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Accounting for Culture

 | 
Caroline Andrew
, 
Monica Gattinger
, 
M. Sharon Jeannotte
, 
et al.

Part I. The Evolution and Broadening of Cultural Policy Rationales

2. The Three Faces of Culture

Why Culture Is a Strategic Good Requiring Government Policy Attention

Dick Stanley

Texte intégral

  • 1 Department of Canadian Heritage, Strategic Research and Analysis Web site, based on 2000 Statistic (...)
  • 2 For a complete review of Canadian cultural policy, see Johns Foote, Federal Cultural Policy in Can (...)
  • 3 Diana Crane, “Culture and Globalization,” in ed.. Diana Crane, Nobuko Kawashima, Ken’ichi Kawasaki (...)

1Canadian films represent only 2.1 per cent of the cinema market in Canada. Less than 15 per cent of magazines on Canadian newsstands are Canadian. Only 41 per cent of Canadian television shows are domestic, less for English television and less in prime time. The various levels of government in Canada (federal, provincial, and municipal) spend over 6 billion dollars (or two hundred dollars per capita) supporting and subsidizing domestic cultural activities.1 Broadcast content regulations are needed to ensure that Canadian recording artists can be heard on prime time radio, and that Canadian content is seen on prime time television. The federal government even operates a national broadcasting agency, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Canadian publishers are subsidized to keep them in business and allow them to publish Canadian writers. Filmmakers get tax breaks to maintain a filmmaking capacity in Canada. Symphony orchestras, museums, and other cultural institutions also get financial support.2 This kind of intervention in the cultural sector is typical of countries all over the world.3

  • 4 Keith Acheson and Christopher Maule, Much Ado about Culture (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Pre (...)

2Why do governments try to shore up economically non-competitive (or worse, economically competitive) industries? Would we not be better served by getting our culture from the cheapest producers like we do wheat and cars?4 Culture is clearly a good thing, providing as it does, pleasure, enlightenment, and self-actualization. But so does whiskey, and no one subsidizes it. In fact, governments tax it. Why do we have the notion that every society should have a culture of its own, and why do we get nervous when it is threatened?

  • 5 Don Mitchell, Cultural Geography: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

3The reason is that culture is not just about artistic creation and performance, or about museums and art galleries, it is also about what we believe are proper actions and choices. Culture is therefore a source of power.5 If one segment of society (say, the elite) has a disproportionate role in defining legitimate culture, then it will have a disproportionate influence over the choices people make and the courses of action they believe are available to them. For example, the cultural interpretation we give to certain markers like skin colour or relative poverty can determine our acceptance of certain groups into the community and the economy, and what we allow them to do. Our interpretations, derived from our traditions, and shaped by our arts, help determine and constrain the place of others in society. In a liberal democracy, it is a fundamental principle that all citizens have an equal right to choose their courses of action for themselves and our understandings of what are appropriate courses of action should be based on as broad a consensus of citizens as possible. Excluded groups represent a failure of democracy. If we believe that every citizen should have a voice in defining appropriate action, then all citizenship is cultural. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to explore the nature of culture and to argue that the real purpose for policy intervention in the cultural sector is to increase the capacity of citizens to govern themselves. In other words, this chapter explores the building blocks of cultural citizenship.

4It should be noted here at the outset that this chapter will not talk about the personal uses that culture is put to. Both consumers and participants in culture, arts, and heritage obtain private benefits such as enjoyment, enlightenment, and self-actualization. It is these that are the major reasons for an individual undertaking artistic and heritage activities and consuming their products. These are, however, personal benefits which accrue primarily to individuals, and which, in a free market, individuals can decide for themselves whether to support or not. What this chapter is interested in is the additional social benefits which accrue to members of society overall, the externalities created by cultural production and consumption, which are the proper object of government support.

Three Faces

  • 6 Raymond Williams, Keywords (London: Fontana, 1976), 87.
  • 7 Alfred L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (a H (...)

5So what is culture? Unfortunately, there are a bewildering variety of definitions for what Raymond Williams has called “one of the three most difficult concepts in the English language.”6 In fact, in 1952, Kroeber and Kluckhohn documented 164 different definitions of culture.7

  • 8 Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (New York: Harper, 1871).

