Version classiqueVersion mobile

Revolution or Renaissance

D. Paul Schafer

Part II - The age of culture

8. Priorities for a Cultural Age

Texte intégral

Will humans make the choices that need to be made to bring about a future world at peace?—Elise Boulding (2000), p. 256

1While many priorities may be identified for a cultural age, among the most essential are a new environmental reality; an all-out assault on the barriers to the fulfilment of human needs; new meanings of wealth, a new corporate ideology; a new political system; a cultural approach to citizenship; a breakthrough in education; the creation of liveable and sustainable cities; and a united world. Coming to grips with these priorities is imperative if peace, harmony, and progress are to be achieved.

A New Environmental Reality

2Given the size and growth of the world’s population, and the finite carrying capacity of the Earth, a new environmental reality is mandatory if human survival and global well-being are to be assured. As Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and many other organizations have advocated for years, a new environmental reality must be based on three fundamental prerequisites: cleaning up the natural environment whenever and wherever necessary; conserving resources, arresting climate change, stopping the loss of other species, and preventing the spread of greenhouse gases, pollution, and toxic substances; and increasing awareness of the fragility of the natural environment. The first prerequisite requires environmental action after the fact; the second requires environmental safeguards and precautions before the fact; and the third requires an entirely new association between people, the natural environment, and other species.

3A great deal of progress has been achieved in recent years by taking environmental action after the fact. While these measures do not provide a total solution to the environmental crisis, cleaning up oil spills after they happen, burying nuclear materials and toxic substances, and dealing with colossal accumulations of waste have accomplished a great deal in terms of sound environmental management and effective ecological practices. Much of the progress that is needed in this area will have to come from North America and Europe, as well as Japan and other developed countries, since they are among the world’s most significant polluters.

4While environmental action after the fact has been and remains essential, it pales by comparison to the need for environmental safeguards and precautions before the fact. A battery of initiatives is required, both preventative and precautionary.

5On the preventative side, the most urgent initiatives are reducing the use of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal); developing new technologies and alternative sources of energy such as wind, geothermal, solar, hydrogen and tidal power; instituting and enforcing rigorous standards with respect to emissions from trucks, vans, and cars; preventing the use of toxic substances such as chlorofluorocarbons and pesticides; purifying water and air; and protecting endangered species. Since these preventative measures are unlikely to occur on their own, governments will have to play a proactive role if real progress is to be achieved. This is a cause for concern because most governments have not demonstrated a capacity to deal with these problems effectively. This is particularly important with respect to establishing and enforcing rigorous standards for emissions, and preventing the spread of toxic substances, since these practices represent the greatest of all threats to environmental well-being.

6On the precautionary side, the most important initiatives include increasing the time scale of products so that they last longer, do not wear out so easily, and are recycled at every opportunity; reducing the spatial scale of products so that they take up less room and do not use up as many resources to begin with; recycling and repairing products rather than throwing them out; and shifting from products and activities that are high in material input and output to products and activities that are low in material input and output. Such initiatives would go a long way towards conserving resources and reducing the demands that human beings are making on the global ecosystem. Much could be accomplished in this area if, as discussed in an earlier chapter, more emphasis was placed on products and activities that are labour-intensive rather than capital-or material-intensive.

7While action is urgently required on all these fronts, what is required more than anything else is an entirely new association between people, the natural environment, and other species. Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude in many parts of the world is that the natural environment owes people a living, and that humanity will eventually tame the natural environment and bring it under its control. These convictions are deeply rooted in technological beliefs and religious practices, particularly in the western world. Unfortunately, they also underlie the world system. It is believed that humanity will ultimately be able to change weather patterns, control or prevent natural disasters, and regulate the ebb and flow of nature through advances in science and technology. The progressive deterioration of the natural environment and the destruction of the ecosystem are the best indicators of the fallacy of this line of thinking. The forces of nature are too powerful and pervasive to be controlled. Instead, the focus should be on the need to see the natural world in a totally new way, as well as on renewing, revitalizing and respecting it at every opportunity.

8The arts have a crucial role to play in this regard, since they have the capacity to broaden and deepen people’s awareness with respect to nature and other species, make fewer demands on resources, and help to protect the natural environment from excessive consumption and production. As the late Jane Jacobs argued (p. 127):

Evidence of aesthetic appreciation accompanies early evidences of Homo sapiens. Nobody who has seen reproductions of the most ancient cave paintings can doubt the aesthetic sensibility infusing them, no matter what other purposes they may or may not have served. Foragers have decorated themselves and their possessions, danced, and made music, all of which must have kept them from doing excessive foraging. Practicing and appreciating art is seldom environmentally harmful. It’s especially significant, I think, that aesthetic appreciation includes admiration for the rest of nature: flowers, ocean waves, rocks, seashells, vines, human faces and figures, birds and other animals, the sun, the moon, stars, grasses, butterflies—recurring motifs in art, sometimes rendered literally, sometimes abstractly or formalized—and, in due course, art that shows appreciation of cultivated farmland, wild landscapes, seascapes, streetscapes, monuments, and domestic scenes.

9Artistic, environmental and spiritual works are far more than interesting forms of aesthetic, ecological and spiritual expression, or devices for popular entertainment. They are forays into what ecologists and environmentalists call “deep ecology,” ways of getting to know the natural world as an aesthetic and spiritual entity. Recognition of this fact is essential if humanity is to be successful in evolving the values, lifestyles, and worldviews that are necessary to realize a new environmental reality. It is a reality that hinges on never taking more from the natural environment than is necessary, renewing the environment at every opportunity, and respecting other species, natural resources, and fragile local, regional, national and international ecosystems.

10This is why crossing over the threshold from the present economic age to a future cultural age is essential. There has been an intimate connection between culture and nature stretching back thousands of years—the very word “culture” derives from the Latin verb colere meaning “to till” or “to cultivate”—meaning cultural scholars have been concerned about the relationship between human beings and the natural environment for almost as long a period. It is through culture that the development policies and practices can be created to counteract adverse contemporary developments, confirm the Kyoto Protocol and other international instruments, increase human knowledge and understanding of the fragility of the natural environment, and reduce unreasonable environmental demands and expectations.

