The Arts:

Consumption Skills in the Post-Modern Economy

Harry Hillman Chartrand ©

Journal of Art & Design Education 6 (1),, 1987, 35-50.



The Demographic Revolution                                         

                Rising levels of education                               

                Increasing participation of women                

                Aging of the Population                                 

The Changing Nature of Consumption                        

                The narrowcast marketplace                          



                Consumer Research                                         

                The Re-Decade                                                 

Education through the arts                                             

                New technologies                                             

                New production skills                                      

                Productivity of an aging workforce               





I am an economist, an economist who believes that the future economy will be an economy of quality.  Furthermore, I believe it will be mainly through the study of the arts that the economics profession will begin to understand the nature and impact of quality in the emerging economy.  Fundamental changes are altering the contemporary economy.  Some are readily apparent, for example, ‘High Tech’ and low wage ‘off-shore’ production in Third World countries.  But beneath the glittering surface of new technology and the ‘de-industrialisation’ of First World countries, there are profound demographic changes which are shaping what I call the ‘Post-Modern Economy’.

I use the term ‘Post-Modern’ in preference to the more usual ‘post-industrial’ for two reasons.  First, industrial production, in the opinion of most observers, will continue to play a significant role in future economic growth and development.  Accordingly, ‘post-industrial’ is simplistic and an inappropriate label to describe the emerging economic reality.  Second, at present no school of economic thought enjoys widespread public confidence.  The success of the world economy from the Second World War through the early 1970s led most economists and politicians to accept the Keynsian creed that government intervention was the ultimate guarantor of growth and development.  By the mid-1970s, however, stagflation, recession, the oil crisis, and growth of public sector debt created a crisis of confidence, a crisis predicted by Keynes himself (Shackle, 1967, 129).

Today various economic theories and dogma compete for attention and acceptance.  To an extent, the 1980s are a time of ‘cultural counter-reformation’, a period in which many are trying to resuscitate traditional values and beliefs swept away by the turbulent ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960s, and the economic crisis of the 1970s.

In fact, popular confidence in economic theory has been shattered, a situation similar to that in contemporary architecture in which the certainties of the ‘modern’ or international style have been replaced by an eclecticism of style and design known as ‘Post-Modern Architecture’.  By analogy, I believe we have entered the era of Post-Modern Economics, an era without a generally accepted dogma, an era in which we must begin a long trek for economic truth and understanding, and public confidence.


In this paper I outline, with special reference to Canada, the fundamental demographic changes transforming the economy, and I will demonstrate the relationship of these changes to increasing participation in the arts.  Second, I will show how consumption for all goods and services is changing in response to the shifting population profile.  Finally, I will illustrate ways in which education through art can enhance production skills required in a Post-Modern Economy.  Before proceeding, however, let me define what I mean by the arts.  In my opinion, there are three distinct segments of contemporary art, namely the fine arts, the commercial arts, and the amateur arts.  In each, the creative source is the individual artist.  The fine arts are a professional activity which serves ‘art for art’s sake’ just as ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake’ is the rationale for ‘pure research’ in the sciences (Chartrand, 1980).  The commercial arts are a profit-making activity which places profit before excellence.  The amateur arts are a ‘recreational’ activity that serves to re-create the ability of a worker to do his or her job, or a ‘leisure’ activity that serves to ‘self-actualise’ a citizen’s creative potential, and thereby permits him or her to more fully appreciate life.

Each art activity is intimately interrelated.  The amateur arts, in actualising the talents and abilities of the individual citizen, provide an educated audience and initial training for the fine and the commercial arts.  The fine arts, in the pursuit of artistic excellence as an end in and of itself, provide research and development for the commercial arts.  The commercial arts, in the pursuit of profit, provide the means to market and distribute the best of the amateur and the fine arts to an audience large enough and in a form suited to earn a profit.  Collectively, these three make up the arts industry including advertising, broadcasting, motion pictures, the performing and visual arts, publishing, sound, and video recording.  Compared with manufacturing industries, the Canadian arts industry in 1982 was the largest with full-time employment of more than 234,280; the 6th largest with salaries and wages of $2.8 billion; and the 9th largest with revenue of $8.5 billion or 2.5% of Gross National Product (Research & Evaluation, August 1985).


