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The Expediency of Culture is a pioneering theorization of the changing role of culture in an increasingly globalized world. George Yúdice explores critically how groups ranging from indigenous activists to nation-states to nongovernmental organizations have all come to see culture as a valuable resource to be invested in, contested, and used for varied sociopolitical and economic ends. Through a dazzling series of illustrative studies, Yúdice challenges the Gramscian notion of cultural struggle for hegemony and instead develops an understanding of culture where cultural agency at every level is negotiated within globalized contexts dominated by the active management and administration of culture. He describes a world where “high” culture (such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain) is a mode of urban development, rituals and everyday aesthetic practices are mobilized to promote tourism and the heritage industries, and mass culture industries comprise significant portions of a number of countries’ gross national products.
Yúdice contends that a new international division of cultural labor has emerged, combining local difference with transnational administration and investment. This does not mean that today’s increasingly transnational culture—exemplified by the entertainment industries and the so-called global civil society of nongovernmental organizations—is necessarily homogenized. He demonstrates that national and regional differences are still functional, shaping the meaning of phenomena from pop songs to antiracist activism. Yúdice considers a range of sites where identity politics and cultural agency are negotiated in the face of powerful transnational forces. He analyzes appropriations of American funk music as well as a citizen action initiative in Rio de Janeiro to show how global notions such as cultural difference are deployed within specific social fields. He provides a political and cultural economy of a vast and increasingly influential art event— insite a triennial festival extending from San Diego to Tijuana. He also reflects on the city of Miami as one of a number of transnational “cultural corridors” and on the uses of culture in an unstable world where censorship and terrorist acts interrupt the usual channels of capitalist and artistic flows.
But it is culture-not raw technology alone-that will determine whether the United States retains its status as the pre-eminent Internet nation. -Sever Lohr, "Welcome to the Internet, the First Global Colony"
Culture as Resource
I argue in this book that the role of culture has expanded in an unprecedented way into the political and economic at the same time that conventional notions of culture largely have been emptied out. I do not focus on the content of culture-that is, the model of uplift (following Schiller or Arnold) or distinction (following Bourdieu) that it offered in its traditional acceptations, or more recently its anthropologization as a whole way of life (Williams), according to which it is recognized that everyone's culture has value. Instead, I approach the question of culture in our period, characterized as one of accelerated globalization, as a resource. Allow me to bracket for the moment the requisite reference to Heidegger's discussion of resource as standing reserve (Bestand) and to the myriad discussions of globalization. I will return to these questions, but the point I would like to stress at the outset is that culture is increasingly wielded as a resource for both sociopolitical and economic amelioration, that is,for increasing participation in this era of waning political involvement, conflicts over citizenship (Young 2000: 81-120), and the rise of what Jeremy Rifkin (2000) has called "cultural capitalism." The immaterialization characteristic of many new sources of economic growth (e.g., intellectual property rights as defined by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [gatt] and the World Trade Organization) and the increasing share of the world trade by symbolic goods (movies, TV programs, music, tourism, etc.) have given the cultural sphere greater protagonism than at any other moment in the history of modernity. It could be argued that culture has simply become a pretext for sociopolitical amelioration and economic growth, but even if that were the case, the proliferation of such arguments, in those for a provided by local culture and development projects as well as by UNESCO, the World Bank, and the so-called globalized civil society of international foundations and NGOS, has operated a transformation in what we understand by the notion of culture and what we do in its name.
The relation between cultural and political spheres or cultural and economic spheres is not new. On the one hand, culture is the medium in which the public sphere emerges in the eighteenth century; as Foucauldian and cultural studies scholars have argued, it became a means to internalize social control (i.e., via discipline and governmentality) throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tony Bennett (1995), for example, has demonstrated that culture provided not only ideological uplift, according to which people were gauged to have human worth, but also a material inscription in forms of behavior: people's behavior was transformed by the physical requirements involved in moving through schools and museums (ways of walking, dressing, talking, etc.). Also well studied are the political uses of culture to promote a particular ideology, for clientelist purposes or for currying favor in foreign relations, as evidenced in the advancement of proletarian culture by the Soviet Commissariat of Enlightenment (Fitzpatrick 1992), the clientelist sponsorship of muralism by the Mexican state in the 1920s and 1930s (Folgarait 1998), or the currying of influence in foreign relations, as in the United States' Good Neighbor (Yudice 2000a) and cold war cultural policies (Saunders 1999).
