It says about itself:
7 January 2012
The full epoisode from the Open University.
By Mike Quille and Ben Stevenson in Britain:
‘Art offers meaning beyond markets‘
Tuesday 12th January 2016
MIKE QUILLE and BEN STEVENSON introduce a new hub of art, literature and critical thought for the digital age – and invite readers to join in
Cuts to funding, the closure of local arts venues and privatisation of the culture sector by the Tories are part of a drive to both further commodify and commercialise culture and place it out of the reach of the working class.
But art and culture also play a vital role in the battle of ideas. Our ability to convey progressive political ideas through art, music, film, literature, poetry and other forms of human expression strengthens and enriches our movement and is a powerful and attractive way of mobilising support for socialism.
But the organic connection between art and the left runs even deeper. Art, and many cultural activities such as sport and religion, have the potential to provide comfort, entertainment and recreation for the oppressed and downtrodden. But they can also express suffering, discontent and protest.
Most dangerously — from the viewpoint of ruling classes throughout history — they provide a counter and challenge to dominant ways of thinking and feeling. They can inspire hope for change, envision alternatives, and rehearse personal and political revolution. Plato and Aristotle both wrestled with how to contain the subversive power of art in a class-divided society, as have kings, priests and governments ever since.
The arts are naturally subversive because they help develop and liberate us fully as human beings, which capitalism fails to do.
They please the senses, stimulate the mind, arouse our emotions and inspire us. They are a collective human expression of organised, shared emotion, communicating shared values and enhancing and deepening human communication and consciousness.
They help develop human capacity to think, to feel, to dream and to play, and to live free of the shackles of class divisions. Understanding how human culture develops alongside our technological and economic development is vital to any understanding of politics, and for all those committed to fighting for a political alternative — “building Jerusalem,” as Blake calls it.
The arts thus inevitably involve political considerations, in their creation, production, circulation and consumption.
Cultural activities are also full of conflict and struggles over meaning, values and ideals, or “mental fight” as Blake calls it, with political dimensions. We can see easily, in religion, sport, science, and other areas, how politics and economics are enmeshed with culture.
Modern advanced capitalism in Britain — with its need for an educated workforce and high degree of technological innovation — creates enormous potential and possibilities for artistic and cultural creation, criticism and communication.
But at the same time, the drive for profit and the need to preserve the dominant ideas of the ruling class constrain the free creation and consumption of art and culture.
It also explains why leftist political parties are keen on art and culture. There is a sense of sharing a fundamentally identical project, which is to help liberate humanity, to help us freely reach our full individual and collective potential.
The Communist Party in particular has a long history of involvement with the cultural struggle against capitalism.
Its political programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, states that “the value of art and culture as a liberating force that can stimulate as well as stifle human development has to be fully appreciated. It is an important medium through which the values, notions, prejudices and thought processes that serve the interests of capitalism are challenged.”
Discussions between socialists, communists, artists and writers, including several contributors to the Morning Star, have now resulted in the launch of Culture Matters, www.culturematters.org.uk, shaped by the thinking outlined above.
The arts hub on the website will publish both creative and critical material covering all the arts. The culture hub will publish material on culture generally, and on specific cultural activities such as religion, science, sport, fashion, TV and the media.
Already we’ve seen a large number of contributors sign up to Culture Matters and a number of outstanding articles, essays, reviews and poems have been published, both for their own sake and as examples of the kind of material we wish to encourage and attract.
There are articles on William Blake himself, on cultural theory, and there are particularly strong sections on poetry, visual arts, and the links between religion and socialism. But it is still a kind of skeleton which we intend — with your help — to flesh out.
We want to show what a great tradition and appreciation there is on the left for art and culture. We want to present new creative material, alternative interpretations and perspectives on art and culture, and to help influence public discussion and policies. And last but not least, we want to entertain and enlighten users of the website. Because culture matters!
You’re very welcome to browse the site, let us know what you think and make a contribution.
Contributions are encouraged from anyone who has something to say about art and culture which contributes to our aims. Material or proposals should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.