The demographic revolution

Research conducted around the world has identified three fundamental demographic changes that are transforming the economy, and which are contributing to an enormous growth in the arts audience.  These changes are rising levels of education, increasing participation of women, and ageing of the population (McCaughey, 1984).


Rising levels of education

The average level of education has risen dramatically in the last generation.  In 1961, approximately 11% of adult Canadians had some post-secondary education compared with almost one-third in 1985.  By the end of this century, it is projected to be almost 40%.


Within the labour force, i.e., taxpayers, the average level of education is forecast to grow even faster.  Between 1977 and the year 2000, members of the labour force with at least some post-secondary education will double from 3.4 million, or 32% of the labour force, to 6.7 million, or 45% of the Canadian labour force (Research & Evaluation, August 1985, 2).

Studies conducted around the world, and across Canada, indicate that the fine arts audience is characterised by high levels of education (McCaughey, 1984).  A proxy for the size of the fine arts audience is the number of adult Canadians who have at least some post-secondary education.  Accordingly, the fine arts audience no longer constitutes a small statistical ‘elite’.  Rather it represents a significant plurality of the adult population at present, and by the year 2000 it will represent almost half of all taxpayers, taxpayers who are the most socially active, politically aware, and economically powerful members of society.

The impact of rising levels of education can also be seen in the growth rate in participation in alternative leisure time activities.  Between 1977 and 1985 the adult population grew at an average annual rate of 1.6%.  Participation in arts-related activities grew significantly faster, in fact significantly faster than all other leisure-time activities.  Attendance at museums and art galleries grew at an average annual rate of 2.6%; use of libraries at 2.4%; and attendance at live theatre at an average annual rate of 2.1%.  On the other hand, attendance at sports events increased at an average annual rate of 1.3%, and television viewing at 1.4% (Research & Evaluation, August 1985, 3).  Through to the year 2000, growth in arts participation will continue to exceed growth in both the adult population, and alternative leisure activities.


Increasing participation of women

The second significant demographic trend during the last generation has been the entry of women into the economic and political life of the community.  This has had a dramatic impact on family structure and employment patterns.  In 1971, one household in three was the traditional one in which the wife stayed home with the children; by 1981 only one household in five fitted this description.  It is expected that the 1986 Census will have shown a further substantial decline.  By 1985, more than 70% of Canadians were employed in the service sector.  This represented a 31% increase in service jobs in a decade.  There was virtually no employment growth in manufacturing during the same period.  The growth in service sector employment contributed to the increasing participation of women in the work force, which rose from 42% in 1973 to 54% in 1985 and is forecast to reach 57% by 1995 (Anderson, 1986, B2).

Women in North America have traditionally been considered the carriers or guardians of culture.  In fact, next to level of education, sex is the best demographic indicator of arts participation in North America.  Women tend to be more exposed to, and


involved in, arts and creative activity in childhood than men, thus forming an adult taste for the arts.  In North America, women generally make up 60% of the audience.  This sex bias, however, is not apparent in Europe where the arts audience is roughly 50% male and 50% female (McCaughey, 1984, 4).  Another indication of the important role of women in the arts can be seen through three comparisons of women’s employment in the labour force as a whole and in arts-related employment.  First, according to the 1981 Canadian Census, women represented 40% of the labour force but almost 50% of the arts industry labour force.  Second, 48% of all women in the labour force had some post-secondary education compared with 65% of women employed in the arts industry.  Third, only 1% of women in the labour force had a Master’s Degree, while 11% of women with Masters’ degrees were employed in the arts industry.  In fact, no sector is as dominated by women as the arts industry.  No car company or major manufacturing firm, to my knowledge, has been founded by a woman.  But many ballet and theatre companies, galleries and music festivals have been founded by women.

Accordingly, the domed sports stadiums being built around the country today appeal to a part of the population which, at least in relative terms, is of declining political and economic importance, i.e., young males.  It is opera houses, galleries, and other cultural facilities which should form the basis of the political ‘edifice complex’ if politicians wish to appeal to the increasingly important women’s constituency.  The increasing role of women in the economy and politics will, I believe, in and of itself, lead to increasing political and economic recognition of arts and culture.