Fulfilling Human Needs

11While a new environmental reality is necessary to ensure the survival of human beings as a species, an all-out assault on the barriers to the fulfilment of human needs is needed to improve the well-being of the majority of people in the world. When a substantial percentage of the world’s population is living on less than two US dollars a day, it is not possible to claim that their welfare is being properly attended to.

12Accordingly, it is necessary to institute powerful measures to improve the quality of life for all people, but particularly for those living in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. At the most fundamental physiological level, this means ensuring that they have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to ensure survival. There is a great deal that developed countries can do towards this goal, through increasing foreign aid and assistance, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of their gross domestic product; opening up markets for, and reducing or eliminating tariffs on, agricultural and industrial products from these regions; training many more development workers and expanding development opportunities; reducing the debt loads of the poorest countries; promoting gender equality and helping to reduce mortality rates; and supporting the elimination of hunger and homelessness.

13The changes that are needed to achieve the fulfilment of human needs also include improving governance, ending corruption, enforcing the rule of law, expanding educational opportunities, and promoting participation in planning and decision-making, not only in the developing countries but in the developed countries as well. This too would make a major contribution to ensuring that people have sufficient amenities in all areas, from fresh water and clean air, to education and health care, as well as social, recreational, artistic and spiritual amenities, to be able to live decent and dignified lives. Clearly, humanity now possesses enough productive capacity to satisfy the elementary needs of citizens in all areas of life and in every part of the world, provided only that it is properly directed. What is lacking is, primarily, the public and private will, and, secondarily, the necessary distributive mechanisms and procedures, to make this dream a reality. When large quantities of foodstuffs, clothing, and other basic necessities are destroyed every year to keep prices high, and when production systems are operating at far less than full capacity, it is difficult to contend that humanity lacks the ability to solve this most endemic of all human problems.

14Shifting attention away from products and profits, and towards people and their well-being, is imperative for this purpose. If the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G8, and other international organizations stepped up their financial commitments in this area, and pressured other organizations and institutions to do likewise, the results could be substantial. These efforts could and should be supplemented by other measures to address people’s elementary needs, such as more effective distribution of surplus food, clothing, books, computers, and medicine; increased commitments from governments, corporations and foundations to distribute income and wealth more equitably; transfers of appropriate technology to enhance sustainable development; fundamental changes in education and training; and, especially, increasing the capacity of poor people and poor countries to gain access to the credit, capital, real estate, and entrepreneurial skills they need to take control of their own lives.

15When human needs are visualized from a cultural rather than an economic perspective, they extend far beyond such economic issues to encompass social, aesthetic, recreational, scientific, health, and spiritual needs as well. A group of scholars and statesmen assembled by the Kapur Surya Foundation in India in 1995 examined crucial issues in global development and human affairs, and concluded (p. 1):

Development must assure the satisfaction of the minimum basic needs for food, habitat, health, education, and employment, and the quest for inner peace and self-realization. This can only be achieved if we can cultivate need-based, as against desire-based, lifestyles, which are not superficial or self-indulgent, and are nondestructive of the environment and other cultures. These must be frugal in means and rich in ends, and not beyond the reach of increasing numbers of citizens. While being equitable, development must not sacrifice initiative and excellence, but be ecologically responsible, economically viable, cumulative, life-enhancing, culture-specific, and culturally sensitive.

16Such a transformation in understanding with respect to the nature of people’s basic material and non-material needs has fundamental implications for public and private policy-and decision-making processes, as well as for the way in which human needs and their fulfilment are visualized and dealt with. It means, for example, that human needs are no longer seen as a hierarchy or ladder, with economic, material and quantitative needs spread out across the lowest rung. Rather, they are seen as a holistic constellation, with economic and noneconomic, material and non-material, and quantitative and qualitative needs constantly impinging on one another and interacting with one another. This could bring an end to the assumption that, once people’s economic, material and quantitative needs have been met, everything else will fall naturally and inevitably into place. It could also give rise to the realization that a broad spectrum of resources must be put in place if people’s choices and opportunities are to be enlarged, and development with a human face is to be achieved. This will require development policies and practices that are capable of addressing people’s needs simultaneously rather than sequentially.

17It will not be sufficient to address people’s needs in all areas of life. It will also be necessary to change attitudes with respect to the contributions that people make to production and productivity, since this affects income distribution, access to resources, people’s value to society, and people’s sense of identity and self-worth. In the economic age, all these things are viewed largely in material and financial terms, which explains the high priority awarded to economic, industrial, commercial, business and technological production and productivity in the overall scheme of things, since the material, quantitative and monetary component of these activities is very high. This is what most governments, corporations, international organizations, and labour organizations have in mind when they talk about the importance of production and productivity, as well as the need to increase production and productivity if living standards are to be improved. It is a way of thinking about and dealing with production and productivity that can be traced back to the classical economists, and the distinction they made between “productive” and “unproductive” labour. It is this attitude that must be changed if people’s needs are to be addressed satisfactorily. It is necessary to recognize that all labour is productive and makes a significant contribution to the fulfilment of human needs, regardless of whether it takes the form of mental, emotional, spiritual, aesthetic or physical activity. The “output” of artists, scientists, scholars, philosophers, social workers, homemakers, teachers, health care workers, and spiritual leaders is every bit as essential, and makes as significant a contribution to development, as material output.

18In much the same way as a new understanding of production is needed, so too is there a need for a new understanding of what development is. When development is viewed from a holistic and comprehensive cultural perspective it becomes necessary to include all the factors that contribute to development, the artistic, scientific, social, educational, political, environmental and spiritual alongside, and interacting with, the economic, industrial, commercial and technological. Culture constitutes the essence of development because it is concerned with the totality of human needs, and the ways in which human needs may be addressed most effectively in different countries and cultures.