6In 1871, Sir Edward Tylor defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”8 A long line of scholars from Franz Boas and Max Weber to Claude Lévi0Strauss and Clifford Geertz followed with variations on this theme. These definitions can all be summed up in the now famous unesco definition:

  • 9 unesco-sponsored definition of culture, quoted by Ismail Seralgadin, “Introduction,” Culture and D (...)

In its widest sense, culture may now be said to be the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human beings, value systems, traditions and beliefs.9

  • 10 Ann Swidler, “Culture and Social Action,” in Phillip Smith, ed., The New American Cultural Sociolo (...)

7Perhaps the most useful way to understand this concept of culture is through Ann Swidler’s perspective that culture is a tool kit or repertoire of beliefs, practices, understandings, and modes of behaviour from which actors select different pieces for constructing lines of action to deal with the manifold situations they face in everyday life.10 Let us call this view of culture “culture (S)” for culture as a set of symbolic tools.

  • 11 Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings, J. Dover Wdson ed. by (Cambridge: Cambridg (...)
  • 12 Ibid. Emphasis mine.
  • 13 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge & Keg (...)

8About the same time that Tylor was writing, the poet Matthew Arnold defined culture as “the best which has been thought or said in the world.”11 He thereby articulated a justification for the nineteenth-century development of museums, monuments, national historic sites, public libraries and archives, all institutions built to satisfy the passions of the time for the social status to be earned by being civilized or “cultivated.” Indeed, Tylor himself started his definition quoted above by saying “Culture or civilization… is that complex whole.”12 Arnold was reflecting on a perspective on culture which reached back at least to Goethe. More recently, scholars like Bourdieu13 have taken up Arnold’s concept, if only to debunk the elite’s use of such culture as a tool to enhance and maintain their power. Let us call this view of culture “culture (H)” for culture as the heritage of excellence in human intellectual and artistic achievement.

  • 14 Alberta Arthurs, “Taking Art Seriously,” American Art Quarterly 10, no. 3 (Fall 1996).
  • 15 Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary,” in Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan, eds., Studying Culture: An (...)

9Given these two alternative perspectives, what are we to make of Alberta Arthurs’s concern that “these discoveries of the importance of culture seem to exclude the most familiar use of the word—that is, the arts as culture.”14 Arthurs points out that the unesco definition contains the telling phrase “not only arts and letters” as if saying that to take culture seriously, we must define the arts out of it. This flies in the face of common sense usage as well as various dictionary definitions such as that provided by the American Heritage Dictionary: “Intellectual and artistic activity, and the works produced by it,” or the Oxford Concise Dictionary, “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement.” Culture in this sense is widely used to designate such concepts as cultural industries (film, book publishing, etc.), cultural institutions (the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony, etc.), as well as cultural activity (writing, performing music, acting, etc.). Raymond Williams gives us the same perspective in his definition of culture as “the special processes of discovery and creative effort.”15 Let us call this view of culture “culture (C)” for culture as artistic and creative activity, and the related processes of the creative industries.

A Unified Model of Culture

10Can these three perspectives be reconciled? Williams provides a clue in the full passage from which his definition was taken:

  • 16 Ibid.

Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. The growing society is there, yet it is abo made and remade in every individual mind. The making of a mind is, first, the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings, so that work, observation and communication are possible. Then, second, but equal in importance, is the testing of these in experience, the making of new observations, comparisons, and meanings. A culture has two aspects: the known meanings and directions, which its members are trained to; the new observations and meanings, which are offered and tested. These are the ordinary processes of human societies and human minds, and we see through them the nature of a culture: that it is always both traditional and creative; that it is both the most ordinary common meanings and the finest individual meanings. We use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life—the common meanings; to mean the arts and learning—the special processes of discovery and creative effort. Some writers reserve the word for one or other of these senses; I insist on both, and on the significance of their conjunction. The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meanings. Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.16

  • 17 Ibid.

