challenges and opportunities involved in making improvements in society, the human condition, and the world system. What would be of the greatest concern for a cultural worldview is the way in which people tie together all the various activities in which they are engaged to form a whole or total way of life.

5Concern with space and time would be another crucial aspect of a cultural worldview. In spatial terms, this would mean placing the emphasis on the relationship between human beings and their institutions, on the one hand, and the natural environment, or “the land,” as well as specific places, on the other. In temporal terms, it would mean placing the emphasis on the ways in which human institutions have developed over time, as well as where they stand at present and where they are headed in the future. For culture, this would mean focusing attention on the theoretical and practical heritages that the diverse peoples and countries of the world have built up, as well as the entire cultural heritage of humankind. For specific cultures, it would mean focusing on the relationships between people and traditions, customs, and identities.

6It should be pointed out here that a cultural worldview would not reject the economic worldview. Rather, it would subsume the economic worldview, and a great deal else, in a broader, deeper, and more fundamental way of looking at the world. Further, just as the economic worldview is a collective worldview, so too would a cultural worldview be. It may differ substantially from the individual worldviews of people and institutions working in the cultural field, just as the economic worldview may differ substantially from the individual worldviews of people and institutions working in the field of economics. However, this does not alter the fact that it is possible to talk about a cultural worldview in the collective sense.

7The development and use of a cultural worldview in this collective sense could prove valuable and timely at the present juncture in history. In the first place, it would place humanity in a much stronger position to make sensible and sustainable decisions about future courses and directions in planetary civilization. In the second place, it would provide an opportunity to make a breakthrough in environmental matters because a high priority would be placed on the relationship between people and the natural environment. In the third place, it would render a better perspective on the numerous conflicts between groups of people, countries, and cultures. The large majority of these conflicts are far more than economic conflicts, even though many economic factors may be involved, such as control and ownership of land, or access to natural resources and wealth. Rather, they are cultural conflicts to the extent that they also involve such factors as differences in worldviews, values or traditions, as, for example, in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world. A cultural worldview would place the priority on unity, synthesis, inclusion, and holism, rather than division, separation, exclusion, and polarization.

Development of Culture and Cultures

8Since the development of culture and cultures would be the major consequence of adopting a cultural worldview, it is necessary to examine what this means in practice.

9Developing culture in depth means placing the priority on the quest for knowledge, wisdom, beauty, and truth; the importance of creativity, excellence, compassion, caring, and sharing; the need for equality, diversity, identity, and unity; respect for the needs and rights of others; appreciation of the cultural heritage of humankind; and the search for the sublime. These are ideals that people and countries in every part of the world have valued highly, despite significant differences in their worldviews. It also means placing a great deal of emphasis on the arts, humanities, education, learning, spirituality, philosophy, ethics, anthropology, sociology, ecology, and biology, since these activities and disciplines have very close connections with culture. This would help to ensure that cultures highest, wisest and most enduring ideals would be located at the core of the development process.

10Developing culture in breadth means ensuring that people have access to as many cultural options and opportunities as possible, and are able to participate as actively and fully as possible in all aspects and dimensions of cultural life. Every individual and every ethnic group has a great deal to give to the development of culture, as well as a great deal to receive in return. Governments, corporations, foundations, and local, regional, national and international organizations would have to play forceful and proactive roles in cultural development and policy here, and remove as many barriers to access and participation as possible.

11Specific cultures would also have to be developed in depth and breadth. Such development would be comprehensive, involving the development of all activities in society, and not just certain activities. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga had this in mind when he wrote (quoted by Karl Weintraub, p. 216) that “the realities of economic life, of power, of technology, of everything conducive to man’s material well-being, must be balanced by strongly developed spiritual, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic values.”

12Development would also be coherent, so that all the component parts of cultures are properly situated. Given the innumerable difficulties involved, this may well turn out to be one of the greatest challenges in the development of cultures. Situating the component parts of cultures properly is most essential in the case of economics, if it is to serve human, social and environmental interests, and not merely commercial, industrial, financial and corporate interests. The specific goals of economics, such as production, consumption, investment, growth, and so on, would have to be brought into line with, and constrained by, the broader and deeper cultural goals of access, creativity, equality, compassion, cooperation, and safeguarding the natural environment and cultural heritage of humankind.

13Positioning economies properly within cultures would reduce the strain on scarce resources, because much more emphasis would be placed on activities that make fewer demands on them. It would also humanize economies by placing a higher priority on income and resource sharing, job creation, training and retraining, diversity, distribution, cooperation, and inclusion than on consumption, exploitation, uniformity, profits, competition, exclusion, and the market. Clearly, strong economies are needed to deliver the improvements and investments in technology, capital accumulation, and material living that are required to eliminate poverty and hunger, but strong economies must be positioned properly within cultures if economic excesses and imbalances are to be prevented. Technology, communications, the arts, education, health, the sciences, religion, politics, and all the other component parts of cultures must also be properly positioned. There are always problems when priority is given to any part over the whole, regardless of what part it may be.

