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Does modern capitalism conserve or destroy culture and the arts?


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#1 ShotgunGold

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:32 PM

This is an article I recently wrote, I thought I would share it here too!:

 

A couple of months ago it was announced that the United States was to enter into a trade deal with the European Union, with the onus being very much on the free market capitalism that has allowed the superpower nation and the colonial dictatorship, to become the largest, and the second largest trading 'blocs' in the world respectively. Business elites, as well as leaders like Mr Cameron and Mrs Merkel were quick to hail these momentous talks that would “bring Europe and North America closer together”.

 

However one issue that did garner some attention amongst the boring technical discussions was France’s use of a veto for audio-visual policies. The French government (supported by socialists and conservatives) cited the principle that culture can’t be treated as a normal commercial item. The French are known in the UK certainly, for perhaps being heavy-handed when it comes to that view. There are laws that cinemas must promote French films, 70% of daytime radio music must be in the French language, and philosophy and French history is taught rigorously in schools. But why exactly is this wrong? There is no doubt a fear since the 1990s that French culture will succumb to American hegemony, but France has been left with much to gloat about. The birthplace of cinema produced a whopping 261 films in 2010 (in the same year that the British Film Institute was axed Britain produced 79 films, many made for American markets). France is one of the few countries in the world where American films do not make up the majority of viewings. French music similarly is very strong in terms of both influence and merit. The French language is still holding its own worldwide, being taught in all corners of the globe (Alliance Francaise), France has kept its strong links with fashion and design, the country is the most visited in the world and if I am to believe my Chinese friend, has in Asia, a “cool mystical aura about it”. Most importantly this link between culture and identity, which no doubt provides the thrust of the French government’s argument of not being commercial, transfers into community from the Bastille Day celebrations to the La Fête Des Voisins where approximately 15 million took part in 2013.

 

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^ Connecting neighbours, on a mass scale, through French culture and fun.

 

How far can this be taken though? There is no doubt wide support for preserving historical culture in most Western countries, which fizzes out when you get to modern culture. But yet in France there is still strong and certainly stable resistance to commercial interests in things too, such as food shopping. In France supermarkets still have just 68% of food retail (falling to 45% for fruit and vegetables), whilst in Britain 54p in every £1 is now spent in the six or so supermarkets. There are many small towns in France with boulangerie and poissonerie still intact. Britain’s high street is not looking in the best of shapes.

 

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^ Queuing outside for a baguette, Paris, 2011. Is this culture?

 

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^ In Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Surely if the previous photo is culture, then this must be culture too?!

 

Conservatives, no no actually 'economic liberals' (as I feel true conservatism has become tainted since the 1980s), will no doubt say that culture is synonymous with capitalism and that it must follow the exact same rules. It is interesting to note though that, for example, the French film industry is the most self-sufficient in Europe with most films achieving 85%+ of revenue costs in the domestic market alone and thus nearly always making good profit. The 2011 film Intouchables was watched by 19 million people in the first four months in France and was even voted cultural event of the year by the public.

 

To move away from France now, if we were to take the maxim that money does indeed trump all, then will we not just be left with mass Americanisation? That actually true difference in many aspects of our lives across nations will not actually be present? The sheer size of ‘megacorporations’ is quite alarming. It is apparently true according to Forbes and a Zurich-based research institute that there are 147 companies that control “everything” of the global economy, including 40% of wealth, with 737 companies controlling 80% of it.* Many of these are either banks (Barclays, Deutsche Bank) or what are called ‘multicompanies’ that don’t specialise in anything in particular. In 2009, of the world’s 100 largest economic entities 44 of them were companies, and 56 were countries.** Wal-Mart has revenues larger than 176 countries, Shell’s are larger than Pakistan and Bangladesh together (350m+ people). These 44 companies own 11% of all wealth, despite the fact they employ just 13.5 million people. Many would no doubt claim that our economic and environmental problems are a cause of this, in a decades time could cultural practices and individual artistic expressions not go the same way? And here I am talking about all forms of cultures and geographic individuality, not just French cinema and not “modern” forms of art.

 

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^ The National Eisteddfont has been championing Welsh culture since 1861. 160,000 now attend annually. Whilst the language and music are being revived in day-to-day life, some aspects are only kept alive through the festival. Is there any point to doing this?

