O Intermitente<br> (So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good-bye)

O Intermitente
(So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good-bye)

terça-feira, outubro 28, 2003

The Market for Culture

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization claims that "cultural goods and services ... are different from other goods and services, and deserve different and/or exceptional treatment that sets them apart from standardised mass consumption." French President Jacques Chirac has argued that "creative works cannot be reduced to the rank of ordinary merchandise."

Yet the very vitality of the American film, music, and publishing industries makes it obvious that these can be, and indeed are, thought of as "ordinary merchandise." Critics of American cultural exports come off sounding like parents telling their children to eat their spinach because it's good for them. The culture nannies are dismayed that the tastes of the masses don't match their own.

Advocates of cultural protectionism ignore, intentionally or not, the voluntary role of consumers in the popularity of American culture. Disney cannot force Indonesians to watch The Lion King instead of a shadow-puppet play, nor can Warner Bros. require Nigerians to buy Madonna's CDs instead of King Sunny Ade's. One reason American cultural products do well overseas is because people prefer them to the existing options. The French government requires theaters to show at least 60 percent European films. This makes me wonder just how popular these movies really are (though I enjoy many myself).


Cultural exchange is not one-way, from the West to the rest. European and American electronic dance music often has strong Middle Eastern and Indian elements. Montana State University has an orchestra devoted to Indonesian gamelan music. Persian rugs, Hong Kong films, and African music are all popular in the U.S.

Why should cultures not be allowed to change, to interact and "compete" with other nations' expressions? Competition fosters resilience, diversity, and innovation. When government protects or controls a market, quality deteriorates and choices shrink. This applies to both the commercial and cultural realms.

A healthy "marketplace of ideas" encourages debate and the development of new ideas; restricting it leads to dogmatism and the repression of dissent. If culture is "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group" (per Webster's ), then "protecting" it by government fiat reeks of censorship and propaganda

posted by Miguel Noronha 4:53 da tarde

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"A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom."

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