14Developing cultures that are cohesive is equally important. This would necessitate creating strong connections between activities, ethnic groups, geographical regions, and so on. Where such connections exist, cultures are likely to remain intact, and soar to higher and higher levels of accomplishment. Where they do not exist, cultures can become unglued and split apart. Cultures can easily fall prey to complex communications problems, particularly where geographical size or formidable terrain makes staying in touch difficult or impossible. They can also succumb to tribal divisions or ethnic unrest when ethnic or linguistic groups visualize their futures in terms of isolation, exclusion, and separation, rather than integration, togetherness, and inclusion. It is here that artists, arts organizations, and the creative industries have a key role to play through their ability to create parts of the whole that stand for the whole.

15Another key requirement would be the development of cultures that are civilized, meaning that resources are shared equally, there are no major disparities in income or wealth, and discrimination and violence are eliminated, or at least reduced. The objective here would be to create a level playing field on which all citizens and groups can find a place. This should go a long way towards ensuring that cultures have a human face, and that people’s needs, rights, and responsibilities can be dealt with in a fair, equitable, open and compassionate manner.

16Finally, having adequate control over decision-making processes, and development policies and practices, is essential. Regardless of whether cultures are local, regional, national or international, possessing adequate control over internal affairs and external relations is mandatory if cultures are not to become the victims of standardization, imperialism, globalization or commercialization. Governments, citizens, and community groups will have to work to ensure that decision-making processes and development practices are in domestic rather than foreign hands, and that a reasonable amount of cultural programming is indigenous, rather than imported or imposed. What is at stake here is the survival of cultures into the future.

A Cultural Model of Development

17There are many different ways to perceive and define development, but most would agree that development is concerned with the fulfilment of human needs. If human needs are to be dealt with effectively in the future, it will be necessary to evolve models of development that are equal to the task. They must be capable of doing justice to all human needs, and not just certain human needs. They must also be capable of coming to grips with the many different problems associated with people’s needs, as previously discussed. A cultural model of development would be capable of dealing effectively with the shortcomings of the economic model of development, as well as with the needs of people and countries in every part of the world.

18While the diagram of the cultural model of development (below) has been greatly simplified, it displays the main features of the model and illustrates why it is essential to take a cultural rather than economic approach to development. It is clear from the diagram that, when development is viewed from a cultural perspective, its scope and subject matter are enormous, comprising six fundamental matters:

  1. culture as a whole and cultures as wholes;
  2. the component parts of culture and of cultures;
  3. the relationships between the component parts of culture and of cultures;
  4. the interactions between the component parts and the whole of culture or of cultures;
  5. the relationship between the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of culture and of cultures; and
  6. the relationship between culture and cultures, on the one hand, and the natural, historical and global environment, on the other.

Figure 2. A Cultural Model of Development

Figure 2. A Cultural Model of Development

19The most important priority is to develop culture as a whole and cultures as wholes (the complete circle), but a very important aspect of this is developing the component parts of culture and of cultures in their own right. These component parts are depicted in the diagram as the “economic culture,” the “social culture,” the “political culture,” and so on, since they all share culture in common. Each can be developed most effectively when it is developed in terms of the uniqueness, creativity, excellence, integrity, and diversity inherent within it. Given the highly specialized nature of the modern world, a great deal is known about each of these component parts and how to develop them most effectively, even if the resources are not always available to achieve this.

20Far less is known about how to deal with the complex relationships between and among the component parts. What, for example, is the relationship between the economic culture and the social culture, and how can this relationship be dealt with most effectively? Or to cite another example, what is the relationship between the technological culture and the religious culture? Understanding these relationships and coming to grips with them looms ever larger in the overall matrix of concerns that must be addressed.

21It is also imperative to examine very carefully the dynamic interplay between the component parts of culture and of cultures, on the one hand, and culture and cultures as wholes, on the other. A larger and larger price will be paid if these relationships are not understood and dealt with effectively.

22Turning now to the relationship between the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of culture and cultures, it is the qualitative dimension that is more difficult to deal with, because it is so difficult to measure and define. Nevertheless, breaking culture and cultures down into quantitative and qualitative elements serves the very useful purpose of focusing attention on the material and non-material dimensions. This in turn helps to draw attention to the natural environment, consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources, the rapid rate of population growth, and the finite carrying capacity of the Earth. It is obvious from the model that the larger the quantitative dimension of culture and cultures, the more pressure is exerted outwards on the qualitative dimension. In effect, the more time, money, and energy are spent on the production, distribution, and consumption of material goods and services, the more pressure is exerted on the natural environment, resources, and other species, and the less time, money and energy are available for social interaction, spiritual renewal, friendship, human love, family, recreation, the arts, and other things that make life richer, fuller and more meaningful.