11Williams is referring to culture (S) when he talks about “[t]he making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions” and “a whole way of life.” This is culture as Ann Swidler’s toolkit, which every individual in a society needs “so that work, observation and communication are possible.” Culture (S) is obtained through “the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings,” from society’s traditions, which is culture (H), and which is preserved in expert institutions such as libraries, museums and universities. Culture (H) resembles an original computer file, of which culture (S) is a mirror image, made so that each new generation can have its own copy to use, and which can later become updated as the inevitable modifications during use occur. The bulk of culture (H) is held as a collective social memory and is called tradition. Within tradition, and supporting and stabilizing it, is a core of information and artefacts carefully preserved and documented by experts and held in institutions (museums, libraries, etc.) which can be called, at least for the purposes of this chapter, heritage.17

  • 18 John Ralston Saul, LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium Inaugural Lecture (lecture given at the Royal Onta (...)

12There is, of course, an interaction between culture (H) and culture (S). Some of the new strategies for action put together out of the culture (S) tool kit become habitual behaviour, or are recognized as exemplary, excellent, or remarkable and pass into tradition (i.e., culture [H]). Culture (S) therefore evolves slowly along a path shaped by the decisions and practices of individuals within the culture. Following John Ralston Saul, we can call this path society’s historic trajectory.18

  • 19 Leslie Feidler, What Was Literature? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).

13This would be but a static world if it were left there, with traditions and heritage forever being replicated in the minds of younger generations more or less as their parents had received it, and with the slow adaptation of new habits as the only source of change. Williams’s model is dynamic, however. He says society’s “growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land.” This leads to “the making of new observations, comparisons, and meanings,” a process he takes “to mean the arts and learning—the special processes of discovery and creative effort,” or what I have called culture (C). There appears to be a natural tendency in societies, at least in large ones we call civilizations, for a group to form which makes its living creating and propagating new and challenging ideas about how we should relate to our world and each other. They use entertainment, novelty, shock, spectacle, drama, and metaphor to catch our attention and render their ideas attractive and accessible. They take inspiration from culture (H) and from trends and patterns of behaviour in culture (S) (often before the rest of us are even aware of them) to develop their new ideas. Those of their ideas which find acceptance among the members of society get passed into the tradition or culture (H). We call this group “artists.” Leslie Fiedler, the American critic, is reflecting this understanding of the artist’s role when he characterizes all literature as subversive.19

  • 20 W. Griswold, “The Devil, Social Change, and the Jacobean Theatre,” in P. Smith, ed., The New Ameri (...)

14Wendy Griswold provides an example of how culture (C) fulfills this role when she describes how new plays in Jacobean London provided the aristocratic, theatre-going public with role models which helped convince young men of this class that they could, with honour, pursue profitable careers in the newly emerging and highly successful commercial sector.20

15Milan Kundera is saying the same thing, in The Art of the Novel when he writes:

  • 21 Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel (New York: Grove Press, 1986).

The novelist is neither historian not prophet… [h]e is an explorer feeling his way in an effort to reveal some unknown aspect of existence…. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering that human possibility. Thus both the character and his world must be understood as possibilities.21

  • 22 Paul Klee, On Modern Art (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 53.

16And Paul Klee wrote, “I do not wish to represent the man as he is, but only as he might be.”22

17A model of culture which makes sense of the three faces of culture would then have to look something like Figure 1. We use culture (S) as a tool kit of meanings to understand issues in our daily lives and develop strategies to deal with them. We obtain this tool kit through education and socialization which draws on our traditions and heritage: culture (H). We introduce major new meanings and test them through the creative arts, culture (C), to ensure that we can adapt our actions to the world around us.

Figure 1: Model illustrating how the three perspectives of culture (S: symbols and meaning in everyday life; H: excellence in human achievement preserved as heritage; and C: creativity) interact. Culture (S) is illustrated as a shape in the mirror image of Culture (H), reflecting the idea that Culture (S) is a faithful copy for the current generation of society’s traditions. Culture (H) is illustrated as having a central core (unshaded) which represents the formally documented and preserved part of tradition which we are calling heritage

Figure 1: Model illustrating how the three perspectives of culture (S: symbols and meaning in everyday life; H: excellence in human achievement preserved as heritage; and C: creativity) interact. Culture (S) is illustrated as a shape in the mirror image of Culture (H), reflecting the idea that Culture (S) is a faithful copy for the current generation of society’s traditions. Culture (H) is illustrated as having a central core (unshaded) which represents the formally documented and preserved part of tradition which we are calling heritage

Adapting to Change

  • 23 Dick Stanley, “Coke, Cook and Conquistadors: Cultural Flows and their Consequences” (paper prepare (...)

18Society exists in a real world constantly bombarding it with change.23 How does culture help us cope? Consider the following examples.

  • 24 The Gods Must be Crazy, directed by James Uys (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 1980).

19In the popular 1980 South African film The Gods Must Be Crazy,24 which many readers will remember, a pilot flying over the Kalihari desert throws an empty Coke bottle out the window, and it lands at the feet of a native tribesman. The Coke bottle is the first the natives have ever seen, and while they do not know what it is, they interpret it as a gift from the gods. When the artefact creates dissension in the tribe, they depute one of their members to find the gods and return the gift to them. This task brings him into contact with white culture for the first time, but, through a series of misadventures and misunderstandings, he eventually succeeds in getting rid of the bottle. The bottle is a cultural intrusion from outside the tribesman’s own culture (S), and the tribesmen use their cultural tool kit in trying to cope with it. The misadventures arise from the incongruity between the tribesman’s reality and ours.

  • 25 Adam Kuper, Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), (...)

20Lest you think such cultural intrusions are merely amusing pieces of fiction, consider the death of Captain Cook, as explained by Marshall Sahlins.25 Cook’s arrival in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 and again in 1779 coincided with the mythical annual arrival of Lono, the god of peace. In Hawaiian mythology, Lono’s visit ushers in a period of feasting and a suspension of tribal warfare. At the end of his visit, he ritually dies, and leaves the Islands to return the next year, and warfare and normal life resume. Because Cook visited at a time and in a manner consistent with the myth, he was identified with the god. Unfortunately, he also returned unexpectedly a few weeks after his second visit, and this was, according to Sahlins, interpreted by the Hawaiians as an attempt by Lono to disrupt the cosmic order and take over the role of the other gods. Lono (Cook) had therefore to be ritually killed. Captain Cook, who did not share the same mythic beliefs as the Hawaiians, actually died as a result. A cultural intrusion can have serious personal consequences.

21Cultural intrusions can have consequences for whole societies too. Jared Diamond asks the question how Pizarro, with 167 men, captured the Inca Empire which had forces numbering 80,000 warriors, or how Cortès captured Mexico against similar odds. Among several proximate explanations, he offered the following underlying one:

  • 26 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), 80.

[T]he miscalculations by Atahuallpa, Chalcuchima [Inca leaders], Montezuma, and countless other Native American leaders deceived by Europeans-were due to the fact that no living inhabitants of the New World had been to the Old World, so of course they could have no specific information about the Spaniards. Even so, we find it hard to avoid the conclusion that Atahuallpa “should” have been more suspicious, if only his society had experienced a broader range of human behavior. Pizzaro too arrived at Cajamarca [site of the defeat of the Incas] with no information about the Incas…. However, while Pizarro himself happened to be illiterate, he belonged to a literary tradition. From books, the Spaniards knew of many contemporary civilizations remote from Europe, and about several thousand years of European history…. [L]iteracy made the Spaniards heirs to a huge body of knowledge about human behaviour and history. By contrast, not only did Atahuallpa have no conception of the Spaniards themselves, and no personal experience of any other invaders from overseas, but he had not even heard (or read) of similar threats to anyone else, anywhere else, any time previously in history.26

22The Inca’s lack of cultural resources, of the symbolic wherewithal to interpret new phenomena, opened the way for the Spanish colonization of Peru and the destruction of the Inca Empire. Culture is critical to sustaining a society in the face of change.

23As the example of the Incas indicates, the consequences of a society not being able to deal on its own terms with cultural change from outside can be disastrous. At the very least, inability to deal means that the society no longer determines its own historical trajectory but surrenders to outside events. This is something that most of us would not welcome, and explains why even nations living under brutal dictators can mobilize citizens in defence in times of war and invasion.