New Meanings of Wealth

19It is commonplace to view wealth today in material, monetary and financial terms. This has a long history. As we have seen in Part I of this book, the mercantilists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries viewed wealth as gold, silver, and other precious metals; the classical economists viewed wealth largely in terms of “material products,” or, as Adam Smith called them, “the necessaries and conveniences of life”; and the neoclassical, Keynesian and post-Keynesian economists viewed wealth primarily in terms of “goods and services,” which is how most countries, economists and people view wealth today. To be wealthy is to be a person who either possesses numerous goods and services, or the income and financial resources to acquire them. This has given wealth a highly material, monetary and financial orientation in the modern era. However, what the world needs now, more than ever, are new meanings of wealth. This is necessary in order to reduce the demands that people make on the natural environment, as well as to describe more accurately what wealth is really all about. More and more people are discovering that possessing, or being able to possess, numerous goods and services is not necessarily a guarantee of satisfaction, happiness or fulfilment in life, or an assurance that one has “wealth” in a broader, deeper and more fundamental human sense.

20Culture has a crucial contribution to make to realizing new meanings of wealth. When culture is perceived and defined in holistic terms, wealth comes to be seen as qualitative as well as quantitative, non-material as well as material. What is needed to achieve wealth in this sense is the ability to achieve a harmonious balance among all the forces and factors that constitute life. To be wealthy in this sense is to be a person who derives a great deal of fulfilment from many sources, both simple and profound.

21If new meanings of wealth are necessary, so too are new measures of wealth. This is especially important in the collective, public sense, since most countries are engaged in efforts to define and measure their wealth, and compare their wealth with that of others. The key to developing these new measures of wealth lies in developing a set of comprehensive cultural indicators capable of measuring wealth in qualitative and quantitative terms. In the development of these indicators three points are essential. First, indicators from a variety of fields and disciplines—including the arts, the sciences, the humanities, the environment, religion, politics, and health, alongside economics, technology, and business—will have to be brought together and compared. Second, the best indicators from each field and discipline will have to be selected for inclusion in the final set of indicators. Finally, the resulting indicators will have to be refined in order to improve their effectiveness.

22While it will take time to develop this set of comprehensive cultural indicators, the most essential of them will probably be environmental indicators, such as the quality of water and air, and levels of toxicity and waste; health indicators, such as longevity, health care, disease control and prevention, and substance abuse; social indicators, such as welfare assistance, participation rates in community, regional and national development, and levels of violence and crime; educational indicators, such as student-to-teacher ratios, access to elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, and student dropout rates and debt loads; recreational indicators, such as the availability of parks, conservation areas, and leisure-time activities; economic indicators, such as employment possibilities and income opportunities; and aesthetic, political and spiritual indicators, such as the quantity and quality of artistic offerings, the stability of political systems, the provision of safety and security measures, and the diversity of religious and spiritual possibilities. While some of these indicators will be difficult to formulate, because they are much more qualitative than quantitative, and therefore less susceptible to concrete forms of measurement, they must be included in the final set of indicators if wealth in the cultural sense is to be understood and measured effectively (see, for example, Bennett, Mercer, and Toffler 1967).

23The development of this set of comprehensive cultural indicators will require a great deal of collaboration among policy-makers, planners, statisticians, and scholars from a variety of fields. It will also require a great deal of cooperation on the part of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Economic Forum, UNESCO and other such institutions, since they play the pivotal role in the creation and use of indicators throughout the world. Indeed, the role of UNESCO could be paramount in this, given that it is the principal cultural organization in the world. Not only is it involved in monitoring cultural trends and developments on a regular basis, but it is also in an ideal position to bring together the multidisciplinary teams that are required to ensure that the proposed set of indicators is developed effectively.

24The development of these indicators could prove timely in creating new understandings and measures of wealth, intimately connected to securing quality of life for people and countries in every part of the world. (There are precedents in, for instance, the efforts by the Canadian Policy Research Networks to develop a “quality of life index,” as described by Goar.) This is imperative if people are to experience happiness, fulfilment and security in their lives, and if humanity is to be successful in reducing the demands it makes on scarce resources. Otherwise, the environmental crisis will broaden, deepen, and intensify, the division of the world into two unequal parts will become more pronounced, and disharmony rather than harmony will characterize people’s lives and the world system. This will exacerbate even further the gap between rich and poor countries, and between rich and poor people, aggravating a situation that is already too close to the breaking point.

A New Corporate Ideology

25In view of the fact that corporations wield an enormous amount of power and influence in the world, a new corporate ideology is imperative.

26In the economic age, corporations are expected to maximize their profits and compete as vigorously as possible, because doing so satisfies the dictates of the economic ideology and economic age most effectively. The justification that is usually given is that this yields the best possible situation for producers, consumers, the economy, and society as a whole. Not coincidentally, it also yields the best possible situation for corporations, corporate executives, and shareholders, since it makes it possible for them to earn high rates of return on their efforts and investments, and look forward to even higher rates of return in the future. These convictions contribute substantially to the prevailing corporate ideology or “corporate culture,” as it is often called today.

27In recent years, however, vigorous attacks have been launched against this prevailing ideology, as well as against corporations more generally. These attacks have been accompanied by vigorous critiques of “corporate capitalism” on the grounds that it often results in monopoly rather than competition, as well as sweatshops, branding, outsourcing, labour exploitation, and exorbitant incomes for executives. While these developments have created major problems for corporations, what sustains the corporate ideology and makes it so powerful is the fact that it is substantiated by more than two hundred years’worth of economic theory and practice, the support of the world’s most powerful national and international institutions, and the full force of the world system. It is this situation, far more than the greed of individuals, that explains why the existing corporate ideology is perpetuated. This situation will not change until a new corporate ideology is created.

28The key to creating this new corporate ideology lies in crossing the threshold from the economic age to a cultural age. In a cultural age, corporations would serve human, social and environmental functions, as well as economic ones. Clearly, corporations will always be needed to produce the goods and services that are required to satisfy people’s needs, fuel economic growth, stimulate consumption and investment activity, and power industrial and technological development. However, in a cultural age they would also be expected to play a major cultural role, through a careful balancing of commercial and cultural objectives, especially in the communities, cities, regions, and countries in which they function. Some will argue that it is impossible to develop this new corporate ideology because corporations are too deeply immersed in the present world system to alter their behaviour to any great extent. Despite this, it is clear that profound changes are required if corporations want to function effectively in the world of the future. They could well profit from Machiavelli’s sage advice to rulers, nearly five hundred years ago: that it is in their best interests to attend to people’s needs because this will redound to their advantage in the long run. Corporations and corporate executives have a great deal to gain from improving the quality of life in communities, cities, regions, countries, and the world as a whole.