23This leads us to the most important relationship in the cultural model of development, namely the relationship between culture and cultures and the natural, historical, and global environment. History confirms time and again that when culture and cultures are not positioned properly in their environment, the consequences are devastating in terms of environmental exhaustion, cultural conflict and confrontation, and repetition of the mistakes of the past. There may be nothing more important to the world of the future than situating culture in general and specific cultures in particular effectively in their environment. On the one hand, this means ensuring that all the diverse cultures of the world are predicated on values, policies, and practices that ensure environmental sustainability, human well-being, and harmony between all people and countries of the world. On the other hand, it means ensuring that all the diverse cultures of the world are based on understandings of the past that are as accurate as possible.

24It is imperative to examine very carefully the impact that culture and cultures have on the natural environment. Rather than taking the natural environment as a given or taking it for granted, as the economic model of development tends to do, the cultural model opens up a commanding place for the natural environment at the very core of the development process and in every aspect of development activity. Since all human activities are composed of material and non-material elements, it is essential to examine in great detail the material draws and ecological impacts that different types of human activities have. For example, manufacturing, commercial, transportation, and technological activities draw and impact heavily on the natural environment, because the material component of these activities is high and the potential for damage is great. Conversely, many artistic, educational, social, and spiritual activities draw and impact lightly on the natural environment, because their material component is low and the potential for damage is significantly reduced.

25The implications of this for local, regional, national and international development are clear and unequivocal. As world population increases and more pressure is exerted on the natural environment, a great deal more emphasis will have to be placed on activities that draw less on the natural and global environment, and do as little environmental and global damage as possible. In the economic model, human needs with a high degree of material input and output are given a high priority because they produce higher levels of material living and more rapid rates of economic growth. This puts a great deal of strain on the environment. In the cultural model, in contrast, the satisfaction of human needs is much less dangerous and demanding, since the emphasis is placed on achieving a judicious balance between the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of development, and between people’s material needs and their non-material needs.

26Attention also needs to be focused on the dynamic and reciprocal interplay between the natural environment and culture. Just as culture, and specific cultures, affect the natural environment by constantly pressing outwards, so the natural environment affects culture and cultures by constantly pressing inwards. There are many examples of this. Scientists, for example, are concerned with expanding knowledge and understanding of everything that exists from the outer reaches of the cosmos to the smallest forms of plant and animal life. Artists have been concerned with expanding human awareness of the natural environment for centuries, primarily by enhancing our appreciation of its beauty and grandeur. The natural environment also has an uncanny way of striking back when it is exploited and abused, by way of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, global warming, and the collapse of cultures that have failed to take the natural environment fully into account.

27Culture and cultures must also be properly positioned in the global environment. As recent developments indicate, every culture is situated in the world and interacts with other cultures in very specific ways. As globalization increases and cultures interact more frequently and extensively with one another, a great deal of thought and attention will have to be given to how cultures are positioned in the world, and what threats and dangers they may pose to other cultures. Without the creation of many more connections between the diverse cultures of the world, conflict and confrontation will be inevitable, and harmony and peace will not be achieved. This requires a dramatic increase in international cultural relations, as well as many more opportunities for intercultural communications and exchange. These are the real keys to solidarity, friendship, and understanding.

28Culture and cultures must also be situated properly in the historical environment. This means protecting the legacy of artefacts, ideas, ideals, values, traditions, monuments, and beliefs that has been built up over the course of history. This legacy provides people and countries with connections that create a continuous bond between past, present, and future generations, as well as the means of differentiating between right and wrong, good and evil, valuable and valueless, meaningful and meaningless. Without protection of the cultural legacy of humankind from the ravages of time, people and countries will be unable to learn from the past, maintain their distinctive identities and diversities, and preserve their cherished ways of life. However, this also means coming to grips with the cultural baggage that people and countries inherit from the past, particularly where this baggage is negative, since it creates hostilities and resentments that stand in the way of achieving peace and harmony. The “truth and reconciliation” initiatives instituted in South Africa and other countries offer a ray of hope in this regard, indicating a willingness on the part of specific groups to admit the wrongs of the past, and to seek reconciliation and forgiveness. Another set of examples concerns the attempts now being made to right the wrongs that have been done to aboriginal peoples, in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, Mexico and other countries, through the resolution of land claims, the provision of greater control over the development of indigenous activities, the preservation of distinctive cultural traditions, and the installation of self-government for aboriginal peoples.

29This completes our analysis of the cultural model of development, which provides the contextual, conceptual and practical framework required to make sensible and sustainable decisions about a variety of community, regional, national, international, and planetary matters. It does so by incorporating the natural, historical, and global environment fully into the development equation, as well as by recognizing that development is an interactive, egalitarian, inclusive and holistic activity. It also addresses two of the greatest shortcomings of the economic model of development: failure to take the natural environment into account in planning and decision-making; and the tendency to treat development as an economic activity rather than a multi-dimensional and comprehensive cultural activity.

Key Cultural Concerns

30Just as the economic age is driven by a number of powerful forces, so a cultural age would be dominated by a number of fundamental concerns. It is important to identify and examine these concerns, since they flow inevitably from the conviction that culture and cultures should be made the centrepiece of society, and the principal preoccupation of municipal, regional, national and international development.