24These examples were not chosen to demonstrate the difficulty “primitive” cultures have in coping with “modernity” or change, or how cultural interpretations benefit societies. They were chosen to point out that culture shapes interpretation of new experience and the action taken to cope with it. The choice of examples that feature encounters between cultures serves to show how different cultures produce dramatically different interpretations, and even misinterpretations, of the same event, which lead to actions that can have significant repercussions incomprehensible in terms of the original interpretation.

  • 27 Ibid.

25Unfortunately, cultural encounters happen all the time. The whole history of humankind is a history of global cultural change and diffusion, from the initial expansion of homo sapiens out of Africa one million years ago, to the displacement of hunters and gatherers by agriculturalists starting 9000 years ago, to the spread of civilizations from China to the Andes starting about 6000 years ago, to the discovery and colonization of the new world by Europeans, the industrial revolution,27 and the present globalization of communications, entertainment, and commodities. The historic trajectories of every society have always been buffeted and modified by these flows, and always will.

  • 28 T. Liebes and E. Katz, The Export of Meaning: Cross-Cultural Readings of Dallas (Oxford: Oxford Un (...)

26The cultural changes assaulting a society are rarely as drastic as conquistadors showing up on the doorstep, however. They are more likely to show up as images on the television screen, albeit in sometimes threateningly massive doses. Liebes and Katz studied the reactions of different cultures across the world to the television show Dallas.28 They showed that understanding a cultural flow from an outside source is a process of reading and interpreting what is seen in terms of one’s own culture. They discovered that groups with different cultural backgrounds came to quite different conclusions about what Dallas meant, and were influenced by it in much different ways. In other words, the cultural background of each group led them to appropriate the cultural message differently, even though it was the identical message. Although the program made viewers think, and had the potential to change attitudes and even possibly values and behaviour, viewers used the symbolic and meaning tools provided by their own culture to read and understand the message. Without this form of cultural “literacy,” this ability to read between the lines of the new, foreign cultural message, and judge it for themselves, they would either have missed the message or accepted it uncritically, that is, given up control of their historic trajectory.

27How does a culture avoid the fate of the Incas and become sufficiently literate to sustain itself in the face of the constant cultural change flowing into it? In terms of the model in Figure 1, the culture needs a rich and diverse culture (H) which provides it with what Diamond called the “huge body of knowledge about human behaviour and history” and other symbolic resources to “read” and interpret the changes realistically and appropriate them as beneficially or at least as harmlessly as possible into society’s historic trajectory.

28It takes time to build and diversify culture (H). Furthermore, if all society has is culture (H) as a resource, it is limited to reproducing it as is. The result is a very static society with an unchanging culture (H) (or one that adapts too slowly to cope usefully with outside cultural intrusions).

29Culture needs a relatively nimble mechanism for adaptation if it is to sustain itself. Cultural adaptation can come from three sources. First, obviously, cultural flows from outside bringing new information, new interpretations, and new world views. But this does not solve the problem since it is precisely these outside flows that the society needs the adaptation mechanism to cope with. The problem cannot be the solution or it is not the problem. Of course, the flow can bring useful new symbolic tools in the long run, but the problem of adaptation is in the short run. The cultural intrusion must be coped with in the culture’s own terms. So the nimble, short run adaptation mechanism must come initially from within.

30The second source of adaptation is the very creativity of ordinary members of society who are daily using the symbolic resources of culture (S) to come to terms with everyday variability in their lives. They are skilled users of Swidler’s toolbox to constructing lines of action to deal with the manifold situations they face in everyday life, of which the cultural intrusions are a part. They contribute to culture’s evolution and enrichment through, in Williams’s words, “an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land… the testing of these in experience, the making of new observations, comparisons, and meanings.”

  • 29 Italics mine.

31Explaining cultural adaptation, enrichment, and appropriation of new and foreign meanings as a by-product of the small and quotidian adaptations of individuals in their daily lives may not be nimble enough however. Williams talks about “the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings.”29 We are as likely to feel overwhelmed by massive doses of cultural change from outside as we are to feel inspired to decode and appropriate them.