Ageing of the population

It is widely known that the demographic structure of Western countries is being fundamentally altered by the ageing of the ‘baby boom’ generation.  In fact, by 1996, nearly 8 million Canadians will be over 50 years of age, and this age bracket will represent 28% of the population, up from 22% in 1976.  The over-65 age group will account for 13% of Canadians in 1996 compared to 9% in 1976.  There will also be a 7% decline in the number of people under 35 (Anderson, June 19, 1986, B2).

It is not generally recognised, however, that after education and sex, age is the best demographic indicator of participation in most arts-related activities.  The older one grows the more likely one is to participate in arts-related activities, at least up to retirement age (McCaughey, 1984, 6).  If compulsory retirement at age 65 is abolished and the work week continues to decline, then older members of our society will have even more time and financial means to participate in arts-related activities.  This trend will, of course, be reinforced as the highly educated baby-boom generation of the 1950s and 1960s becomes the ‘geriatric boom’ after the year 2000.

In summary, three fundamental changes in the profile of the


population - increasing levels of education, increasing participation of women, and ageing of the population - are all contributing to a change in the nature and pattern of the economy, including a rapid increase in participation in arts-related activities.


The changing nature of consumption

These three fundamental demographic changes are also having a dramatic impact on the nature and pattern of consumption in the general economy, which, in turn, has a relationship with the arts.  Demographic changes are altering consumption habits of the population, and the marketing behaviour of producers in five ways.  First, there is the emergence of the ‘narrowcast’ as opposed to the ‘mass’ market.  Second, there is the growing importance of design in the sale of goods and services.  Third, there is the changing nature of advertising.  Fourth, there is the increasing role of the arts in consumer research.  Fifth, there is now near universal access to the fashions and styles of previous historical periods, a phenomenon which has been called the ‘Re-Decade’ (Shale, March 1986).


The narrowcast marketplace

The emergence of the ‘narrowcast’ market is the most significant marketing development of the 1970s and 1980s.  The growth of numerically small, but economically viable markets has resulted from an unprecedented average level of education, an unparalleled division and specialisation of labour, and an unrivalled degree of urbanisation.  If the industrial revolution produced standardisation throughout society, then what Alvin Toffier has called the ‘Third Wave’ is reversing the process.  There is a rising level of diversity, a ‘de-massification’ of the marketplace with more sizes, models and styles, a ‘de-massification’ of tastes, political views and values (Toffier, 1979).

Fragmentation of the ‘mass market’ which dominated the post-war economy has had significant implications for producers, implications which were driven home by two recent recessions with their stranglehold on consumer spending.  This forced producers to try to understand what made the domestic market tick.  They soon discovered that demographic and lifestyle changes had delivered a death blow to mass marketing and brand loyalty.  A North American economy that once shared homogeneous buying tastes had been splintered into many different consumer groups - each with special and differing needs and interests (Business Week, November 21, 1983).

Among First World nations, the emergence of the narrowcast marketplace can also be identified with two developments, one technologic; the other demographic.  First, there is the introduction of cable and Pay TV services which has fragmented the traditional, lowest-common-denominator broadcasting systems of North America during the last decade, and which promises to do


the same to European broadcasting in this decade.  It is from this development that the term narrowcasting has been derived.  Second, there has been the emergence of a new class of consumer, the ‘Yuppies’, i.e., young, upwardly mobile professionals.  This group is attracting the attention of both producers and politicians (Business Week, July 2, 1984, 52-62).  In essence, the Yuppie is a consumer with a high level of education and income who demands high quality, sophisticated, and often unique or specialised goods and services.  It is also the Yuppies with whom we can identify the rapid increase in arts participation during the last generation.

And it is also the arts which serve as the historical leitmotif for the general market trend towards differentiation in consumer taste.  Examples of highly differentiated taste in the fine arts can be seen in alternative styles of painting such as impressionist vs. expressionist vs. realist vs. abstract vs. conceptual vs. minimalist painting.  What is a prize to one collector is valueless to another.  Manufacturers and other producers are learning from the experience of the fine arts to succeed in the narrowcast marketplace. As noted by former CBS president, Frank Stanton

the essential values of the public are most clearly evident, and in some instances only, in the arts - in music, the drama and the dance, in architecture and design and in the literature of the times.  It is through knowledge of peoples’ values that corporate marketers know what goods and services to provide and how to motivate consumers to buy their products (Seliner, 1982).