31It is essential to emphasize, once again, that the dominant forces of the economic age would not disappear in a cultural age. Rather, they would be incorporated into it, along with much else. It simply is not possible to create material resources without these forces, as they provide the wherewithal required to fuel economic growth, drive economic development, and propel countries to higher and higher levels of commercial attainment. Moreover, they are so deeply ingrained in the world system, people’s lives, and development that it seems unlikely that they could ever disappear. They would, however, be constrained by the key concerns of a cultural age.

32To illustrate this point, take the questions of specialization and holism. What specialization is to the economic age, holism is to a cultural age. However, specialization would not disappear, because it will always be required to increase knowledge and understanding of the component parts of culture and cultures, as well as to increase production, productivity, and efficiency in all areas of life. Nevertheless, holism would be to a cultural age what specialization is to the economic age. Holism does not reject the need for knowledge and understanding of specific parts of the whole, but incorporates this into the quest to broaden and deepen knowledge and understanding of what is more fundamental: the total way of life of people, and the need to achieve harmonious relationships between material and non-material requirements.

33This would not be the only benefit to be derived from making holism a key concern. Many individuals, institutions, groups, and countries have become so caught up with, and dependent on, specialization that their futures are in jeopardy. As long as the demand for their particular specialization is strong there is no real problem, but as soon as the demand diminishes there are serious problems indeed. While this has been going on steadily since the industrial revolution, and has been a basic concern for a long time, it is assuming alarming proportions today as a result of globalization, the liberalization of trade, rapid changes in technology, and new environmental and ecological realities. More and more individuals, institutions, groups, and countries are discovering that excessive dependence on a highly specialized skill, profession, production function or handful of products can lead to unemployment, underemployment, and obsolescence. Holism could prove valuable here as it puts the emphasis on the cultivation of many diverse skills and the ability to function in a variety of contexts, rather than the cultivation of a single skill within a single context.

34What makes human well-being a key concern of a cultural age is the fact that it has been pushed into the background over the past two hundred years or so, while concern for products, profits, and the market has been pushed into the foreground. Do people have enough food, clothing, shelter, security, education, recreation, and social, artistic, health and spiritual amenities? Are they able to participate actively, freely and fully in the life of the community, region, country, and culture in which they live? Are social, religious, linguistic, economic and financial barriers to access and participation breaking down or building up? Are these and other obstacles preventing people from improving their lot, and expanding their range of opportunities and choices? These are the questions that must be asked and answered if human well-being is to be a key concern, making it possible to address people’s needs and requirements in a sustained, systematic, proactive and egalitarian manner.

35This fact has been brought home with striking clarity in recent years as a result of the violent reactions of some groups of people to free trade and globalization. They claim that these arrangements do not place the priority on human well-being, but rather on corporate profits, excessive rates of economic growth, exploitation of the natural environment and labour, and promotion of the interests of powerful institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. To this must be added the fact that some free trade agreements have been negotiated in secret, with little or no input from the public, civil society, or social and environmental organizations.

36Distribution would also be a key concern in a cultural age. Despite the advances in production, productivity, and productive capacity over the past fifty years, the distribution problem has yet to be solved and, if anything, it is worse than ever. Not only are there substantial disparities in income, wealth, power, and resources, but these disparities are getting more conspicuous. If this problem is to be dealt with successfully in the future, distribution will have to become a mainstream concern rather than a marginal one. If as much progress can be made in the area of distribution over the next one hundred years as has been made in the area of production over the past one hundred years, the greatest single obstacle to global harmony, peace, and stability will have been overcome.

37Sharing and compassion are also essential to ensure human survival and wellbeing, and to make it possible for all people and countries to live with dignity and respect. This would go a long way towards addressing some of the most obvious causes of hostility and resentment in the world. If the focus is on giving rather than taking, dispersion rather than accumulation, it will become possible to shift from looking after oneself to concern for others, from survival of the fittest to concern for the plight and well-being of the majority of people and countries in the world.

38A great deal of emphasis will have to be placed on altruism if this is to be achieved. Not only is the world in need of individuals who can make commitments to causes that are greater than themselves, altruism is also needed to address the world’s most difficult, demanding and debilitating problems.

39Regrettably, the world seems to be moving farther away from altruism rather than closer to it. The erosion of religious beliefs and practices in many parts of the world has brought with it a significant loss of interest in things that are greater than the self. Then there is the increase in affluence and materialism throughout the world, and the effect this is having in freeing people from dependence on others while at the same time fostering a preoccupation with the self and self-sufficiency. To these trends against altruism should also be added the tendency to develop concern for rights without a commensurate concern for responsibilities, and the need to give something back to community and society in return for the safeguarding and promotion of human rights.

40It would, then, be beneficial if more people took President John F. Kennedys advice: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” But this advice does not apply simply within any one country. Without a revival and diffusion of altruism, it is difficult to see how or why rich countries would increase their aid and assistance to poor countries, reduce or eliminate their oppressive debt loads, or help them to deal effectively with poverty and address the needs of the disadvantaged.