Also on the economic front, nineteenth-century Europe saw the increasing subjection of the artist and the writer to the commercial imperative. In this context, and with the emergence of new technologies such as lithography, photography, film, and sound recording, some theorists and critics came to define art in contradistinction to the commercial. In his famous 1938 essay, "On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening," Theodor Adorno rejected the political-economic basis of the new mass media, which turned the engagement with art away from its use-value and toward the "fetish character of commodities" ( 1978: 278-279; 1984: 25). In the first half of the twentieth century, Adorno could define art as the process through which the individual gains freedom by externalizing himself, in contrast to the philistine "who craves art for what he can get out of it" (1984: 25). Today it is nearly impossible to find public statements that do not recruit instrumentalized art and culture, whether to better social conditions, as in the creation of multicultural tolerance and civic participation though UNESCO-like advocacy for cultural citizenship and cultural rights, or to spur economic growth through urban cultural development projects and the concomitant proliferation of museums for cultural tourism, epitomized by the increasing number of Guggenheim franchises.
To illustrate the extent to which this is the case, consider American Canvas, a 1997 report of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) on the place of arts and culture in U.S. society:
No longer restricted solely to the sanctioned arenas of culture, the arts would be literally suffused throughout the civic structure, finding a home in a variety of community service and economic development activities-from youth programs and crime prevention to job training and race relations-far afield from the traditional aesthetic functions of the arts. This extended role for culture can also be seen in the many new partners that arts organizations have taken on in recent years, with school districts, parks and recreation departments, convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, and a host of social welfare agencies all serving to highlight the utilitarian aspects of the arts in contemporary society. (Larson 1997: 127-128)
This expanded role for culture is due in part to the reduction of direct subvention of all social services, culture included, by the state, thus requiring a new legitimation strategy in the post-Fordist and the post-civil rights era in the United States. Advocacy for the centrality of culture in solving social problems is not new, but it took different forms in the past, such as the ideological (re)production of proper citizens (whether bourgeois, proletarian, or national). Although there have long been art therapy programs for the mentally ill and for the incarcerated, culture more generally was not regarded as a proper therapy for such social dysfunctions as racism and genocide. Nor was it considered, historically, an incentive for economic growth. Why the turn to a legitimation based on utility?
There are, I think, two main reasons. Globalization has pluralized the contacts among diverse peoples and facilitated migrations, thus problematizing the use of culture as a national expedient. Additionally, in the United States, the end of the cold war pulled the legitimizing rug out from under a belief in artistic freedom, and with it unconditional support for the arts, as a major marker of difference with respect to the Soviet Union. Of course, this politically motivated sponsorship of freedom was fundamental in giving certain artistic styles (jazz, modern dance, abstract expressionism) the shot in the arm needed for "New York to steal the idea of modern art" from Paris, according to Serge Guilbaut (1983).
Without cold war legitimation, there is no holding back utilitarian arguments in the United States. Art has completely folded into an expanded conception of culture that can solve problems, including job creation. Its purpose is to lend a hand in the reduction of expenditures and at the same time help maintain the level of state intervention for the stability of capitalism.
Because almost all actors in the cultural sphere have latched onto this strategy, culture is no longer experienced, valued, or understood as transcendent. And insofar as this is the case, appeals to culture are no longer tied to this strategy. The culture wars, for example, take the form they do in a context in which art and culture are seen as fundamentally interested-so much so that they set in motion a particular performative force, on which I elaborate in chapter 2, "The Social Imperative to Perform." Conservatives and liberals are not willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt that art is beyond interest. (Of course, most leftists, following Marx and Gramsci, already believed that culture is political struggle.) As conservatives began to exercise more influence in the 1980s and 1990s, this basic belief in the interested character of art and culture was expressed by eliminating entitlements and redistributive programs bequeathed by Johnson's Great Society and the civil rights legacy, which benefit marginalized groups. Many of these programs were legitimized by claims that the needs of these groups were premised on cultural difference, which had to be taken as a deciding factor in the distribution of recognition and resources. Conservatives, on the other hand, saw these differences as in capacities or moral flaws (e.g., the "culture of poverty" attributed to racial minorities or the libertinism of gay and lesbian sexual preferences and practices) that rendered these groups ineligible for public resources (see chapter 2).
But this move to reduce state expenditures, which might seem like the death knell of the nonprofit arts and cultural activities, is actually their condition of continued possibility. The arts and culture sector is now claiming that it can solve the United States' problems: enhance education, salve racial strife, help reverse urban blight through cultural tourism, create jobs, reduce crime, and perhaps even make a profit. This reorientation of the arts is being brought about by arts administrators. Much as in classic cases of governmentality, in which there is total subordination of technicians to administrators (Castel 1991: 293), artists are being channeled to manage the social (see chapter 9). The academy has turned to "managerial professionals," who bridge traditional liberal professions ("a technical body of knowledge, advanced education ... professional associations and journals, codes of ethics") and corporate middle management in the business of producing students, research, outreach, institutional development, and so on (Rhoades and Slaughter 1997: 23). So also has the art and culture sector burgeoned into an enormous network of arts administrators who mediate between funding sources and artists and/or communities. Like their counterparts in the university and the business world, they must produce and distribute the producers of art and culture, who in turn deliver communities or consumers.