32Fortunately, there is a third way: culture (S) and the “literacy” we need to understand cultural flows from outside that are enriched through the workings of culture (C). Williams hinted at this previously when he suggests that the word culture can mean “a whole way of life—the common meanings… [and also] the arts and learning—the special processes of discovery and creative effort.” Society’s artists and creators actively seek to understand and articulate the new, the strange and the menacing that confront us. In fact, they may even be its advocates. They experiment with meaning, and if we (or at least our teachers) pay attention to the arts, we will be influenced by them. If they are our own arts, created by artists who are working within our own cultural ambiance, the new tools and resources they develop will be easier for us to appropriate than the new information from outside, because, even though they are themselves new information, they arise out of a tradition we all share in common.

33The consumption of culture (C) also cultivates within us a greater critical capacity to read between the lines of any new idea or concept, and to assess it for its relevance to our lives. The presence of a lively cultural (C) sector, and active participation by members of society in it, results in a literate, sceptical body of cultural citizens ready to confront any cultural change flowing toward them from outside. They will certainly not be immune to change, confusion, and doubt, but they will be in a position to manage the change, and will not lose control of their society’s historic trajectory.

  • 30 Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Berkeley: University of California (...)

34The Inca clearly did not have sufficient cultural resources to reach realistic conclusions about the Spaniards. Not only were they isolated, but they likely did not have a rich tradition of critical arts in the sense that European cultures do. It is important to note that the Europeans did not have nearly the easy conquests in Asia that they did in the Americas, which they reached at about the same time. In Asia, they met civilizations with cultures vastly more diverse than the Incas’ and more able to interpret European intentions, strengths, and actions realistically. These cultures were able to formulate responses which did a much better job of appropriating the flows they were faced with.30

  • 31 Crane, “Culture and Globalization,” 8-9.
  • 32 Ibid., 12-17.

35The existence of a culture (C) in almost all countries of the world today may be why we have not seen the emergence of McLuhan’s global village as a single, homogeneous, worldwide culture, even though the technology makes it much more feasible than it was in McLuhan’s 1960s.31 Instead we see, as Crane observes,32 the rise of regional cultural expressions in Latin America, Asia, and Europe in spite of the supposed economic dominance of U.S. media conglomerates.

Culture as a Strategic Good

  • 33 W. Baumol, Economic Principles and Policy (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994), 386-87.

36A strategic good is a good on which the very existence of a nation is thought to depend. If the nation were to be deprived of the good, it could no longer sustain itself, or more particularly, defend itself against potential enemies. It is therefore critical that it retain capacity for production of this good within its borders, even if that production is economically inefficient.33

37For example, if a nation imports all its oil or munitions from other nations, it may be cut off from these goods when it is attacked by an enemy, either because the enemy is the supplier or because the enemy nation can prevent imports. The nation then loses the ability to defend itself and is defeated. To avoid this possibility, a nation will ensure that it has production capacity for strategic goods under its own control.

  • 34 Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, “Military Technology and Miscellane (...)

38Typical strategic goods are armaments and high technology products, and mineral resources such as oil and specialized metals. Categorizing a good or resource this way is a justification for protecting its production with subsidies, exempting it from trade agreements, or banning its export outright. Whether the concept of a strategic good is still valid in this day and age, most countries nevertheless have regulations dealing with strategic goods.34

39The Incas should have considered culture a strategic good. Their lack of exposure to a broad and diverse range of world traditions and history made it difficult to conceive of the Spaniards as enemies, whereas the Spaniards had no difficulty figuring out the Incas’ weaknesses. The Israeli respondents to the Liebes and Katz study used their culture as a strategic good when interpreting the content of Dallas in their own ways and re-formulating the ideas to suit their particular social circumstances.

40Daniel Schwanen takes up this theme when he argues that the ability of people to make informed choices is critical to the proper functioning of a modern economy, so that information is a valuable good in itself. He cites Kenneth Arrow to suggest that if the information available to a collectivity (in Arrow’s case an organization, but he is making a generalizable point) does not contain elements that are relevant to its very existence, the collectivity risks becoming “non-agenda” to its members, ensuring its ultimate demise.

