14 Jan 2013

A barren cultural landscape: causes and solutions

When we talk about barren cultural landscapes what do we actually mean? Are we suggesting there is a lack of culture? Or do we mean the outcomes of said culture are somehow undesirable or negative (from a certain perspective)?

I hear about how modern culture is hollow, eaten out by rampant individualism. I hear about how consumerism has made society devoid of culture, a desolate cultural landscape.

It would seem though that culture is not really lacking. Whenever people interact they create culture. We create the rules, norms, mores that govern our actions, our attitudes, and even our values. So there is no lack of culture in our institutions and our society.

Take our higher education institutions as an example. They say our university’s academic culture have been weakened by instrumentalism brought about by increasing accountability, capitalism, and outcome-based funding structures.

The norms, rules and expectations are no less present than they ever were. But they are perhaps less productive, not serving the ideals we hold for higher education institutions.

Many people seem to have trouble distinguishing between the source, form and consequences of social phenomenon. In this case the source of culture is still present (and may or may not be weakened by the ‘information age’), the form of culture is still present, but the manifestations or consequences of that culture (form) are somewhat undesirable or less than ideal.

With this understanding it is clear why it is important to change the culture of many of our institutions, and the means to make these changes should also be clear. What contributes to rules, norms, mores that govern our actions?

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