This view is not exclusive to the United States. One important policymaker from the European Task Force on Culture and Development attributes multi-purposes to art and culture: it is useful in fostering social cohesion in divisive polities and, because it is a labor-intensive sector, it helps reduce unemployment (E. Delgado 1998). Indeed, as powerful institutions like the European Union, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the major international foundations begin to understand culture as a crucial sphere for investment, it is increasingly treated like any other resource. James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, in his keynote address at the international conference "Culture Counts: Financing, Resources, and the Economics of Culture in Sustainable Development" (October 1999), folds culture into the Bank's policies as an instrument for human development. He stresses a "holistic view of development" that focuses on community empowerment of the poor so that they may hold onto-sustain-those assets that enable them to cope with "trauma and loss," stave off "social disconnectedness," "maintain self-esteem," and also provide material resources. He writes, "There are development dimensions of culture. Physical and expressive culture is an undervalued resource in developing countries. It can earn income, through tourism, crafts, and other cultural enterprises" (World Bank 1999b: 11). "Heritage gives value. Part of our joint challenge is to analyze the local and national returns on investments which restore and draw value from cultural heritage-whether it is built or living cultural expression, such as indigenous music, theater, crafts" (13).
Now consider the lending strategy of the IADB in the cultural sphere. According to one bank official, "Given economic orthodoxy throughout the world, the old model of state public support for culture is dead. The new models consist of partnerships with the public sector and with international financial institutions, particularly the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank" (Santana 1999). The turn to cultural capital is part of the history of recognition of shortcomings in investment for physical capital in the 1960s, human capital in the 1980s, and social capital in the 1990s. Each new notion of capital was devised as a way of ameliorating some of the failures of development according to the preceding framework. The concept of social capital was operationalized in the MDBs, taking the social fabric into consideration in their development projects. This concept also ensued from the recognition that although economic returns have been substantial in the 1990s, inequality has increased exponentially. The trickle-down premise of neoliberal economic theory has not been confirmed. Consequently, there has been a turn to investment in civil society, and culture as its prime animator.
According to Santana (1999), empirical examples suggest that there is force to this argument. For example, Villa El Salvador in Peru showed an impressive increase in social indicators in its near thirty years of existence. In 1971, homeless people invaded Lima and the government relocated them to a semidesert-like area. Twenty years later they comprised a city of eighty-one hundred people with some of the best social indicators in the country. Illiteracy declined from an index of 5.8 to 3.8, infant mortality was reduced to a lower than average rate of 67 per 1,000, and registration in basic education grew to a better than average 98 percent. The variable that explains this, according to Santana, is culture, which enables the consolidation of citizenship founded on active participation of the population. The majority of the people came from the highlands of Peru and maintained their indigenous cultural customs, communal work, and solidarity, which provided those characteristics that lead to development. Santana compared these characteristics to the civic and cultural traditions that, according to Robert Putnam (1993), enabled a northern Italian region to prosper. Consequently, if it could be shown, he added, that culture produces the patterns of trust, cooperation, and social interaction that result in a more vigorous economy, more democratic and effective government, and fewer social problems, then MDBs will be likely to invest in cultural development projects.
There are, of course, tens of thousands of cultural projects in any given country. How does a funder like the IADB decide on which to invest? Mechanisms of compensation and incentive need to be designed, argued Santana (1999), to generate confidence that there will be a return to investors. These mechanisms would function as an alternative to price. What kind of rationality can economic agents rely on for investment in culture? What kind of structure of incentives will get results? Incentives, he added, can provide a stable environment for private investment in culture, rather than the episodic character of private investment in culture. Moreover, the cultural funding model must be limited to specific segments of culture because the demand for resources is great and because only those likely to produce returns will be funded. In this scenario, Santana cautioned, "culture for culture's sake," whatever that may be, will never be funded, unless it provides an indirect form of return.
Excerpted from The expediency of culture by George Yudice Excerpted by permission.
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|1||The Expediency of Culture||9|
|2||The Social Imperative to Perform||40|
|3||The Globalization of Culture and the New Civil Society||82|
|4||The Funkification of Rio||109|
|5||Parlaying Culture into Social Justice||133|
|6||Consumption and Citizenship?||160|
|7||The Globalization of Latin America: Miami||192|
|8||Free Trade and Culture||214|
|9||Producing the Cultural Economy: The Collaborative Art of inSITE||287|