The Value of Culture: On the Relationship between Economics and Arts

The Value of Culture: On the Relationship between Economics and Arts

The Value of Culture: On the Relationship between Economics and Arts

The Value of Culture: On the Relationship between Economics and Arts


Culture manifests itself in everything human, including the ordinary business of everyday life. Culture and art have their own value, but economic values are also constrained. Art sponsorships and subsidies suggest a value that exceeds market price. So what is the real value of culture? Unlike the usual focus on formal problems, which has 'de-cultured' and 'de-moralized' the practice of economics, this book brings together economists, philosophers, historians, political scientists and artists to try to sort out the value of culture. This is a book not only for economists and social scientists, but also for anybody actively involved in the world of the arts and culture.


Antoon van den Braembussche

The re-introduction of value into the discussion runs into conceptual problems right away. For what is value? and what does culture stand for in the "value of culture." This part combines three, mainly philosophical, explorations of these conceptual issues. Antoon Van den Braembussche starts off probing the concept of value. the influence of deconstructionist thinking will show in his tendency to turn the concept inside out and bring out its multiple meanings. in the end he calls attention to manifestations of the sublime which would not only make measurement impossible but would render the application of the notion of value pointless.

Antoon Van den Braembussche is a philosopher of history and art. He teaches at the Erasmus University. His latest book is Denken over Kunst (Bussum: Dick Coutinho, 1994, English translation forthcoming) which is an introduction to the philosophy of art.

IN his inaugural speech "The value of culture" (see chapter 1) Arjo Klamer set the tone for the discussion during the conference that led to this volume. After exploring the economic way of thinking, in which art and culture are valued exclusively in terms of commodity and measurement, Arjo Klamer expressed the need to correct the economists' perspective. the conventional economists' perspective is too single-minded and tends to devalue important distinctive features of art and culture. One important feature of art is its ambiguity: it represents problems of meaning without solving them. This essential ambiguity explains why aesthetic experience is an experience of wonderment. Another important feature of culture is the intrinsic role of reciprocity in human relationships, which is embedded in values that are "beyond measure". Both features are wholly neglected by conventional economics, which reduces cultural goods, paintings and performances to commodities and their values to prices. This commodification of culture and art misses the point completely: "Art as activity and as experience has a value that is beyond measure and therefore clashes with the form of money" (p. 25 in this volume {Klamer, 1995, 308}).

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