The reality is that democracy needs the arts more than the arts need democracy. The arts have flourished under tyranny and authoritarianism where, though he may generally be in for a rough ride, the artist is always firmly grounded in his freedom, independence, and critical imagination. And although the arts do not need democracy, and they may sometimes even be paralyzed by it, democracy sorely needs the arts. Without a vibrant arts culture, democracy cannot flourish, perhaps it cannot even survive. Apart from the relevant gift and technique, freedom, stubbornness, autonomy, eccentricity and rebelliousness turn out to be the characteristics we most look for in the well functioning artist, as well as in the well functioning citizen. Democracy offers a home for the contrarian virtues that are indispensable to democratic life and that make markets possible.Hmm. What do you all think?
Monday, September 26, 2011
Democracy needs the arts: but do the arts need democracy?
I've been reading some essays in the Spring/Summer issue of Salmagundi, collectively presented as a symposium titled "Good Art/Bad Art: Is There A Difference?" At the end of Benjamin Barber's "Patriotism, Autonomy and Subversion" [yikes, Salmagundi apparently can't make up its mind on whether or not to use the serial comma!], Barber concludes: