Wednesday, January 03, 2018

In the Civilization of the Spectacle

In an open society, even if culture maintains its independence from official concerns, it is inevitable and necessary that culture and politics are connected and interact. Not just because the state, without impinging on creative and critical freedom, should support and promote cultural activities - above all by preserving and promoting cultural heritage - but also because culture should exert an influence over political life, submitting it to a continual critical evaluation and inculcating it with values to prevent it from being degraded. Unfortunately, in the civilization of the spectacle, the influence that culture exerts over politics does not help it to maintain certain standards of excellence and integrity, but instead contributes to its moral and civic decline, stimulating its worst aspects, including, for example, bad acting. In the prevailing culture, politics has been increasingly replacing ideas and ideals, intellectual debate and programmes, with mere publicity and an obsession with physical appearance. As a consequence, popularity and success are achieved not so much through intelligence or probity as through demagogy and a talent for histrionics, We are thus left with the curious paradox that while in authoritarian societies it is politics that corrupt and degrade culture, in modern democracies it is culture - or what usurps the name - that corrupts and degrades politics and politicians.

- From Notes on the Death of Culture by Mario Vargas Llosa

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