The Future of the Privatization of Culture

Linked with Nestor Garcia Canclini – Mexico, and with Policies for Cultural Creativity.

Conference Summary by Nestor Garcia Canclini, Published April 1998 – Translated by George Yudice. (

Excerpt: … A Completed Modernity? – To evaluate this recent change, it is necessary to review at least briefly the four major tendencies of the modern project. Firstly, that project aspired to an emancipatory process through the secularization of the cultural fields: once art, culture, science and technology were liberated from religious and metaphysical guidance, the future was imagined as the self-expressive and self-regulated expression of the practices of individuals and societies.

Secondly, modernity aspired to the combined expansion of all individuals and all societies. Through the increasing knowledge and possession of nature, and the diffusion of material and symbolic commodities to all of society, it was hoped that human potential would be expanded.

Scientific advances, mass education and industrial development were crucial resources in this endeavor. Some put more emphasis on the State as the main promoter, others had greater confidence in free competition among individuals, corporations and countries. In general, however, most observers coincided in seeing the process as an ensemble of actions that took individuals as basic the most basic elements and the nation state as the horizon of the space in which development took place.

A third feature of the project of modernity was the tendency to continual renewal. The goal was to attain constant betterment and innovation in a suitable relation with nature and society such that they would be liberated from any sacred prescriptions on how the world should be. Hence the importance of what Octavio Paz called the “tradition of rupture”: the break with traditional knowledge in the field of science, with the history of representations in art, and with cultural and social conventions in design, customs, and fashion.

Finally, modernity included a project of democratization. It was hoped that the dissemination of specialized knowledges through education, and the socialization of artistic creativity and mass mediated entertainment would lead to a rational and moral evolution shared by all men and women.

3. Jurgen Habermas and others have explained how these four projects of modernity entered into conflict in their very development. Some of us have analyzed the visual arts as an exemplary setting for the emergence of the contradictions of modernity: the tension between, on the one hand, the drive toward autonomy, creative renewal and incessant expansion, and, on the on the other, the restrictions through which the art market – also a product of modernity – limits individualist differentiation, autonomy and creative expansion. This tension is also manifest in the drive toward democratization, which is also understood as the socialization of knowledges, commodities and creative talents (Bourdieu, Becker, Brunner, García Canclini). Let me turn now to the mechanisms of the project of modernity that are in a process of disappearing. It is necessary, in this regard, to add a third instance of cultural production, circulation and consumption to those of the State and the market: the community … (Read the whole on

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