41The arts have long had concerns that are fundamentally linked to culture, and would therefore be key concerns of a cultural age. Foremost among these concerns are excellence, creativity, beauty, and the search for the sublime. The challenge is to aspire to the best that can be achieved, regardless of the audience for which it is intended or the field in which it is created, and to emphasize the role of creativity in all areas of life, so that discovering new and better ways of doing things with fewer resources, and more effective and efficient results, becomes standard practice in science, business, industry, government, medicine, welfare, and education as much as in the arts.

42There would also be much to be gained from making the creation, conveyance, and cultivation of beauty a key concern in a cultural age. Everybody appreciates beauty and derives a great deal of satisfaction and inspiration from it, whether in songs, paintings, poems, landscapes or thoughts, and every culture, country, and civilization in the world possesses a profuse legacy of beautiful works. These legacies need to be much better known and used throughout the world, for beauty knows no bounds and requires little or no knowledge, commentary or interpretation. People everywhere in the world need beauty in their lives on a daily and full-time basis if they are to achieve meaning, fulfilment, and happiness.

43Finally, there is the contribution that the arts can make to the search for the sublime, as they inspire people to reach above and beyond themselves in the quest for the unattainable. Scientists also display this ability when they make major breakthroughs in research and exploration, but it is an ability that artists possess in abundance. Through their expression of profound thoughts and feelings in simple, straightforward and compelling ways, artists are responsible for much of the inspiration that is needed to propel people, communities, countries, and cultures to higher and higher levels of accomplishment.

44What makes democratization and decentralization key concerns of a cultural age is the fact that they expand the range of options and opportunities available to people by making it possible for them to engage in all aspects and dimensions of cultural life. This is why it is imperative to break down the barriers to participation. Aggressive action will be required on the part of governments against those barriers that prevent the realization of human rights or contravene the need to treat all people equally, as well as those that impede particular groups from playing an active role in society and gaining access to the resources they need. This is the message underlying UNESCO’s “Recommendation on Participation by the People at Large in Cultural Life and Their Contribution to It,” adopted in Nairobi in 1976. Without democratization and decentralization, cultural development becomes static, pedantic, sterile, and elitist rather than dynamic, fluid, flexible, and egalitarian. In the words of Augustin Girard, a French authority on cultural development and policy (p. 137):

decentralization of activities... is at once the first step in the direction of cultural democracy and, at the same time, essential to cultural creativity, vitality and freedom. Thus decentralization is necessarily the guiding principle of cultural democracy.

45Democratization is needed to provide full access to existing institutions and resources, as well as to provide opportunities to create new institutions and resources. However, any institutions and resources are controlled by powerful elites, who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, in which they exercise control. Democratization can only be achieved through a great deal of struggle, and may well result in harassment, intimidation, and even imprisonment. Further, creating new institutions and resources often involves very great risks. Even so, experience shows that when artists, craftspeople, scientists, and scholars have been provided with funds to create new institutions and resources, those funds are seldom wasted or squandered and the returns are usually far greater than the funds expended. It does not take a great leap of imagination to visualize the numerous benefits that could accrue from a comprehensive programme of assistance to talented individuals to create alternative institutions and resources. Ultimately, this may be the litmus test for democratization.

46Like democratization, decentralization is necessary if people’s needs, rights, and responsibilities are to be attended to properly. Unlike economic development, which tends to be centralized in nature, and national and international in character, cultural development tends to be decentralized in nature, and local, regional or “grassroots” in nature. Biserka Cvjeticanin, Director of Culturelink and a former Deputy Minister of Culture in Croatia, put her finger on the crux of the problem when she pointed out that (p.1):

The trend towards globalization has favoured the establishment of planetary networks, but at the same time it has triggered an opposite process, that of “localization,” with different cultures asserting cultural pluralism and diversity rooted in local cultural traditions. In contradistinction to cultural universalism, we now witness a return to individual cultures, traditions, and values. There is a constant tension between these two phenomena, universal and particular.

47More and more people throughout the world are recognizing that it is “localization” in general, and the quality of life in neighbourhoods, communities, cities, and regions in particular, that is the decisive factor in life. If these fundamental human collectivities lack a diversified array of cultural institutions and amenities, and reasonable access to them, and if people lack control over the decision-making processes and planning structures governing their lives, no amount of national or international development will make up the difference. It is through localized activities and institutions that people learn to cope with the centralizing, standardizing and homogenizing effects of economic, political, commercial, and technological development. It is little wonder that in recent years there has been a rapid proliferation of “grassroots” organizations aimed at restoring people’s sense of identity, solidarity, belonging, and control over the decision-making processes affecting their lives. Their appearance is part and parcel of the reaction to globalization, the creation of larger and larger trading blocs, the growth of multinational corporations, and the concentration of financial and commercial power in fewer hands.