29A great deal of emphasis will have to be placed on corporate cultural responsibility if this is to be achieved. This will require three basic commitments on the part of corporations: taking realistic rather than excessive profits; increasing corporate giving well beyond its present level; and cooperating more effectively in commercial and industrial affairs.

30Earning realistic rather than excessive profits is necessary to reduce the hostility aroused by profit maximization, corporate power, and unreasonable financial benefits for corporate executives. It is also necessary to focus attention on the need to invest in worthwhile causes and undertakings, such as reducing the debt loads of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East; conducting an all-out campaign to stamp out poverty, unemployment, hunger, and human suffering; redistributing surplus food, clothing, building supplies, and text books to needy families and countries; eliminating the exploitation of labour, especially child labour; curtailing human rights abuses, including all forms of gender exploitation; and promoting health care, medical research, and human longevity. Corporate commitment to these and other goals would ensure that corporations are fully engaged in the design, development and functioning of the world system of the future, rather than remaining aloof from it.

31Corporations will also have to increase their giving quite substantially if they want to improve the communities, cities, regions, and countries in which they do business. As matters stand now most corporations devote only small proportions of their profits to these requirements. Despite this, there are examples of corporations that have recognized the short-term and long-term benefits that can be derived from making improvements in this area. In Britain, for example, from the late nineteenth century onwards the Cadbury company of Bournville went to great lengths to ensure that those who worked in its chocolate and cocoa factories experienced improvements in their working conditions and quality of life. In the United States similar efforts to improve people’s lives and advance community interests have come from offshoots of many large corporations, including the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Eastman School of Music, and the Hershey High School for underprivileged children.

32It would be a mistake to conclude that such corporate cultural responsibility is a thing of the past. During the past twenty years the Turner Broadcasting Corporation, for example, has contributed large amounts of money to the United Nations to improve conditions for the poorest people and countries of the world, as well as to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other debilitating diseases. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation have contributed millions of dollars to improving literacy rates, immunizing populations against diseases, and transferring computer and library skills to countries in the “developing world.” These examples serve as a clarion call to corporations in every part of the world to increase their financial commitments to levels that are consistent with human, environmental and cultural needs, and not merely their own commercial and financial interests.

33The final requirement for the creation of a new corporate ideology is the promotion of cooperation rather than competition. This does not mean that corporate competition would cease in a cultural age. There will always be a need for corporations to compete in order to drive commercial and industrial development, create new inventions, innovations, and technologies, fuel capital accumulation, and increase sales, income, and market share. Yet this would not be the only mode of corporate behaviour in a cultural age, especially as competition itself often leads to monopoly rather than sustained competition. Cooperation would play a much more important role in corporate behaviour. Corporations would spend a great deal more time working with employees, customers, consumers, and other corporations to evolve the decision-making processes and planning structures needed to create a more equitable, viable and secure world.

34Without a new corporate ideology, corporations may well be in for a very rough ride in the future. While their prospects are reasonable at present, their long-term prospects are far less favourable. Rapid rates of technological change, escalating terrorist attacks, anti-globalization protests, outrage over fraudulent corporate accounting procedures and investment practices, and growing scepticism over corporate motives and objectives will probably cause many more bankruptcies, mergers, downsizing exercises, and assaults on corporations, producing a great deal more instability as well as more unemployment. This could reduce consumers’ incomes and thus the funds necessary to purchase corporate products. This situation could be aggravated by adverse reactions from civil society and consumers’ associations. In contrast, a new corporate ideology would make it possible to improve the outlook for corporations.

A New Political System

35It is impossible to deal with the most pressing priorities for a cultural age without dealing with the need for profound political changes. During the past sixty years governments have become so immersed in economic affairs that their principal role is now economic rather than political. Consistent with the prevailing economic ideology and the basic tenets of the economic age, governments believe that immersion in economic affairs is the key to everything: increases in wealth, income and standards of living; the generation of consumption, investment and employment activity; improvements in education and health care; breakthroughs in transportation and technology; advances in the arts and sciences; and the enhancement of human welfare and environmental wellbeing.

36This conviction has its origins in the “political economy” of the classical and neoclassical economists, although it was not until after the Keynesian “revolution” that it became commonplace throughout the world. Since the 1940s, governments have been expected to play a forceful economic role in society by controlling monetary and fiscal policy, stimulating business and industry, promoting economic growth, regulating business cycles, managing debts, deficits, and surpluses, administering complex tax systems, and expending public funds to boost the level of aggregate demand. While this has done a great deal to increase economic growth, it is not without its problems.

37In the first place, it has made it impossible for governments to deal effectively with the two most pressing problems of modern times: the environmental crisis; and the need to achieve an effective balance between the material and nonmaterial dimensions of development. Indeed, these problems are generally deemed to stand outside the realm of economics altogether.

38In the second place, it has made it difficult for governments to act objectively, impartially, and in the public interest. It is impossible for governments to get deeply immersed in one sector of society, in this case the economy, without impairing their capacity to deal equitably with all sectors of society and society as a whole. The effect is that the tail is forever wagging the dog. The most obvious example of this is the way in which corporations have become so powerful and pervasive that they are often able to dictate to governments what is in the best interests of citizens and society. This makes it possible for corporations to subordinate political interests to their will, often through the creation of large industrial zones and free trade areas that are exempt from governmental regulation and the rule of law. This has caused an erosion of political power, and consequently also a loss of interest in politics and the political process on the part of citizens and community groups.