  • 35 Daniel Schwanen, “A Room of Our Own: Cultural Policies and Trade Agreements,” Choices 7, no. 1 (Ap (...)

41Arrow’s analysis means that information specifically aimed at Canadians creates a virtual meeting place for them. As long as they are interested in maintaining the possibility of a national character and institutional underpinnings that differ from those that would sustain other countries or communities (i.e., maintaining our capacity to control our own historic trajectory) they must have convenient access to information that contains at least some Canadian content and references. Otherwise, the basic elements necessary for making informed choices—political, educational, and others—disappear or become muted and Canada risks becoming “non-agenda” to many of its citizens.35

42Schwanen also cites philosopher Will Kymlicka who argues:

  • 36 Ibid., 16.

[T]he only valid reason for protecting and promoting the right to cultural membership is to protect the “context of choice” for individuals….36

43The three part culture that is described above is the mechanism by which “convenient access to information that contains at least some Canadian content and references” or the “context of choice” is maintained. Without this relevant information, citizens of a democracy will not have the cultural “munitions” to protect their capacity to direct the historic trajectory of their nation to the ends they desire. Their demise is then at least as certain as that nation’s which did not keep within its borders a sufficient capacity to produce defensive armaments.

  • 37 Greg Landry, “Measuring Community Creativity,” Plan Canada 44, no. 2 (Summer 2004).

44On a more commercial note, Greg Landry argues that new ideas are the fuel of corporate profit and innovation is the key to economic development.37 Communities must be creative in order to prosper economically, and a community’s creativity is fostered by policy intervention to invest in cultural assets and arts education, encourage cultural diversity, and promote community cultural encounters, such as arts festivals.

  • 38 Arjun Appadurai, “The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition,” in eds. V. Rao an (...)
  • 39 Ibid., 66.
  • 40 Ibid., 63.
  • 41 Amartya Sen, “How Does Culture Matter?,” in V. Rao and M. Walton, eds., Culture and Public Action,(...)

45Appadurai extends Schwanen’s notion of the strategic role played by information with his idea that culture provides a people with the capacity to aspire.38 Culture embodies not only the past (habit, custom, heritage, and tradition) but also the future (plans, hopes, goals, and targets). It enables the collectivity to model a future for itself and develop consensus around solutions and action strategies. Culture provides a community with the symbolic resources needed “to debate, contest, and oppose vital directions for collective social life as they wish… [this is] virtually a definition of inclusion and participation in any democracy.”39 The poor, he goes on to argue, remain trapped in poverty because they lack the cultural resources to give voice to their needs and aspirations, that is, “to express their views and get results skewed to their own welfare in the political debates that surround wealth and welfare in all societies.”40 Amartya Sen argues the same thing when he identifies culture as a critical contributor to the capacity for political participation, social solidarity and association and social evolution.41

46Culture is a crucial element in the maintenance of a society’s capacity to manage change. It provides the symbolic resources that people need to appropriate new meanings and skew them to their own welfare. Culture (H) provides citizens with benchmarks against which to test the consequences of new ideas, and culture (C) provides citizens with the new formulations of ideas needed to devise appropriate action strategies. Culture (S) depends for its adaptability on a dynamic balance between culture (H) which provides stability and confidence, and culture (C) which provides flexibility and innovation. Without them, as Arrow suggested, demise will occur.

47It is in this sense then that cultures (H) and (C) are strategic sectors producing strategic goods. They are critical for society’s survival. Governments are therefore justified in implementing policies that sustain the vitality of a domestic culture (H) and (C) as the source of the cultural diversity and literacy that a society needs to determine its own future and direct its own historic trajectory.

Notes

1 Department of Canadian Heritage, Strategic Research and Analysis Web site, based on 2000 Statistics Canada data.

2 For a complete review of Canadian cultural policy, see Johns Foote, Federal Cultural Policy in Canada (prepared by the Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate for the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, SRA-723, 2003).

3 Diana Crane, “Culture and Globalization,” in ed.. Diana Crane, Nobuko Kawashima, Ken’ichi Kawasaki, Media, Arts, Policy, and Globalization (New York: Routledge, 2002), 14-15.