In both the United States and Canada, higher quality consumer products tend to come from abroad, particularly from Europe.  Why?  Given that capital plant and equipment in North America is as good as that in Europe, the answer is not superior European production technology.  In fact, it results from a feedback between skilled consumption and production.  As noted by Tibor Scitovsky in his path-breaking book, The Joyless Economy, the North American

buyer of European imports benefits from the high standards which careful European shoppers’ finicky demand imposes on their producers; he does not have to be a careful shopper himself.  In other words, he can be what is known as a free rider, enjoying the benefits of other people’s careful shopping without paying his share of the cost, in terms of time and effort, that careful and aggressive shopping involves.  That explains why producers find it unprofitable to cater to his demand by trying to out-compete high-quality imports, despite the often exorbitant price they fetch.  Consumers seem willing to pay a high price, in terms of money, for the reputation of European imports; that is we pay cash to obtain high quality without having to pay for it in terms of careful shopping (Scitovsky, 1976, 178).


When the design advantage of European producers, and increasingly that of Japanese producers of consumer electronics, is combined with the wage advantage of offshore or Third World producers, then the North American producer is left with a narrowing mid-range product.  This combination of design and wage disadvantages may explain the apparent ‘de-industrialisation’ of North America.  Improved productivity through robotics and other new technologies may lower costs of production, but only improved design will secure for North American producers part of the growing Yuppie market.  The importance of consumer feedback to producers in generating a more competitive Canadian economy was recently highlighted in the final report of the MacDonald Royal Commission (Royal Commission, 1985, 115).

The importance of enhanced design is beginning to become apparent to some major North American corporations including SCM, Teledyne, Black & Decker, and J. C. Penney.  This change reflects a ‘bottom-line’ awareness that if a consumer does not like the way a product looks, then he or she may never get close enough to find out how well it performs, and therefore there is no chance for a sale.  Growing awareness of the basic principle is resulting in increased recognition of the importance of industrial design and the role it plays in helping companies meet sales and marketing goals.  More and more marketers are now enlisting the aid of design consulting companies or setting up their own in-house design departments (Skolnik, October 1985, 46).

From where do design skills come?  They come from the arts.  Quoting again from the MacDonald Royal Commission

There is, then, another aspect to culture, namely good taste, good design and creative innovation, that should enable smaller industrial economies to compete effectively in the world economy... In this endeavour, higher quality implies an organic relationship between business and engineering, on the one hand, and design and craftsmanship, on the other… High-quality products, technologies, plants, homes, cities and locales require the presence of creative artists of all kinds.  To increase the long-run supply of artists... governments must support the artists and the arts.  The long-term return from investment in artists and the arts is real and substantial.  In the absence of strong public support of this sector, Canada will not reap these benefits.  Governments at all levels should increase their contribution to their respective arts councils (Royal Commission, 1985, 115—116).



It is generally forgotten that within the ecology of capitalist realism, advertising is the lubricant of the market economy. And advertising, to a great extent, is the application of the literary, media, performing and visual arts to selling goods and services.


Actors, dancers, singers, musicians, graphic artists, copy writers, and editors are employed to sell everything from fruit to nuts; from cars to computers; from beer to toilet paper.  In fact, the production cost of a one minute commercial on national American television equals or exceeds the cost of an hour-long episode of Dallas . In some cases, advertising and marketing expenditures of major corporations such as Proctor and Gamble account for more than 1/3 of total production costs of such undifferentiated consumer products as soap and shampoo.  These companies spend millions in advertising to differentiate their products, one from the other, even though in objective scientific terms there may be little to choose between them.