39Governments will have to extricate themselves from this situation if they are to act in the public interest, and deal with pressing local, regional, national and international problems and issues. First and foremost, they will need to re-establish their ability to play a political role in society. In order to do this they will have to assert control over corporations and put themselves in a much stronger financial position than they are today. This will be exceedingly difficult to achieve, because many governments have mishandled the policies prescribed by economists, particularly Keynesian economists. Keynes himself advocated creating surpluses in times of prosperity, in order to have funds available to be spent on public works and other activities in times of recession, but instead many governments have increased their deficits in good times in their efforts to accelerate economic growth and satisfy the desires of consumers. Not coincidentally, increasing debt loads have increased the dependence of governments on corporations, as significant proportions of government income in many countries are siphoned off to service debts.

40This is not to say that governments should abandon their commitments to developing strong economies and dealing with fundamental economic problems, but governments will have to deal with these problems in a totally new way, redistributing income and wealth more fairly, holding corporations accountable for their financial actions and environmental shortcomings, and situating economics properly within the broader cultural context.

41Governments will have to use all the policy tools and techniques at their disposal if they are to achieve this. Legislation and regulation will be necessary to impose full control on corporations and to return the political process to citizens, community groups, and other actors in the public realm. Taxation will be necessary to restore the financial health of governments and strengthen their capacity to address key public issues. While care must be taken not to dampen economic growth or stifle consumption, investment or entrepreneurial activity, a great deal can be achieved through progressive taxation. A new political system would make it possible for governments to achieve balance and harmony between all sectors and segments of society, and to deal equitably and impartially with all citizens and community groups.

42Taking a cultural approach to the political process is the key to this new system. When culture is visualized and dealt with in holistic terms, the principal responsibility of governments is to develop culture in general, and cultures in particular, in the all-encompassing sense. There is an intimate connection between culture and politics here, since both are concerned with “the whole,” and the need to achieve balanced, harmonious, synergistic and sustainable relationships between the parts and the whole. Governments, above all, possess the authority and the responsibility to deal with all sectors of society on a sustained and systematic basis. All other institutions and groups deal only with specific parts of the whole.

43A new political reality is unfolding in the world and it would be foolhardy not to admit it. Vast and complex cultural systems are emerging in every part of the world that are constantly changing and evolving as changes take place in their various parts. While some of these changes can be foreseen, many occur with little or no warning and have devastating effects on cultural systems as wholes through interactions between the parts. Examples include: sudden and unexpected catastrophes such as floods, hurricanes and forest fires; the changes now taking place in many countries in relations between and within the genders, which were not predicted in the days when marriage was generally assumed to be between a man and a woman, and for life; the spread of HIV/AIDS, SARS, mad cow disease, and other infections; and the recent eruption of terrorist attacks in the United States, Britain, Spain, and elsewhere. Governments are thus compelled to deal with abrupt, erratic and often unpredictable changes in cultural systems.

44It is no longer a case of developing local, regional and national economies, and then assuming that everything will work out for the best. Rather, it is a case of continuously monitoring and guiding complex cultural systems, and ensuring that they are managed effectively. In order to do this, governments will have to know much more about how complex cultural systems actually function, as well as how changes in their parts interact and affect the systems as wholes. This is why it is necessary to take a cultural rather than economic approach to the political process. Parliaments, cabinets, and caucuses will have to devote much more time to discussing and analyzing the development of culture and cultures in breadth and depth. Ministries of cultural development will have to replace ministries of economic development as the key ministries in government. Cultural models will have to replace economic models as the main devices for government planning and decision-making, and cultural development and policy will have to be accorded the highest priority in the political process. The aim should always be to evolve political policies and practices that include all individuals, institutions, and sectors of society in decision-making, improve the lot of all citizens and community groups, and make it possible for people to live in harmony with the natural environment, each other, other countries, other cultures, other species, and past, present and future generations.

45Ministries of cultural development, as well as specially designed cultural agencies at arm’s length from government and the political process, will have particularly important roles to play. They will have to be extremely active inside and outside government. Inside government, they will have to act as integrating mechanisms and coordinating vehicles for all departments and agencies, winning respect for culture’s most elevated principles, values, and ideals. They will also have to be involved in promoting understanding of the way in which culture can act as a coalescing force, and as a conceptual framework for public policy-and decision-making. Outside government, they will have to become extremely active in sowing the seeds of cultural development in communities, cities, regions, and society as a whole, broadening and deepening participation in the political process, expanding understanding of the vital role that culture can play, and creating a climate conducive to a healthy and vigorous cultural life. Such ministries and agencies will have to possess the powers, and the funding, to execute these responsibilities efficiently, effectively, and in a trustworthy manner. History has shown that such responsibilities are best carried out when they are consistent with the principles of access, participation, equality, democratization, and decentralization.

46However, as critics have repeatedly warned, permanent solutions will not be forthcoming without a strong commitment to freedom, independence, and democracy. In particular, when it comes to the political process and its impact on the development of culture, this commitment will require the creation and maintenance of a large and viable private sector, capable of formulating and implementing programmes, initiating activities, providing funds, acting as an effective counterpoise to government, and taking risks.

A Cultural Approach to Citizenship

47The signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 signalled the start of an era in which human rights have become a major political issue. However, it is sometimes forgotten that the Declaration goes beyond the traditional list of civil and political rights, to encompass social and cultural rights as well. Thus, Article 22 of the Declaration asserts that:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation, and in accordance with the organization and resources of each state, of the economic, social, and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

48Article 27 asserts that:

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts, and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

49While focusing time and attention on human rights has accomplished a great deal over the past sixty years, there is an urgent need to devote time and attention to people’s responsibilities, since failure to do so creates a one-sided and distorted view of citizenship. On the one hand, there is what people have a reasonable right to receive from society. On the other hand, there is what people must give in order to receive something in return. It is only when these two requirements are in balance that it is possible to claim that all the requirements of citizenship have been addressed.