48If problems as fundamental as these are to be dealt with successfully, a great deal of emphasis will have to be placed on cultural development at the local, municipal and regional level. This will require, among other things, a dramatic increase in the funds available for cultural development at this level; the creation of plans and policies capable of expanding localized resources and institutions; the broadening of participation in planning and decision-making; the commissioning of creative people to enhance the aesthetic state of neighbourhoods, communities, cities, and regions; and the employment of “cultural animators” to act as catalysts for change by helping to take culture out of the hands of narrow elites and special interest groups, and to place it under the control of society as a whole. Without this, it is difficult to see how municipal and regional authorities will be able to respond to the needs and demands of their citizens, especially now that, as we have seen, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban environments.

49Alongside democratization and decentralization there is a dire need for cooperation. Indeed, cooperation should become so contagious in a cultural age that it spreads to all people, institutions, governments, countries, and cultures in the world. At present, however, competition is valued far more highly than cooperation is. People have been competing for such basic necessities as food, clothing, shelter, income, and employment for so long that competition has come to seem normal or even “natural,” as the widespread belief in slogans such as “the survival of the fittest” confirms. Moreover, competition is deemed by the proponents of the prevailing ideology to be the key to a healthy and vigorous economy, because it is deemed to yield the best possible situation for producers, consumers, and society as a whole. Competition also plays a major role in motivating people to higher levels of accomplishment. Yet cooperation will be needed far more than competition in the future. It will simply not be possible to come to grips with the complex problems confronting humanity through competition, which would aggravate these problems more than it alleviated them.

50It is obvious why conservation should also be a key concern in a cultural age, given the size and growth of the world’s population, and the limited carrying capacity of the Earth. There are many ways in which conservation can be achieved: by eliminating duplication and waste whenever and wherever they are encountered; by placing much more emphasis on permanence, recycling, and repair, rather than on obsolescence, acquisition, and new purchases; and by trying to realize E. F. Schumacher’s dictum that “small is beautiful.” The arts can be used to good advantage here, for what lies at the root of many artistic activities is the desire to achieve a great deal with the utmost simplicity.

51This brings us to what would be the final major concern of a cultural age: spirituality. Spirituality is not an alternative to materialism, just as holism is not an alternative to specialization. Spirituality recognizes that material needs exist and constitute a very essential part of life, but goes beyond materialism by placing the emphasis on the need to achieve harmony and balance between the material and non-material dimensions of life. It is through culture that this harmony and balance is achieved most effectively. This means deriving maximum fulfilment from all the physical, emotional and intellectual experiences that constitute life, as well as combining all these experiences to form an integral consciousness. In the words of Duane Elgin and Colleen LeDrew (p. 19):

An integral culture and consciousness involves a new way of looking at the world. It seeks to integrate all the parts of our lives: inner and outer, masculine and feminine, personal and global, intuitive and rational, and many more. The hallmark of the integral culture is an intention to integrate, to consciously bridge differences, connect people, celebrate diversity, harmonize efforts, and discover higher common ground. With its inclusive and reconciling nature, an integral culture takes a whole-systems approach, and offers hope in a world facing deep ecological, social and spiritual crises.

A Cultural World System

52The present world system undoubtedly yields numerous benefits for people and countries in every part of the world, and for the world as a whole, but it is not without its problems. In the first place, it is divided into two unequal parts, developing and developed, and income, resources, wealth, and power are not shared equally. The destructive and dangerous effects of this division have already been discussed.

53In the second place, the system is unbalanced in the sense that priority is given to the development of all the municipal, regional and national economies of the world, as well as the global economy. This gives rise to the vast panorama of bilateral and multilateral relationships among the diverse economies, countries, governments, and international institutions of the world, relationships that are intended to facilitate the movement of goods, services, resources, capital, information, technology, and people at speeds and in volumes hitherto unknown. Since the central purpose is to build up the commercial, industrial, financial, agricultural and technological capabilities of countries, priority is given to these relationships in international development and global affairs. Since bilateral and multilateral relationships are much more difficult between countries than within them, because of differences in worldviews, values, customs, languages and so on, ways have to be found to overcome these difficulties, and these are provided by international artistic, educational, social, athletic and spiritual relationships. The result is that these latter types of relationships are seen as marginal and supportive, rather than valued in their own right, and little time, energy, attention or funding is devoted to them.

54In the third place, as we have seen, the human element is missing from most international relationships, since much more emphasis is placed on products, profits, finance and so on. This above all makes it imperative to develop a world system that is capable of coming to grips with all the problems facing humankind, not just the economic ones. In order to develop this new system, a great deal more attention will have to be given to how culture in general, and all the various cultures of the world in particular, can be developed most effectively and interact most efficiently.

55By far the most important priority in this regard is building up artistic, social, athletic, educational, humanistic and spiritual relationships between countries to the point where a reasonable measure of equality and parity is achieved between them and commercial, industrial, financial, agricultural and technological relationships. This would make it possible to put the emphasis on human well-being rather than on products, profits, and the marketplace, and also to enhance communication across ethnic, linguistic, geographical and political boundaries.