From where does advertising talent and technique come?  From the arts.  Thus with respect to design and advertising, the arts can be considered analogous to research and development in the physical sciences.  The arts in the Post-Modern Economy are no longer just a symbol, but also a source of national wealth.  The fine arts also play an increasingly direct role in the advertising and marketing strategies of corporations.  The ‘up-scale’ nature of the arts audience, i.e., high levels of education and income, is an attractive market for many corporations.  Corporations increasingly sponsor fine arts activities, not as charity but as a major marketing technique.  In this regard a recent survey by the Institute of Donations and Public Affairs Research (IDPAR) showed that 47% of corporations sponsored sports events, but 59% sponsored arts-related activities in 1984 (Hopkinson, November 1985, 61).

Sponsorship reflects the correspondence of a corporate target market and the arts audience.  Sponsorships are made from public relations, not from donations budgets.  Problems have, however, been reported.  Specifically, the control required by commercial sponsors to insure that public relations objectives are achieved, may, from time to time, clash with the artistic objectives of an arts organisation.  No dollar figures are currently available concerning the scale of corporate sponsorship of arts-related events and activities.


Consumer research

Beyond the role of the arts in advertising and marketing, trends in consumer research also suggests that the arts are playing an increasingly significant role in consumer research.  Many researchers have begun to question the dominance of the information processing model in consumer research.  This model essentially views consumer behaviour as a question of a consumer with a problem searching for information concerning the best product or service to solve his or her problem.  This model, however, is increasingly seen as neglecting important consumption phenomena such as playful leisure activities, sensory pleasures, day dreams, aesthetic enjoyment, and emotional responses.  Thus consumption is increasingly seen as involving a flow of fantasies, feelings and


fun.  This perspective regards consumption as a primarily subjective state of consciousness with a variety of symbolic meanings, hedonic responses, and aesthetic criteria (Holbrook, Hirschman, 1982).

Drawing upon the pioneering work of Holbrook at Columbia University, we can identify six differences between traditional consumer research and what has become known as consumer aesthetics.  These differences serve to highlight how the arts can enhance our understanding of consumer behaviour (Holbrook, 1986).  First, traditional consumer research focuses on the buying behaviour or purchasing decisions of consumers at the expense of studying the consumption experience.  By contrast, almost everyone accepts that aesthetic consumption entails an appreciative experience quite different from conventional market behaviour.  This experience may range from simple pleasure to profound responses comparable to self-transcending states of spiritual ecstasy (Holbrook, 1986, 4).  Second, conventional consumer theory generally assumes a means-end relationship between the purchase of a commodity and some end objective.  For example, one buys a hammer and nails to build a house.  By contrast, aesthetic experience is intrinsically motivated and produces intrinsic values as an end-in-itself, and pursued for its own sake (Holbrook, 1986, 5).

Third, consumer research generally views buying behaviour as a rational decision-making process that begins with a desired goal leading to an assessment of the efficacy of alternative means which then leads to the intentional act of buying a given product or service.  By contrast, aesthetic experience fits an arational paradigm of emotional reaction involving appreciative responses.  Though emotions may occasionally be brought under intentional self-control, they generally reflect nonintentional responses to uncontrolled aspects of the environment.  Such responses can be characterised as ‘being moved’.  Furthermore, an emotive response involves not only a reaction to cognitive elements but also physiological changes, expressive behaviour, and phenomenological feelings (Holbrook, 1986, 7).  Fourth, conventional research focuses on external factors affecting the exchange relationship such as price, advertising, distribution, support services, and consumer demographics.  By contrast, consumer aesthetics focuses on design factors internal to the product or event of interest such as tempo or complexity in visual design.

Fifth, traditional consumer research tends to use field-survey research to study the link between brand choices to external marketing variables such as price and packaging.  For example, on the shelf of a grocery store does red packaging sell better than blue?  By contrast, aesthetic responses can best be studied by techniques of laboratory experimentation, many of which were developed by psychologists (Holbrook, 1986, 9).  Finally, consumer research, as generally practised, tends to view a product or service as consisting of a series of distinct but additive components such as colour, weight, size, etc. By contrast, consumer


aesthetics provide a fertile ground in which to study interactive or configural phenomena.  Artworks are universally regarded as Gestalten in which all parts interact to produce a sense of organic wholeness or unity-in-variety.  Hence research on consumer aesthetics must focus not just on additive cues, but also on the overall impact of a product (Holbrook, 1986, 11).