50Clearly, every person has numerous responsibilities to execute if they want to enjoy certain rights in return. Included among these responsibilities are acquisition of the skills, tools, and techniques that are needed to function effectively in society; participation in the cultural development of the community, the region, and the nation; concern for the plight of people who are less fortunate than oneself; sharing income, wealth, and resources realistically and fairly; recognition of the needs, rights, freedoms, values, and worldviews of others; abstinence from violence and terrorism; and concern for the natural environment, other species, other ethnic groups, and past, present and future generations. It is thus essential to develop a Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

51This has become steadily more apparent as increasing numbers of citizens have become involved in protest movements aimed at addressing responsibilities as well as rights. Although citizens’ involvement in these movements can be disruptive and does not always produce concrete results, it makes a significant contribution to social progress nevertheless. There are numerous examples where citizens’ coalitions have altered age-old political and bureaucratic practices, confronted corporate and wealthy elites, and challenged international institutions. It is amazing what can be accomplished when citizens work together for the common good of their fellow citizens, as well as the needs and concerns of society as a whole. Augustin Girard recognized how essential this is when he wrote (p. 143) that “cultural development is both the ultimate aim of political action and also the means of giving every individual a sense of his responsibility in the common work of mankind.”

52It is interesting to note in this regard that concerted attempts have been made in recent years to develop “character education” and “character communities,” predicated on the collective as well as the personal, the altruistic as well as the egoistic, the other as well as the self, and responsibilities as well as rights. Concerned about the perceived rise in violence, vandalism, and destructiveness in communities and schools, proponents of character education and character communities put a great deal of emphasis on caring, sharing, self-discipline, fairness, honesty, integrity, equality, justice, respect, commitment, and empathy.

53They are helping to pave the way for the development of a secular ethics that will be capable of complementing and enriching religious ethics.

54Such a secular ethics would answer the call by the World Commission on Culture and Development (pp. 33—51) for “a global ethics,” focused on human rights and responsibilities; democracy and the elements of civil society; the protection of minorities; commitment to peaceful conflict-resolution and fair negotiation; and equity within and between generations. While the Commission recognized that this global ethics would constitute the minimum requirements of citizenship and government, it felt that ample room should be left for political creativity, social imagination, and cultural pluralism. This is imperative if a global ethics is not to become oppressive, overbearing or coercive.

A Breakthrough in Education

55At present, very few educational institutions, particularly at the elementary and secondary levels, provide opportunities for people to learn about culture in general and their own cultures in particular. This means that people have to turn instead to personal study, exploration, discovery, general observation, and a variety of learning materials and possibilities. Yet the lack of formal education in the basic rudiments of culture is a cause for concern. If people are to function effectively in the specific cultures in which they live, and if many of the tensions and conflicts that exist throughout the world are to be reduced or overcome, much more will need to be known about the diverse cultures of humankind. The problem is compounded by the fact that it is difficult to learn about culture in the holistic sense when education is broken down into specialized disciplines. In addition, there are barriers to transcending one’s cultural conditioning in order to understand other cultures. As the Mexican futurologist Antonio Alonso Concheiro has written (in Masini 1991, Vol. 2, p. 65):

we generally assume that cultures are simply different modes of adaptation to nature, different codes for the same fundamental purposes... We seldom recognize that in this manner we are only studying and classifying cultures which we invent through our own cultural framework, and not the cultures themselves. In other words, we generally reach for and obtain only ethnocentric visions of other cultures.

56Despite the difficulties involved in teaching and learning about culture and cultures in the holistic sense, no greater mistake could be made than to abandon the attempt. Although people may never get to know and understand their own culture, or the cultures of others, in some ultimate, metaphysical sense, the very fact that they make the effort enhances the prospects for peace, harmony, tolerance, appreciation and respect throughout the world.

57An ideal cultural education would contain four key ingredients: learning about culture in general; learning about one’s own culture in particular; learning about the cultures of others; and learning to live a creative, constructive and fulfilling cultural life.

58Fortunately, there are now many educational materials available to assist in learning about culture in general, as well as a rapidly expanding array of articles, reports, and other publications dealing with every specific culture in the world. The emphasis should be on broadening and deepening understanding of the various parts of one’s own culture, as well as on how these parts are organized and orchestrated to form a whole. This would require a great deal more emphasis than at present on integrated, holistic and horizontal approaches to education. Yet, clearly, everybody is involved in many different cultures simultaneously, since they are involved in local, regional and national cultures, and may also possess a variety of ethnic origins and cultural backgrounds.

59Learning about the cultures of others would be equally important, but, unfortunately, this is the most neglected area of education in every part of the world. Not only is the education of most people limited to their own culture, there are very few opportunities to learn about the cultures of others. The upshot of this is the rise in violence, terrorism, racism, and xenophobia throughout the world, as fear, misunderstanding, and mistrust increase, and the potential for cultural conflict and confrontation is heightened. It is therefore essential to ensure that people’s education in this vital domain of human life is broadened and deepened as much as possible. There are many organizations that provide valuable services and learning opportunities in this regard, including UNESCO and its regional centres, as well as the Council of Europe, the Maison des Cultures du Monde, Culturelink, the Transnational Network for Appropriate/Alternative Technologies (Tranet), the Intercultural Institute of Montreal, the Zentrum für Kulturforschung, the Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe (Circle), CultureGrams, the Austrian Cultural Documentation Centre and International Archives for Cultural Analysis, and Greenwood Publishing.

60The world of the future will be characterized by a great deal more interaction and mixing among its diverse peoples and cultures. Not only will this help people to become aware of the strengths and the shortcomings of their own cultures, it will also increase respect for the cultures of others and the reality of cultural differences. This development is already being foreshadowed, as, for example, in the discussions, exhibitions, and arts events at the First Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona in 2004.

61The ideal cultural education concerns, above all, learning to live a creative, constructive and fulfilling cultural life. That will require skills and understanding that extend well beyond what is needed to function effectively in the economy, to include the capacity to develop one’s own identity, and to make a contribution to those aspects of cultural life that require improvement; respect for other people, countries, ethnic groups, cultures, and species, and the natural environment; and development of the sensitivities that are required for responsible citizenship. There is much to be learned from the way in which cultures have developed that is relevant to this goal. Just as the challenge in developing cultures is to develop all their parts, and achieve balance among them, so the challenge in personal development is to develop all the human faculties and achieve harmony among them. If, as Ruth Benedict contended, cultures are “personalities writ large,” then people are “cultures writ small.” Here lies the secret of leading a creative, constructive and fulfilling cultural life. It is culture, not economics, that provides the wherewithal to knit all the diverse parts of people’s lives together to form a coherent whole. It does so by placing the priority on the whole, as well as the need to achieve synergistic and sustainable relationships between the parts and the whole. This is why people in the cultural field are so concerned with the education of “the whole person,” in order to help people to live integrated lives and realize their full potential.