 

The United States eventually accepted defeat to France on this particular issue. It is ironic because despite the countries libertarian tendencies it does have a very ingrained “Buy America” ethos that has caused some commentators this side of the channel to suggest that actually it may help the US more than Europe. Whilst it is of course debatable to say that globalised capitalism destroys culture directly, there was no doubt amongst all commentators that the recent trade deals were once again going to help the already big companies expand, to the detriment of smaller and national companies. I am sceptical enough having witnessed in my opinion an era, a nation and a politics that is solely concerned with business, money, globalisation and bumping up the GDP; to think that perhaps culture, community and nation will eventually succumb to the same machine. 

 

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^ Is the world really becoming like this?

 

Links

 

* Forbes article, taken from info from New Scientist, 2011, "The 147 Companies That Control Everything"

** Global Trends article, 2009, "The Influence Of The World's 100 Largest Economic Entities"



#2 JohnM

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:39 PM

French cinema is not a good example

 

http://www.screendai...5050274.article

 

This year has been a disaster for French cinema,” declared Maraval in an editorial dated Dec 28 and written in response to the recent furore over actor Gérard Depardieu’s decision to renounce his French citizenship over a 75% tax levy on citizens with an annual income of more than $1.3m (€1m).

 

also where does China fit in?



#3 Northern Sol

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:51 PM

You are confusing capitalism with globalisation.

 

Globalisation (probably) requires capitalism but capitalism doesn't require globalisation. We've had capitalism since the Victorian era but globalisation only really since the 90s.

 

The French can pour their money into subsidising their culture but it's in full retreat. Fewer and fewer people study French, traditional francophone countries such as Portugal, Italy, Romania etc have switched to English. The French now spend more per capita in McDonald's than the Americans do (though tbf they don't have Wendy's or Burger King). 

 

Interestingly enough though Italy is still the home of small independent businesses. There are very few "chains" in Italy. Starbucks is unknown.



#4 Wolford6

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 08:42 PM

Modern methods of communication disperse knowledge more widely than ever before. Consequently we get creative people producing hybrid culture.

 

By "culture", we tend to not consider the most widespread cultural form ... music.

 

 - Like most people of my age, I have albums by recording artists whose music is nominally based on a distinct cultural genre, e.g. rock, blues, country, folk, ska, reggae, cajun, jazz etc. However,  all the postwar recordings are influenced by at least one of the other genres. Does it devalue them? Certainly not.

These are vibrant musical forms which survive comfortably without subsidy.

 

 - In cultural terms, the media tends to regard, and report "classical music" as a single entity. It's probably just as diverse as its "pop music" contemporary. However, because much of it was produced in different countries over several centuries with little interaction between countries, it tends to have been preserved in its original form.

Does it do anything for me or most of my acquaintances? Apart from opera, no.

 

 - As an ignorant outsider, it seems to me that most of our current classical music performances  are essentially orchestral karaoke ... a covers band playing someone else's tunes. It doesn't devalue the music but it doesn't encourage innovation and development. it has a minimal impact or interest for the great majority of young people. 

Should we stop subsidising it? For me, keep the subsidy but at a reduced rate. However, when I have no great knowledge of the subject, how can I make an objective assessment.

 

 - In the West, we have our own "Opera" ... show tunes and musicals. To me, they are just as valid a musical form as any other ... classical opera was popular in its day and Gilbert and Sullivan have achieved cultural status through mere longevity.

Ostensibly, these shows exist and seemingly thrive without subsidy, but I feel that they should receive some. Copyright arrangements mean that it costs an absolute fortune to acquire a licence to put on a show. Schools ans amdram groups would benefit enormously if the Government subsidised franchise payments.

 

This week, the National Eisteddfod, which has traditionally fought to preserve Welsh traditional culture (and ignore English culture)  is being held in Denbigh ... a prdedominantly anglophone town. The Eisteddfod is making a positive effort to engage English speakers and those Welsh people who only speak schoolboy/girl Welsh. The driving force for this is a potentially bigger grant from the Welsh Assembly.

 

I am a non-Welsh-speaking Welshman who welcomes this move. However, I would hate to see the traditional Welsh Eisteddfod, of which I have a very small detailed knowledge, "dumbed down" for the sake of people like me.

 

It's a balancing act and I have to trust in the Welsh Assembly, the Arts Council of Wales and the Eisteddfod administration to achieve an optimised event.

 

In truth, since the Assembly has been established, there seems to be a lowering of the mutual mistrust that has historically existed between the industrial and rural Welsh.