The Re-Decade

Another change in consumption behaviour has resulted from the introduction of new technologies in combination with demographic change.  Through new recording technologies, especially video tape, consumers now have nearly universal visual access to the styles and tastes of all historic periods, at least as presented on television and in motion pictures.  Does one want to watch the gangster movies or musicals of 1930s?  Or does one want to witness the French Revolution or Moses on the mountain?  Does one want to re-play it, time after time, or erase it to capture the images and sounds of another time and place?  This access to the fashions and styles of historic periods has produced what Thomas Shales has called as ‘The Re-Decade’ (Shales, March 1986), a decade without a distinctive style of its own; a decade characterised by the pervasive stylistic presence of all previous periods of history.  The impact of this phenomenon on consumer behaviour is, at least in the short term, confusion and disorientation.  Time has now become a significant dimension of consumer behaviour.  As noted by Shales

It does seem obvious that here in the Re-Decade… the possibilities for becoming disoriented in time are greater than they have ever been before.  And there’s another thing that’s greater than it has ever been before: accessibility of our former selves, of moving pictures of us and the world as we and it were five, ten, fifteen years ago.  No citizens of any other century have ever been provided so many views of themselves as individuals or as a society (Shales, March 1986, 72).

Interestingly, the art critic Robert Hughes, in his book and television program entitled The Shock of the New (Hughes, 1984), has pointed out that since the turn of the century modern abstract painting has been increasingly concerned with the fourth dimension, Time, in contrast with the traditional dimension of Space.  Thus abstract painting can be viewed as a precursor of the increasing disorientation in Time so characteristic of the Re-Decade.  What will be the long term impact of the Re-Decade on consumer behaviour is not yet clear.  It is likely, however, that there will be a growing market for historic fashions, period piece furniture and other consumer durables.

In summary, fundamental demographic changes, in conjunction with new communications technologies, are transforming consumption in the Post-Modern Economy.  Consumption today is increasingly dominated by a narrowcast marketplace in which


rising standards of design and advertising require greater and greater inputs of artistic talent and technique.  Similarly, consumer research is being transformed as qualitative, aesthetic experience is recognised as a more and more important feature of consumer behaviour.  Finally, the time distorting impact of new recording technologies is now making the styles and fashions of all previous historical periods available to contemporary consumers.


Education through the arts

Beyond traditional arguments concerning the intrinsic value of the arts, education through the arts has at least three significant impacts on the production-side of the Post-Modern Economy.  These are promotion of invention, innovation and diffusion of new technologies; development of new production skills; and enhancing the productivity of an ageing work-force.


New technologies

Education through the arts affects invention, innovation and diffusion of new technologies by reinforcing the creative process, and thereby encouraging an innovative institutional environment.  It is increasingly recognised that the psychology of the creative process is an area of commonality between the arts and sciences (Meyer, 1974).  In both, creativity occurs when an individual steps beyond traditional ways of knowing and doing and making.  We have come to recognise that the process which bring about creative advances in science is identical to that involved in artistic creation (Jantsch, 1975, 18).

It is also recognised that creativity has an empirical basis in neurophysiology.  Recent research in brain physiology suggests that the creative process is rooted in the lateralisation of brain function.  The left hemisphere is generally thought to be primarily responsible for traditional cognitive activities relying on verbal information, symbolic representation, sequential analysis, and on the ability to be conscious and report what is going on.  The right hemisphere, on the other hand, functions without the individual being able to report verbally, and is more concerned with pictorial, geometric, timeless and nonverbal information (Hansen, 1981, 23).

In a sense, the arts can be considered the most developed right-lobe sector of contemporary society.  Education through art should serve to enhance creativity, and balance the over-development of left-lobe nature of Western society.  In this regard, the noted economist Geoffrey Vickers has said:

I welcome the recent findings of brain science to support the common experience that we have two ‘styles of cognition’, the one sensitive to causal, the other to contextual significance.  I have no doubt that the cultural phase - which is


now closing - restricted our concept of human reason by identifying it with the rational, and ignoring the intuitive function, and thus failing to develop an epistemology which we badly need, and which is within our reach - if we can overcome our cultural inhibitions (Vickers, 1977).