56Despite the vast importance of commercial, industrial, agricultural, financial and technological relationships, they tend to be cold and impersonal, largely because they deal with profits and products rather than people. Thus the potential for war, aggression, conflict, violence, and terrorism is always present. This is precisely where the arts, humanities, education, social affairs, and spirituality come in. Human feelings and expression are their very essence. Equally important is the fact that relationships in these areas could provide a strong stabilizing force when commercial, military, political, financial, industrial and technological relations are in flux. They could help to cushion the shocks that result from erratic swings in the pendulums of political, economic and military power. Comprehensive programmes of exchanges involving musicians, composers, writers, painters, theatre and dance companies, symphony orchestras, scholars, athletes, social, spiritual and religious leaders, and development workers could provide the cement that would keep people, countries, and cultures together when other forces are operating to split them apart. In this way peace, stability, security, and friendship would be more readily achieved and maintained in the world.

57To this should be added the fact that relationships in the arts, social affairs, sports, education, the humanities, and spiritual affairs can do more than anything else to eradicate the fear, suspicion, misunderstanding, and mistrust that result from inability to understand the signs, worldviews or values of others. The communications revolution and the steady emergence of an interdependent world make it possible to reduce these negative factors in human affairs through a massive build-up of such positive and humane relationships, predicated on in-depth encounters with the creative accomplishments of all cultures, peoples, and countries. Thus the whole world could be brought into intimate, personal contact. This is an opportunity that is far too important to the future of the world to be passed up.

58Achieving a reasonable measure of parity among all the diverse economic and non-economic relationships between people, countries, and cultures is also the key to evolving a world system that is unified, balanced, equitable and integrated. In such a system, decisions would be made on the basis of what is in a country’s or a culture’s best cultural interests, not merely its best economic interests. The relevant question should always be whether a relationship with other countries and other cultures contributes to a country’s or a culture’s cultural interests as a dynamic and organic whole, regardless of the economic, commercial, financial or technological implications. In the words of Verner Bickley and John Philip Puthenparampil (p. 9 of their collection):

If all national cultures, quintessentially, are considered as representing, as they do, “ways of life”, values and “symbolic systems” which are significant and meaningful in the lives of particular peoples, it should be possible to conceive of ways in which intercultural relations could be perceived and evaluated. Firstly, it will be agreed that transactions which have an adverse impact on the dignity and wholeness of cultures cannot, for that reason, be defended. Secondly, in any organization of purposes intended to be served by intercultural transactions a high place has to be given for purposes which serve to enhance the dignity and vitality of cultures. Thirdly, good cultural relations are those which have a positive impact on cultures and contribute to their “autonomous development.” Fourthly, a fundamental aim of intercultural relations/transactions will be the development of a scheme of shared values and “mutual consequentiality” among cultures.

59Placing the emphasis on what is in the best cultural interests of countries and cultures would change the ways in which countries and cultures interact with and relate to one another, causing new patterns to form and new possibilities to emerge. This is particularly important in a world where cultures and countries are becoming increasingly multicultural and multiethnic in nature, with a great deal more intercultural mixing, and a greater emphasis on cultural identities, diversities, and differences. Mahatma Gandhi put the case well (in a passage quoted by the World Commission on Culture and Development, p. 73):

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

60What makes Gandhi’s counsel particularly wise is the fact that he warns against being blown off one’s feet by any culture, thereby signalling the dangers that result when countries and cultures become closed, homogeneous, and chauvinistic, rather than open, diverse, and responsive to outside influences. As the Romanian scholar Mircea Malitza has pointed out (p. 102):

Cultures in watertight compartments are doomed to oblivion. Dialogue is essential. The choice between the development of a national culture and an increase in exchanges with the outside world is a false one. Interdependence cannot be denied. The cultures which have blossomed are those which have had the advantage of innumerable influences, received and transmitted in accordance with a process of unceasing enrichment.

61The poet T. S. Eliot expressed similar sentiments when he wrote in his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948) that the development of culture depends on two interrelated factors: the ability to go back and learn from domestic sources and the past; and the ability to receive and assimilate influences from abroad. Both capacities are imperative if cultures are to develop properly and interact effectively across the total spectrum of cultural achievements. Interaction with other countries and cultures, and international scrutiny and evaluation, are the best defences against ossification, parochialism, and chauvinism.

62One of the biggest problems in the development of the world system of the future is the need for cultures to retain their distinctive identity and traditions while simultaneously being able to absorb and integrate influences from other parts of the world. In the past, cultures have been able to cut themselves off from other parts of the world, but as a result of the phenomenal changes in communications, technology, and trade this is now exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. Virtually all cultures in the world are now compelled to deal with all the dynamic developments going on in the world, and to open up to external influences while struggling to retain their identities. The solution to this problem lies in creating a global federation of world cultures, in which all cultures would benefit from, and contribute to, developments taking place in other parts of the world, while maintaining their distinctiveness.

