Democracy and the Arts: The Role of Participation

By Terri Lynn Cornwell | Go to book overview

3
Participation in the Arts: A Historical Perspective

This chapter provides two views of how the frequency and kind of individual participation in the arts have varied throughout history: a systems-approach "snapshot" of various societies and a longitudinal view of history by looking at cycles of participation. Both views can help us to begin an examination of changes in participatory patterns and how they relate to a society at a particular time.

The ideas of social theorist Talcott Parsons provide a stepping stone for the discussion of social systems and establish the foundation for a later discussion using the systems approach. Parsons looked at society from an action frame of reference where individuals interact "under such conditions that it is possible to treat such a process of interaction as a system in the scientific sense and subject it to the same order of theoretical analysis which has been successfully applied to other types of systems in other sciences." 1

He defined three classes of objects: social, physical, and cultural. A social object is an actor who can respond or interact; a physical object is an empirical entity that cannot respond or interact; and a cultural object is a symbolic element of the society, of ideas, or of beliefs. When enough interaction has occurred to be able to differentiate to a cultural level, a social system has developed. This system

consists in a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect, actors who are motivated in terms of a tendency to the "optimization of gratification" and whose relation to their situations, including each other, is defined and mediated in terms of a system of culturally structured and shared symbols. 2

The stability of the system is maintained by a communications process that shares the symbolic system and forms a "cultural tradi-

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Democracy and the Arts: The Role of Participation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Democracy and the Arts: An American Perspective 1
  • Notes 9
  • 2 - Democratic Theory: General Considerations 11
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - Participation in the Arts: A Historical Perspective 31
  • Notes 45
  • 4 - Participatory Democracy and the Arts 49
  • Notes 76
  • 5 - Democracy and the Arts in Ancient Greece 83
  • Notes 89
  • 6 - Nineteenth-Century American Democracy and the Arts 93
  • Notes 103
  • 7 - Twentieth-Century American Democracy 107
  • Notes 119
  • 8 - Participation in the Arts: Mid-Twentieth Century America 123
  • Notes 158
  • 9 - The Role of Participation: Implications and Recommendations 165
  • Notes 185
  • Appendices 189
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 209
  • About the Author *
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