The Arts in an Optimal Society

Presented at the Association Bahá´í Studies Conference:
Models for an Optimal Society, Waikato University, Hamilton, July, 2000

by Sonja van Kerkhoff

In a world with one currency, one universal language, harmonised systems of law and government, the arts will be more important as a means of expressing the diversity of cultures and asserting distinct (though not necessarily fixed) identities. If we want to place the arts in a model of an optimal society, organic unity is also important.

Whatever an optimal society is, it will evolve in a postmodern world. So we need to look at what postmodernism is and how this relates to issues of globalisation. Globalisation is just one aspect of postmodernity. The differentiation of life worlds is more fundamental. Then I will give some examples of what postmodernism in the arts is and then lead onto the necessity of the arts in an optimal society:
(i) for full personal development,
(ii) because explorations of art for art's sake sustain the aesthetic in the day-to-day, and
(iii) to express local or cultural identities.

Venezuelian American Turkey
by Meyer Vaisman, U.S.A., 1992.

Globalisation raises several questions about the position of the arts in society, questions of universals and particularities, cross-cultural communication and the role of the arts in sustaining particular cultural identities, the global art world and the arts in our local communities.

The first question is to describe what the move to a post-modern global society entails. Globalisation as just one aspect of postmodernity, and the differentiation of life worlds is more fundamental.

This means that globalisation is not the extension of an existing social structure to a global level, but the development of a new society with a different structure. The structural principal of a post-modern society is the functional differentiation between relatively autonomous aspects of life - such as religion, politics, the economy, science and the arts.

.......more to come.... oneday...

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