62It is difficult to see how education of “the whole person” can be attended to effectively without a comprehensive and integrated education in the arts. As Walter Pitman argues in his book Learning the Arts in an Age of Uncertainty (1998), arts education provides the key to developing all the various facets of the human personality in concert by focusing attention on the development of the cognitive and affective abilities of the individual. Through comprehensive and integrated education in the arts, people learn to develop the creative capabilities that are needed to function effectively in society, as well as to apply their creative capabilities to problem-solving and all the various challenges they encounter in life. This in turn is not possible without life-long learning, or education for life, beginning in the earliest years of childhood, strongly influenced by the family, and deeply rooted in the educational system. It is education filled with the joys and rewards of creativity and discovery, and fuelled by the desire to make improvements in all domains of life.

63It is culture that best facilitates this process, because culture provides the breadth of vision and the depth of understanding needed to illuminate a clear and viable path to the future. In the final analysis, it is through culture in general and cultural education in particular that vast new vistas and fertile avenues are opened up for exploration and discovery, bringing people into contact with the finest accomplishments of all the different cultures of the world and the very best that humanity has to offer. Cultural education is far more than a vocation, it is a way of life.

Liveable and Sustainable Cities

64Of all the changes taking place in the world today, none is more evident than the growth of cities, in size, scope, density, and complexity, in every part of the planet. More and more people are looking to cities to solve their problems, and to provide higher standards of living, greater safety and security, economic and ecological sustainability, and improvements in the quality of life. If cities lack the prerequisites that are needed for happy, healthy and secure living, no amount of development at the regional, national or international level will make up the difference.

65With the growth of cities have come attempts to determine what makes cities “liveable,” and prevents them from becoming degrading and depressing. One factor is the provision of stimulating work and strong social programmes. Another is the maintenance and enhancement of urban infrastructure, from educational institutions and libraries to health services, effective transit systems, a variety of housing styles and types, and ample and attractive public spaces. To this list should be added the diversity of artistic, athletic, culinary, commercial and shopping opportunities that cities offer at their best, as well as the features that vary from city to city, such as historical sites, open-air markets, and captivating ways to idle away leisure time.

66The arts have a crucial role to play in enhancing the urban environment. They provide fulfilment and happiness to millions of city dwellers, through art galleries and museums, theatre and dance companies, orchestras and art centres, concerts and poetry readings. They contribute to the attractiveness of cities, not only through the activities of professional organizations but also through community arts centres and festivals, murals, buskers, landscaping, and the artistic expressions of young people and children. They contribute to social cohesion by engaging large numbers of people in the artistic process, both as participants and as members of audiences. They contribute to the economies of cities by generating investment and expenditure on facilities, hotels, restaurants, tickets, clothing, transport, and tourism, as well as by attracting businesses and skilled workers. They also make an important contribution to cross-cultural communication by bringing people together in peaceful rather than violent ways, making it possible for them to communicate effectively across ethnic and linguistic divides. This will be increasingly important in cities where populations are becoming more diverse and multiethnic.

67The arts also contribute to the liveability of cities through the creative energy and synergy that they inject into all aspects and dimensions of city life. By creating many of the concepts, styles, and techniques that are needed to institute change, artists and arts organizations help to pave the way for many other types of development. It is not surprising that many planners, policy-makers, and researchers are focusing on the role that “the creative industries” play in urban development by producing “clustering effects” and “convergent capabilities” that link different sectors of cities together. Equally important is the contribution that the arts can make to the revitalization of cities. In recent years dynamic creative activities have injected new life into cities, after years of neglect, often by stimulating concentrations of artistic resources in downtown cores or other key locations. Inspired by corporate executives, arts administrators, planners, educators, and other citizens, such districts do a great deal to rejuvenate cities that are dying from the inside out.

68Given all these contributions, the role of the arts must be seen in a new light. Rather than being the icing on the cake of urban living, the arts should be seen as the centrepieces that are needed to create liveable cities. Governments and corporations need to recognize this and do something concrete about it. Too often, they are anxious to squeeze all the economic and tourist potential out of the arts without providing a great deal in return.

69Creating liveable cities should go a long way towards creating sustainable cities, but much more will be required. Water supplies will have to be more dependable and reliable, as well as free from contaminants and imperfections. Air quality will have to be substantially improved. Gridlock will have to be overcome, and transit systems will have to be upgraded and enhanced. Waste disposal and urban sprawl will have to be curtailed. Streets and neighbourhoods will have to be safe to walk in, day and night, and free from sexual predators. Programmes will have to be created to help immigrants and other newcomers to become fully integrated into urban life. Much more attention will have to be given to emergency preparedness, affordable housing, safety and security, crumbling infrastructure, ecological management, crime prevention, and programmes for young people. Policies will have to be predicated on taking a holistic and egalitarian approach to municipal planning and decision-making, in order to build cities that are comprehensive and creative rather than segmented and imitative. The focus should be on providing stores, workplaces, and schools that are close at hand rather than miles away, so that people can walk to them rather than drive, and enjoy the urban experience rather than merely tolerate it. In her many writings on the “death and life” of cities, the late Jane Jacobs emphasized the need to provide a balanced and diversified array of amenities at the neighbourhood or local level, so that cities can become liveable and sustainable.

70Unfortunately, the approach that has often been taken to municipal planning and decision-making in the past has been piecemeal and exclusive, rather than systematic or inclusive. Yet, like cultures, cities are cultural wholes composed of many diverse and interdependent parts. Not only do these parts vary greatly from one another, but they also vary greatly in the way they are combined to form wholes. These parts must be successfully integrated into the whole, and harmonious relationships must be established between and among them, if cities are to function effectively. Here culture enters into urban development in a very different way than other factors do. Culture is the cement that binds the parts together to form the whole. This is what makes it possible to talk about the “culture of cities” and mean something profound and fundamental by the phrase. It is also what makes culture the most important factor in urban development. Without culture in general and cultural cohesiveness in particular, cities are merely smorgasbords of disconnected and unrelated parts, rather than integrated, coherent, dynamic and organic wholes.