Education through the arts can foster and promote a creative psychological and social climate in which invention, innovation and diffusion of new technologies can more readily occur.  It can sensitise entrepreneurs, managers and employees to the context of change, and enhance their ability to respond to change in a positive and constructive manner.  In this regard, the need to increase the innovative capacity of the Canadian economy has been recognised by the Economic Council of Canada as critical to future growth and development (Economic Council, 1983).


New production skills

Since the introduction of universal compulsory education in North America during the last century, production skills training has progressively crowded out education in the arts and humanities, which are the traditional source of ‘consumption skills’.  This crowding out partially reflected the puritan and republican traditions of North America in contrast to the catholic and aristocratic traditions of Europe (Scitovsky, 1976).  It also reflected an initial need, in the 19th to mid-20th centuries, to develop repetitive industrial skills among a relatively uneducated, rural work force.  In the late 20th century this is no longer the case.  The new production skills required in the emerging Post-Modern economy are non-repetitive, adaptive, and judgemental, characteristic of traditional consumption skills developed through training in the arts and humanities.  Education through the arts can play a crucial role in the emergence of what Marshall McLuhan called ‘electronic man’.

In terms of our education, the entire establishment has been built on the assumptions of the left hemisphere and of visual space.  This establishment does little to help the transition to the electronic phase of simultaneous or acoustic man.  Our educational procedures are still oriented towards preparing people to cope with specific industrial products and distribution of same.  Electronic man, on the other hand, is in need of training in… empathy and intuition.  Logic is replaced by analogy, and communications are being superseded by pattern recognition (McLuhan, 1978).

There are three indicators of the changing and growing importance of education through the arts.  First, over one-fifth of all continuing education courses offered by American universities are in the fine arts, the largest set of courses available in American continuing education (New York Times, August 30, 1981, 6).  Second, university recruitment by major corporations is beginning to favour arts and humanities graduates in preference to MBAs.


Recruiters are finding that arts and humanities graduates are more rounded in terms of social and communications skills and more flexible in terms of career development than business administration graduates.

Third, there is a negative side to the emerging narrowcast economy.  The concept of a ‘cultured person’ in the European tradition is one who is well ‘rounded’.  The cultured European is one who is interested in, and knowledgeable about literature, painting, cuisine, dance, and theatre, not just about work.  The North America tradition, however, is characterised by specialisation, particularly with respect to production skills.  The result is the one dimensional person who knows everything about his or her business, and little or nothing about life in general.  Even when the North American decides to enhance his or her cultural appreciation it tends to be one dimensional.  One tends to specialise in selected activities such as wine-tasting, or specific types of theatre or painting.  Rounding is not generally the objective.  Increasingly, however, even major corporations are becoming aware that a rounding of perspective is essential if executives are to become leaders, not just managers.  Such corporations are spending more and more on liberal arts programmes to ensure that their executives can talk to both staff and customers about life, not just about business (Gutis, 1985, F17).


Productivity of an ageing workforce

Education through the arts also has significant economic implications for the rehabilitation and healing of an ageing and increasingly infirm population.  In fact, the relationship between the arts and medicine is very ancient indeed.  As noted by Granaat

Asklepios, the Greek god of health, was worshipped in temples, to which patients repaired to be cured.  In the medical wards of these temples, beautiful votive reliefs are found, thanks offerings for received cures.  In this connection, attention must be drawn to a series of frescoes made by Domenico di Bartolo in the 15th century in the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, or to the paintings of Mathias Gruenwald in the former monastery of Isenheim, where the painter also worked as male nurse.

These examples of famous works of art illustrate the close relations among religion, art, and medicine.  The most famous physician of all times, Hippocrates, said ‘Life is short, and art is long...’.  Today, religion is not all-important as it was formerly, but the link between art and medicine is still important (Granaat, 1983, 105).

During the last 50 years, the use of the arts for medical and rehabilitative purposes has been formalised in virtually every artistic discipline including dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts.  Academic programmes, certification procedures, professional organisations, and international associations of art therapists have evolved (Spencer, 1983, 2).  National and international systems for


the classification of occupations now identify arts therapy as a distinct profession (Research & Evaluation, January 1984).

