Art + Economics

Towards a Cultural Ecology

In this age, increasingly shaped by communications and technology, humanity is becoming acutely sensitive to its frail security. The rationalism of science continues to accelerate the conflict between global mind and local body. Energy and information are now our major exchangeable natural resources. They constitute the primary components of the value system in a newly emerging economic structure.

Within the broad framework of information theory, the arts are recognized for their communicative efficiency and transcendence. The processes of creativity, though elusive, have lead mankind through historical mazes of uncertainty. In an information based society, cultural development may assume an economic value comparable to that of the military in an industrialized society. Having learned to recognize the complex ecological interdependence of living systems and the environment, artists ought now to produce models of a sustaining cultural ecology.

State of the Arts

The arts, reflecting the state of the larger political, economic and social environment, are in serious trouble.

Too many artists are playing it safe, today. The role of the arts in this society, is now largely shaped by confused intellectualism; selfish, vested-interest capitalism; and absent-minded, fashionably crafted artificiality. There must be more.

There is, of course. There are many artists and cultural institutions working with deep, sincere integrity and dedication. Their creative life, admittedly, is proceeding at odds with a more dominant social momentum. Their perseverance and efforts are to be encouraged.

This essay, however, hopes to provoke thought and discussion aimed at clarifying certain issues that are at the core of our human-environment relationship; and at the heart of our valuation of culture and creative action, for a more intelligent and sustainable society. There is a need and an all-important opportunity for creative people, artists, to take full advantage of the great independence and freedom inherent in their calling, to take a more active personal responsibility to be proponents of a true sense of ecology; a cultural ecology.


A DECEPTION IS BEING PERPETRATED.
IT IS NOT AN OVERT DECEPTION.
IT IS NOT A COVERT DECEPTION.
IT IS THE EVOLUTION OF MISCONCEPTION.

Economics

There is no denying the miraculous evolutionary history of our belief systems, but our current political economies, fictions of ideology, have become an unmanageable misunderstanding of life, sustaining resources and values.

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, etc. are political contrivances; catch-phrases that deny a comprehensive knowledge of the value of human life and work in a complex and dynamic universe. They are, more directly, sophisticated systems for social control. Intellectual impositions on society-as-system, they do not adequately account for turbulence, random effects or failure. These systems are, in fact, the antithesis of true freedom and democracy; social concepts and goals that ought to carry a profound responsibility for us to be more creatively intelligent and humane.

Our cultural economy is an integral part of, and merely mimics the problems and inconsistencies of the larger economy. In assessing our circumstances, actions and intents, it becomes clear that the socio-economic bottom line is invariably tied to 'quality of life.'

Society is experiencing accelerated, consumer-driven, global, post-industrial, technological communications development. Often labeled the 'Information Revolution', this evolutionary force is largely supported by a military-industrial power base, and is steered by a selfishly motivated, catch-up minded technocratic elite. Though not a singular conspiracy, the results of this evolutionary tragedy-of-errors is that increasing populations of people around the world are confused and frightened by newly emerging class differences and social controls, while being torn from their sense of culture, and knowledge of place.

This 'Information Revolution' is a sham.


Ecology

No seriously intelligent person can dispute what we now know about ecology. The complexity of the chaotically dynamic processes that encompass our lives, imposes a dire need for us to reconsider economic relationships and social values. Some economists are now attempting to understand and to propose a new sense of values; new economic theories, based upon our knowledge of ecological processes. With the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and Entropy as its underpinnings, this new thinking is beginning to have real and immediate effect among 'green' environmental workers. It has had little broad recognition or effect outside of this interest group, however. Much of humanity, attempting mainly to survive, does not have the resources or the time to consider such 'stuff'; and many of the rest of us, unfortunately, have a very limited grasp of our human relationship to nature. To a great extent, our 'myth-understandings' are the result of intellectual entrainment, induced by hierarchical social systems (governments, religions, schools, companies).

The proponents of 'ecological economics' seem not to comprehend the big picture yet, either. While their theories are 'right on the money' regarding the 'green' matter-energy environment, they have hardly considered the 'information environment' in their attempts to better manage this household.

The study and practice of ecology must take into full account the energy-information flux to, from, and on the Earth. Information, thus considered, poses difficult questions as to its potentially increasing physical and social influence, and as to a determination of its value within the broader economic sphere. An economy-ecology of information is as critical to life as that of watersheds, air quality, forests or migrating populations. Understandably, there is little support for research that might tend to undermine the existing economic order. Properly considered, ecological economics takes full account of value: use value, exchange value, and inherent value.


AN INFORMATION REVOLUTION IS BEING WAGED
IT IS AN ECONOMIC AND TERRITORIAL WAR
BETWEEN POWER AND SERVITUDE,
BETWEEN HAVE AND HAVE NOT,
BETWEEN KNOWLEDGE AND CONFUSION.
CLOAKED IN DECEPTION,
IT IS WAGED BY A VESTED INTEREST
IN NEGATIVE ENTROPY;
FUELED BY A THERMODYNAMIC LIE.

The Energy