71Radical change will also be needed in the ways in which cities are financed. Without the ability to raise revenues, address pressing problems, and negotiate effectively with other levels of government, municipal governments will not be able to deal effectively with environmental degeneration, gridlock, declining medical facilities, deteriorating infrastructure, out-of-date social programmes, inadequate transit systems, insufficient housing, or the effects of homelessness, unemployment, and poverty. The short-term solution requires making it possible for municipal governments to increase their revenues, for example through increased property taxes, gasoline taxes, user fees on publicly owned and operated facilities, lotteries, licensing charges for garbage collection and other services, cost-sharing arrangements with other levels of government, and taxes on hotels, restaurants, and other commercial establishments that profit greatly from municipal development but pay little of the cost of providing services. The experience with these types of taxes in the United States and many European countries suggests that when municipal governments possess the authority to impose taxes of this type everyone benefits. In the long term, however, what will be required is a change in constitutional arrangements, and a redistribution of powers among national, regional, and municipal governments. The beneficiaries of these changes will be people, who, as Charles Landry has pointed out, are the most valuable and precious resources of any city. Seen from this perspective, every individual and every institution has a crucial contribution to make to the development and enrichment of cities.

A United World

72The world is deeply divided today along economic, political, military, religious, technological, and cultural lines, but the cultural divisions are the most crucial. At least this is the opinion of the US political scientist Samuel P. Huntington (1993, p. 23):

World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be—the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years. It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The grear divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

73Huntington subscribes here to the understanding of cultures and civilizations as “total ways of life.” It is his view that it is impossible to understand many of the most difficult problems confronting the world today, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, or the Islamic world in general, without having recourse to broader and deeper notions of culture. While countless economic, political, and military factors are involved, particularly ownership of land and other resources, the assertion of military might, access to production, distribution, and consumption opportunities, and control of technology, resources, and technological capabilities, these factors do not begin to account for the numerous tensions and conflicts in the world.

74Cultures can affect people, countries, and the world in positive and negative ways as indicated earlier. On the one hand, they can be sources of fulfilment and happiness, highlighting all that is most desirable and worthwhile in the world. On the other hand, they can be sources of brutality and oppression, bringing to the fore all that is most troublesome and despicable. This makes it imperative, as noted previously, to be ever watchful and mindful of the various uses and abuses of culture, as well as develop safeguards to ensure that these human collectivities are used in constructive rather than destructive ways. In order to do this, it is essential to build strong bonds among the diverse cultures and peoples of the world. In the words of Verner Bickley and John Philip Puthenparampil (p. 8):

If culture, fundamentally, is the “depth dimension” of a people or nation, then the ideal of intercultural transactions is seen as the effectuation of an “interior bond” between peoples, which has a greater value and significance than other kinds of relationships, of a political or economic nature only. Because culture, basically, is value-and worldview-oriented, intercultural transactions are capable of performing a critical and educative function.... Cultural interchanges bring the insights and perspectives of the participating cultures to one another, and thus help to modify narrow monocultural views to produce alternative and more flexible approaches and responses to human problems.

75The arts and education have a vital role to play here. Music, drama, painting, literature, dance, philosophy, ethics, and learning expose the real heart, soul, and spirit of countries and cultures. Performances by African dance troupes, Asian acrobatic groups, Latin American pop stars, and European musical ensembles have captivated large audiences across the world. Think, for example, of how the song “Amazing Grace” has touched imaginations beyond the confines of religious services, because its message that spirituality can “save a poor wretch like me” has touched a nerve.

76It is not difficult to visualize the kind of world that could result from building strong bonds between countries, cultures, and peoples, particularly those that have little or no contact with each other at present. Humanity should not rest until people in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan have much more knowledge and understanding of the worldviews, values, and traditions of people in Asia, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, and vice versa. Intimate connections at “cultural contact points” are imperative if the many tensions throughout the world are to be lessened or overcome.

77It is also essential to get at the root causes of tensions, most of which have to do with the fact that the world is divided into two unequal parts, and income, wealth, resources, and power are not shared equally. If problems as complex and debilitating as this are to be overcome in the future, it will be necessary to create a world characterized by justice, equality, and opportunity for all people and all countries. When culture is perceived and defined in holistic terms, the emphasis is on unity and synthesis rather than division and separation, so the potential exists within culture to create the conditions for a united world. What is needed, now more than ever, is the public and professional will to create a united world in which economic criteria such as gross domestic product would no longer be used to separate countries, and less and less attention is paid to the stereotyping that results from labelling certain countries and cultures as backward or underdeveloped.

78There are numerous examples in business, industry, medicine, the arts, the sciences, education, politics, and the mass media where cooperation among individuals, institutions, countries, cultures, and civilizations has produced results that could not have been realized in any other way. Such results thrive on the creative energy and synergy that derives from bringing people together, even where they have vastly different worldviews and ideas. Paul J. Braisted summed it all up as long ago as 1944 (p. 28):

Cultural cooperation is described as the way in which the world’s peoples can work together, voluntarily, constructively and to mutual advantage, in building a progressive, orderly and more kindly society.

79As we have seen in this chapter, many new commitments will be needed if cultural cooperation is to be achieved. Most of these commitments will require dramatic changes in attitudes and behaviour on the part of the richer, more powerful and more privileged nations of the world. Until those who possess and control income, investment, employment, capital, technology, and resources commit themselves to cultural cooperation and sharing, not as a vague moral duty but as a fundamental necessity, humanity will be saddled with a world system that is unjust, unfair, and inimical to global harmony and world peace. As Braisted and his co-authors later emphasized (1972, p. 14):

Mankind is faced with problems which, if not dealt with, could in a very few years develop into crises worldwide in scope. Interdependence is the reality; worldwide problems the prospect; and worldwide cooperation the only solution.

80With this plea for worldwide cooperation and sharing, our discussion of the priorities that would be essential for a cultural age is complete.

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2008

Conditions d’utilisation :

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.


Volume papier
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search