4 Keith Acheson and Christopher Maule, Much Ado about Culture (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).

5 Don Mitchell, Cultural Geography: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

6 Raymond Williams, Keywords (London: Fontana, 1976), 87.

7 Alfred L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (a Harvard University Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology Paper, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1952), 47.

8 Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (New York: Harper, 1871).

9 unesco-sponsored definition of culture, quoted by Ismail Seralgadin, “Introduction,” Culture and Development in Africa (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1994), 2.

10 Ann Swidler, “Culture and Social Action,” in Phillip Smith, ed., The New American Cultural Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 171-87.

11 Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings, J. Dover Wdson ed. by (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 6.

12 Ibid. Emphasis mine.

13 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1989).

14 Alberta Arthurs, “Taking Art Seriously,” American Art Quarterly 10, no. 3 (Fall 1996).

15 Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary,” in Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan, eds., Studying Culture: An Introductory Reader (London: Edward Arnold, 1993), 5-14.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 John Ralston Saul, LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium Inaugural Lecture (lecture given at the Royal Ontario Museum, March 23, 2000), available at http://www.operation-dialogue.com/lafontaine-baldwin/e/2000_speech.html.

19 Leslie Feidler, What Was Literature? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).

20 W. Griswold, “The Devil, Social Change, and the Jacobean Theatre,” in P. Smith, ed., The New American Cultural Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 126-40.

21 Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel (New York: Grove Press, 1986).

22 Paul Klee, On Modern Art (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 53.

23 Dick Stanley, “Coke, Cook and Conquistadors: Cultural Flows and their Consequences” (paper prepared for the Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, SRA-739, 2003); Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Theory, Culture and Society 7 (1990): 295-310.

24 The Gods Must be Crazy, directed by James Uys (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 1980).

25 Adam Kuper, Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 177-84.

26 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), 80.

27 Ibid.

28 T. Liebes and E. Katz, The Export of Meaning: Cross-Cultural Readings of Dallas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

29 Italics mine.

30 Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

31 Crane, “Culture and Globalization,” 8-9.

32 Ibid., 12-17.

33 W. Baumol, Economic Principles and Policy (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994), 386-87.

34 Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, “Military Technology and Miscellaneous Exports,” Export Control List, (2004), available at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/trade/eicb/military/gr5-en.asp; Natalie Johnson, “Strategic Minerals of the United States” (2004), available at http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go 33 6/natalie/newindex.htm. See also the official government Web sites of the governments of New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, and others for further examples.

35 Daniel Schwanen, “A Room of Our Own: Cultural Policies and Trade Agreements,” Choices 7, no. 1 (April 2001): 2-25, 5.

36 Ibid., 16.

37 Greg Landry, “Measuring Community Creativity,” Plan Canada 44, no. 2 (Summer 2004).

38 Arjun Appadurai, “The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition,” in eds. V. Rao and M. Walton, eds., Culture and Public Action (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 59-84.

39 Ibid., 66.

40 Ibid., 63.

41 Amartya Sen, “How Does Culture Matter?,” in V. Rao and M. Walton, eds., Culture and Public Action, 37-58.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Model illustrating how the three perspectives of culture (S: symbols and meaning in everyday life; H: excellence in human achievement preserved as heritage; and C: creativity) interact. Culture (S) is illustrated as a shape in the mirror image of Culture (H), reflecting the idea that Culture (S) is a faithful copy for the current generation of society’s traditions. Culture (H) is illustrated as having a central core (unshaded) which represents the formally documented and preserved part of tradition which we are calling heritage
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2395/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k

Auteur

Former director of the Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate of the Department of Canadian Heritage of the Government of Canada, where he directed a team of social science researchers exploring issues of social cohesion, cultural diversity, and citizenship and identity. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, and manager of the Initiative to Study the Social Effects of Culture, a research partnership of Canadian Heritage, University of Ottawa, and the Canadian Cultural Research Network. He has written on such diverse topics as economic development in the third world, management information systems, outdoor recreation demand, and measuring the non-market values of wilderness areas. His current interests include the role of social cohesion in producing social well-being, and the effects of cultural participation on social development. He is a graduate of Carleton University and the New School for Social Research in Sociology

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