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#5 Bostik Bailey

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 06:29 AM

Modern methods of communication disperse knowledge more widely than ever before. Consequently we get creative people producing hybrid culture.

By "culture", we tend to not consider the most widespread cultural form ... music.

- Like most people of my age, I have albums by recording artists whose music is nominally based on a distinct cultural genre, e.g. rock, blues, country, folk, ska, reggae, cajun, jazz etc. However, all the postwar recordings are influenced by at least one of the other genres. Does it devalue them? Certainly not.
These are vibrant musical forms which survive comfortably without subsidy.

- In cultural terms, the media tends to regard, and report "classical music" as a single entity. It's probably just as diverse as its "pop music" contemporary. However, because much of it was produced in different countries over several centuries with little interaction between countries, it tends to have been preserved in its original form.
Does it do anything for me or most of my acquaintances? Apart from opera, no.

- As an ignorant outsider, it seems to me that most of our current classical music performances are essentially orchestral karaoke ... a covers band playing someone else's tunes. It doesn't devalue the music but it doesn't encourage innovation and development. it has a minimal impact or interest for the great majority of young people.
Should we stop subsidising it? For me, keep the subsidy but at a reduced rate. However, when I have no great knowledge of the subject, how can I make an objective assessment.

- In the West, we have our own "Opera" ... show tunes and musicals. To me, they are just as valid a musical form as any other ... classical opera was popular in its day and Gilbert and Sullivan have achieved cultural status through mere longevity.
Ostensibly, these shows exist and seemingly thrive without subsidy, but I feel that they should receive some. Copyright arrangements mean that it costs an absolute fortune to acquire a licence to put on a show. Schools ans amdram groups would benefit enormously if the Government subsidised franchise payments.

This week, the National Eisteddfod, which has traditionally fought to preserve Welsh traditional culture (and ignore English culture) is being held in Denbigh ... a prdedominantly anglophone town. The Eisteddfod is making a positive effort to engage English speakers and those Welsh people who only speak schoolboy/girl Welsh. The driving force for this is a potentially bigger grant from the Welsh Assembly.

I am a non-Welsh-speaking Welshman who welcomes this move. However, I would hate to see the traditional Welsh Eisteddfod, of which I have a very small detailed knowledge, "dumbed down" for the sake of people like me.

It's a balancing act and I have to trust in the Welsh Assembly, the Arts Council of Wales and the Eisteddfod administration to achieve an optimised event.

In truth, since the Assembly has been established, there seems to be a lowering of the mutual mistrust that has historically existed between the industrial and rural Welsh.


Regarding dumbing down the Eisteddfod, that's to do with democracy, the WA will be looking at funding which is inclusive to all the Welsh people, which means the Eisteddfod has to change its way from predomentlly Welsh. Indeed Wales is bi-lingual.

As long as it maintains its Welsh roots then I can only see advantages, indeed it should be used to expand the language and culture, future south and east from Gwynedd.

However, there have been times in the past when it has been held in Liverpool, so it's not that big a break from tradition

#6 gingerjon

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 06:08 AM

I haven't been to the Eisteddfod for a while but I do always try and catch a chunk of it on S4C and I do technically qualify to be a white-robed member of the Gorsedd.  I was quite surprised this year to see prominent English-language signs visible during some of the coverage.  It's always been possible to get around and to know what's happening without being able to understand Welsh but I was a bit taken aback.

The Eisteddfod hasn't always had a Welsh-only policy and it hasn't always been held in Wales but when it was held in Liverpool it was at a time when there was a significant Welsh-speaking minority in that city - the last time was in 1929.  With so few communities in Wales now having enough Welsh speakers to enable daily living in the language I'd be very concerned about any further moves to diminish the importance of the language itself within the event.  I don't think I'd have a problem with any moves to increase accessibility to non Welsh speakers but competition, exhibitions and the like should surely remain in Welsh.

 

I don't believe modern capitalism particularly cares about culture and the modern philanthropists who have derived their wealth from it seem less keen to invest in culture than their equivalents in previous years and more likely to invest in science or 'global good'.  Gates is curing the world's diseases for example rather than building a new Getty Museum.  I personally believe globalisation is good for culture and the internet in particular is incredible for discovery and exchange of pretty much any artistic or cultural idea that can be had.

 

I do believe the state has a role in supporting culture.  To my mind it's a significant part of what brings societies together.  As a government you can't complain that people don't know enough or experience enough British culture if you do nothing to promote, create or share it.


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