In Revolution or Renaissance, D. Paul Schafer subjects two of the most powerful forces in the world economics and culture to a detailed and historically sensitive analysis. He argues that the economic age has produced a great deal of wealth and unleashed tremendous productive power; however, it is not capable of coming to grips with the problems threatening human and non-human life on this planet. After tracing the evolution of the economic age from the publication of Adam Smiths The Wealth of Nations in 1776 to the present, he turns his attention to culture, examining it both as a concept and as a reality. What emerges is a portrait of the world system of the future where culture is the central focus of development. According to Schafer, making the transition from an economic age to a cultural age is imperative if global harmony, environmental sustainability, economic viability, and human well-being are to be achieved.
D. PAUL SCHAFER has worked in the cultural field for four decades, undertaken a number of missions for UNESCO, and taught at York University and the University of Toronto. He is the author of many publications on culture and the arts, and is director of the World Culture Project.
ENDORSEMENT OF REVOLUTION OR RENAISSANCE
A unique power of Paul Schafers new book - Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age - is its comprehensive analysis of culture as a dominant force in global directions. He offers compelling arguments that the economic model guiding modern thinking must now be subsumed under a cultural model which provides a deeper and broader framework for grasping forces of today and tomorrow. This scholarly yet bold work helps strategically to orient us toward key contemporary issues.
James Peacock, author of The Anthropological Lens (Cambridge University Press, Revised Edition, 2001
REVIEW OF REVOLUTION OR RENAISSANCE
BY DR. JAMES PEACOCK, AUTHOR OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LENS AND PAST PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION
They know The price of everything, the value of nothing. Oscar Wilde, characterizing the market mentality
This magnificent and terribly important book has two parts:
THE AGE OF ECONOMICS and THE AGE OF CULTURE. The first begins with Adam Smith, The Wealth of NATIONS and traces the growth and influence of the market mentality as it has come to dominate the world. Schafer is very thorough and very balanced in telling this story and analyzing implications. In conclusion, he offers an excellent comparison of strengths and weaknesses of the market model: its huge achievements but also huge deficits.
The second part, THE AGE OF CULTURE, also is historically grounded, notably tracing the concept of culture back to the Romans, to Herder, and others, but the main emphasis is on the systematic power of the culture model to transform and save humanity. Here he expands the idea of culture to affirm its organic potential. Especially he is concerned to show how it includes the idea of ecology. If economy forces by its logic destruction of the earth (and one might imagine he would be critical of efforts at sustainable development where market incentives prompt ecology to a point but arguably only to a point), culture by its logic invites a more organic and holistic way of life that utilizes the marketplace where appropriate but is also grounded in life space and meaning as opposed to profit alone. A great strength of this argument and its presentation is that it is comprehensive. The authors knowledge is vast and he succeeds better than anyone I know in synthesizing this knowledge in a compelling argument that leads to a conclusion that has powerful implications. We must change!
What counter-arguments can be made? A wide spectrum are likely, from the right and from the left. From the right will come the usual claims about the power of the marketplace. He has already anticipated and answered these, calmly agreeing with claims for results but showing how those results, viewed in a broader, more systematic perspective are on balance negative in crucial respects. From the left will also arise a spectrum of counter-arguments. Start with those economists who critique the inequality of wealth and class in the world and propose strategies to reduce that inequality. Paul Colliers THE BOTTOM BILLION is perhaps the best of these analyses currently, but the problem with this analysis is the problem with other primarily economic strategies and that is all that is left out, including effect on the environment. Proceed to cultural critics. Culture itself is critiqued from many angles. It is imperialistic, paternalistic, simplistic, essentialistic, etc. Throw it out, choose something else such as identity, history, or some more specific less baggage-laden term. The problem with these critiques is that they throw away a comprehensive and somewhat comprehensible and increasingly known concept for others that lack these powers. The proof is in the pudding. One must assess the merits of Schafers argument and, if one dismisses the term culture, try another but only pursue it if it does the job. Dismiss any term, choose a process instead of a concept? Fine, but do not forget the larger and most crucial process of all, which is to save humanity by moving from the age of economics to something else, here characterized as the age of culture.
My main concern is not with the argument itself which, on the whole, I find compelling, but with how to disseminate it. Schafers book is subdued: a clear, comprehensive statement which I wish every thinker and leader would read. But how to get this message out? A quick perusal of airport bookshops shows a large section on business and no section for this kind of humanistic thought. University press books are virtually absent. One avenue to influence is organizations. Here the market/media industry trumps everything and the kinds of cells and study groups that have incubated revolutions are too slow for the urgent needs for change in our society. Al Gore tried rock concerts for global warming. The best bet for this book might be to hitch this cultural transformation to the movement toward environmental change. In any case, step one is: read this book.