The role of the arts in health care involves both healing in the sense of facilitating recovery from illness, and rehabilitation in the sense of improving physical function.  However, the arts have a medicinal role beyond physical healing and rehabilitation.  As noted by Spencer

The term ‘healing’ implies illness as well as the implication that something can be ‘cured’.  In many human service settings, this is not often the case, for example, among terminally ill cancer patients, inmates of prisons, the physically handicapped, and those who are economically or socially disadvantaged or isolated… such people are in ‘crises’, are ‘troubled’, and are suffering psychologically and emotionally by virtue of their circumstances.  For such people, ‘healing’ is synonymous with ‘improvement’ with the overcoming of psychological and emotional barriers within the individual and with others… The art therapist goes still a step further sharply to ‘focus’ the energies of the arts to help ‘dissolve’ the barriers to improved function (Spencer, 1983, 3-4).

Within the health care system, the arts play a formal therapeutic role.  In view of the ageing demographic profile of the population and the escalating health care costs associated with an older workforce, it is likely that the therapeutic use of the arts will increase dramatically in the next few decades.  Society’s ability to keep an ageing workforce active and productive will thus become more and more important as the baby boom generation of the 1950s and 1960s becomes the geriatric boom after the year 2000.  In this regard, Tibor Scitovsky has noted that

Another important - and tragic - example of our economy’s failure to provide adequate stimulation to the unskilled consumer is the problem of the aged.  When people retire they are suddenly deprived of the stimulus satisfaction their work has given them, and, naturally, they try to fall back on the other sources of stimulation accessible to them.  If they are unskilled consumers, they soon find their sources of stimulation inadequate; the result is the heartrending spectacle of elderly people trying desperately to keep themselves busy and amused but not knowing how to do so.  Boredom seems inescapable, and boredom is a great killer.  That may well be part of the explanation of the male’s relatively low life expectancy.  Women are better off in this regard, for they have housework and cooking to keep them occupied and alive.

The remedy is culture.  We must acquire the consumption skills that will give us access to society’s accumulated stock of past novelty and so enable us to supplement at will and almost without limit the currently available flow of novelty… Music, painting, literature, and history are the obvious examples (Scitovsky, 1976, 235).

In summary, education through art has implications beyond the


intrinsic worth of the arts.  It has implications for promoting invention, innovation, and diffusion of new technologies; developing the new production skills required in a Post-Modern economy; reducing costs associated with rehabilitation and healing, and improving the productivity and performance of an ageing labour force after the year 2000.



In conclusion, we live in a period in which public confidence in economic theory and practice has been shattered, and in which we must begin again the search for a better understanding of the economic process.  At this time, three fundamental demographic changes are contributing to the emergence of a Post-Modern Economy, and are also contributing to an enormous growth in the arts audience.  These changes are rising levels of education, increasing participation of women, and ageing of the population.

In conjunction with new communications technologies these demographic changes are transforming the nature of economic behaviour.  Consumption is increasingly dominated by a narrow-cast marketplace in which rising standards of design and advertising require greater and greater inputs of artistic talent and technique.  Similarly, consumer research is being transformed as qualitative, aesthetic experience becomes a more important feature of consumer behaviour, and as the time distorting impact of new recording technologies makes the styles and fashions of previous historical periods available to contemporary consumers.

In this changing economy, education through art also has significant implications for the production-side of the Post-Modern Economy.  It promotes invention, innovation, and diffusion of new technologies.  It contributes to the development of the new production skills required in a Post-Modern Economy.  It enhances the productivity and performance of an ageing labour force.

The founding father of economics, Adam Smith, had a strong sense of the cultural matrix of economic phenomena (Boulding, 1972, 267).  One of the unasked questions of intellectual history, however, is how mainstream economics in the West lost this sense and became an abstract discipline devoid of any cultural context.  It must be remembered, however, that what we in the West have considered rational economic behaviour is, in fact, a form of culturally determined behaviour.  If we are to develop a better understanding of economic phenomena in the emerging Post-Modern Economy, then we must again account for the impact of culture on economic behaviour, and more specifically, begin to appreciate the role of education through art in the emerging economy of quality.



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