63Just as culture in general and specific cultures in particular are wholes composed of many interconnected parts, so too is the world system. As a result, there is much to be learned from the functioning and development of cultures as dynamic and organic wholes that is relevant to the development and functioning of the world system. In the first place, attention should be focused on the development of worldviews and values that are consistent with the world system as a whole, not just particular parts of this system. Otherwise excesses, imbalances, and deficiencies are experienced that are not in the best interests either of particular cultures or of the world as a whole. The best example of this is the environmental crisis, as we have seen throughout this book so far.

64Putting the emphasis on the world system as a whole also shines the spotlight on the need to achieve unity and harmony in the world system as a holistic entity, not just selective parts of it. This is imperative if people, countries, and cultures in every part of the world are to live in peace and harmony rather than conflict and confrontation. What is desperately needed here is a global system that breaks down the barriers separating the developed and the developing parts of the world.

65Finally, emphasis should be placed on the need to achieve synthesis rather than polarization and separation in the world system. As free trade protests, anti-globalization movements, and terrorist attacks suggest, it is easy for the world system to become subdivided into opposing camps when commitment to finding an effective synthesis is absent or deficient. If polarization and separation are to be eliminated from the world system, and a real synthesis is to be achieved, governments, countries, and cultures will have to give much more consideration to practices and policies that unite rather than divide, and promote consolidation rather than divergence.

66It is equally important to focus attention on the realization of harmonious relationships between the component parts of the world system. Where it is not possible to do this it may be necessary to cut back on certain activities. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga wrote the following with reference to particular cultures, but it is equally applicable to the world system as a whole (quoted by Karl Weintraub, pp. 219-20):

A culture which no longer can integrate... diverse pursuits... into a whole... has lost its centre and has lost its style. It is threatened by the exuberant overgrowth of its separate components. It then needs a pruning knife, a human decision to focus once again on the essentials of culture and cut back the luxuriant but dispensable.

67As far as the cultural world system of the future is concerned, the “essentials” would be conservation, cooperation, education, the arts, learning, friendship, human love, spirituality, the quest for excellence, beauty, creativity and equality, and the need for free expression. The “luxuriant but dispensable” elements would be excessive consumption, production, profits, competition, obsolescence, pollution, consumerism, materialism, and waste.

68What is required is what Pitirim Sorokin advocated, a shift from “sensate cultures” to “idealistic, ideational and mixed cultures.” Sorokin believed that what is needed more than anything else is a commitment to playing down activities that consume excessive amounts of natural resources, and to playing up activities that conserve resources, and achieve harmony and synergy in the world. The key to this shift lies in creating many more connections between the component parts of the world system, and therefore between countries and cultures. The British theatre and film director Peter Brook had this foremost in mind when he wrote (in his article “The Three Cultures of Modern Man,” p. 144) that “the culture of the individual” and “the culture of the state” would be followed by “the culture of links”:

It is the force that can counterbalance the fragmentation of our world. It is to do with the discovery of relationships where such relationships have become submerged and lost—between man and society, between one race and another, between the microcosm and the macrocosm, between humanity and machinery, between the visible and the invisible, between categories, languages, genres. What are these relationships? Only cultural acts can explore and reveal these vital truths.

69In a world characterized by a great deal of multicultural and multiethnic mixing, the assertion of ethnic and cultural identities, and increased violence and terrorism, many more connections will be needed between the diverse countries and cultures of the world if the world system is to function effectively in the years ahead. While there are no easy answers to these problems, since they are buried deep in history and the human condition, it is difficult to see how they can be overcome without many more such connections. Paul J. Braisted had this in mind when he wrote more than sixty years ago (1944, p. 25):

Cultural cooperation is so directly a national interest that it should furnish the fundamental motivating principle in governmental foreign service, replacing or reordering all lesser motives. It should become the controlling principle in personnel selection and training, in establishment of new standards of service, and fresh criteria of effectiveness.

70Indeed, all relationships are cultural relationships when the world system is viewed from a cultural perspective. Economic, political, military, technological and commercial relationships are included in culture when culture is visualized and defined in holistic terms. They make profound cultural statements in their own right, are integral parts of cultures as dynamic and organic wholes, and have powerful cultural implications and consequences. One need look no further than the impact that the economic, political, military, technological and commercial relationships of the United States have on all the various cultures and countries of the world to confirm this.

71If all international relations are cultural relations when the world system is viewed from a cultural perspective, all countries and cultures are developing countries and cultures. They are struggling to make improvements in the various social, political, economic, artistic, scientific, educational, and spiritual components that comprise them, as well as striving to achieve harmonious, synergistic and equitable relationships between these components. No country or culture in the world can consider itself to be developed in the cultural sense, as there is always room for improvement.

72This represents a significant departure from the present practice, since it breaks with the well-established tradition of making a distinction between developed and developing countries on the basis of a few highly selective economic criteria. It also has major implications for the world system of the future, because it means that no distinction would be made among the different countries and cultures of the world. This, in itself, could remove one of the biggest obstacles to world peace, security, and stability. A much more unified and integrated approach could be taken to the world system, based on the conviction that all the diverse countries and cultures of the world have different assets and abilities to contribute to global development and progress.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 2. A Cultural Model of Development
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