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"Fair Culture":

The term was apparently coined in a report cowritten by an official in the Finnish Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, and published by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies:

Fair culture means the realisation of cultural rights and the inclusion of everyone in cultural signification, irrespective of their age, gender, ability, or ethnic, religious and cultural background.

And, yes, "fair culture" does seem to refer to cultural production -- "Participation in cultural supply" and "Opportunities for, inclusion in and capability for cultural self-expression and signification" -- as well as cultural consumption. And here I thought that participation in cultural supply ought not be irrespective of ability.

Incidentally, I found this report because I saw it quoted favorably in a draft of what promises to be a prominent book; so it can't, I think, be lightly dismissed as some sort of outlier.

John Jenkins (mail):
"Incidentally, I found this report because I saw it quoted favorably in a draft of what promises to be a prominent book; so it can't, I think, be lightly dismissed as some sort of outlier."

"Not an outlier" != not(stupid)
10.24.2008 8:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And here I thought that participation in cultural supply ought not be irrespective of ability.

Tell that to Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton.
10.24.2008 8:18pm
Jeff R.:
Please, someone tell me that the word 'ability' is used here in a legal-jargon sense (referring to the state of being or not behind physically* disabled) rather than the more broad common sense of the word...

Please?

*:or, I suppose, mentally, at least for certain varieties of mental disability and certain forms of culture.
10.24.2008 8:24pm
Mike Keenan:
I read it to mean that (for example) special needs children (whether mentally or physically disabled) should have equal access to art and music programs.
10.24.2008 8:31pm
Freddy Hill:
"The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal."

- Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron
10.24.2008 8:33pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
I had the same thought as Mike Keenana
10.24.2008 8:42pm
Nathan_M (mail):

And here I thought that participation in cultural supply ought not be irrespective of ability.

So children who are clumsy shouldn't take dance classes? Children who aren't musical shouldn't take piano lessons? Angst-ridden teenagers shouldn't write bad poetry?

Don't get me wrong, unless I know the people I won't be in the audience, but I don't see what's so strange about the idea that even non-talented people should have "[o]pportunities for ... cultural self-expression".
10.24.2008 8:45pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Nathan_M: Studying culture to enjoy it, or to improve one's ability, is great. But when you're actually trying to "participat[e] in cultural supply," supplying others who aren't doting parents, I'd hope that you'd have the requisite ability, whether innate or learned or both.

Mike Keenan: I didn't see any indication in the report that they were using "ability" in that sense; and of course unfortunately mental and physical disability may often inevitably affect people's ability to participate in cultural supply.
10.24.2008 9:07pm
Nathan_M (mail):

But when you're actually trying to "participat[e] in cultural supply," supplying others who aren't doting parents, I'd hope that you'd have the requisite ability, whether innate or learned or both.

From the talk about "self-expression" and "ability" I assumed the report was talking about all production of culture, and not just that which was intended for a large audience.

I agree that if that is what the report is concerned with then whatever advantages there may be in democratizing cultural supply would be outweighed by the likely disappearance of cultural consumption.
10.24.2008 10:08pm
Mike Keenan:

Mike Keenan: I didn't see any indication in the report that they were using "ability" in that sense; and of course unfortunately mental and physical disability may often inevitably affect people's ability to participate in cultural supply.

The only American I see in the respondents is Doug Blandy. On his website (www.uoregon.edu/~dblandy/), I see the following: "Working in segregated institutions for people with mental retardation in the 1970's convinced me of the importance of promoting non-segregated inclusive arts educational environments."

Obviously, that is only evidence of what one of the respondents believes.
10.24.2008 10:24pm
matt (mail):
is cultural supply like farm supply?.....if so I need @ 4 50# bags of prime, grade A BS for my garden.
10.24.2008 10:49pm
Mrbarnes (mail):
Ummm, great idea. Let's give the kid with the giant forehead a pair of cymbals and let him try to bang away to Bolero.
10.24.2008 11:40pm
sbron:
"irrespective of their .... ethnic, religious and cultural background"? Is this some sort of Finnish multiculturalism to address complaints from the ethnic Swedish and Sami minorities?
10.24.2008 11:50pm
one of many:

In defining cultural rights we found Pentti Arajärvi's research a great help. Consequently
we saw cultural rights as one category of human rights, along with civic, political and
economic rights, and a sub-category of educational and cultural rights. They are central to
a nation's identity, coherence, self-determination and self-esteem.


I think this one paragraph explains the problem with the problem with the concept of "fair culture" as it being used here, reconciliation of individual rights with the creation of collective rights based upon individual rights. One cannot have an individual culture, the closest one person can come is having an individual cultural identity, which collective group of persons one identifies with. I wonder if this is a translation problem, was this report originally in Suomi and someone chose the closest match to be "culture" for a word with no direct English equivalence(any Finns care to help?).

It is an interesting attempt to deal with a difficult ethical issue, the rights of groups which do not constitute the whole of the polity based upon the rights granted by the polity (without addressing the nature of that grant) to the individuals which make up those groups. I don't find it convincing but that may because it is poorly structured as an argument.
10.25.2008 12:20am
ChrisIowa (mail):
I think of Fair Culture as walking around eating food off a stick.
10.25.2008 1:49am
ChrisIowa (mail):
10.25.2008 1:53am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I think that what is intended is not as nefarious as it sounds. They aren't suggesting that a drawing by an artistic incompetent such as myself should receive the same distribution, compensation, or praise as one by Degas or Picasso. They're talking about a variety of things, such as access to museums, not just production. As far as production is concerned, I think that they just mean that everyone should have the opportunity to engage in cultural production, not that it should all be equally valued in every sense. In other words, disabled people should have the opportunity to participate in artistic activities, just as they should have the opportunity to participate in sports.

A more informative document is Fair Culture? Ethical dimension of cultural policy and cultural rights (available in both English and Finnish). A look at Chapter 9 on the disabled, will, I think, prove helpful in determining what is meant.
10.25.2008 2:10am
Fedya (www):
"Fair Culture" = Buzzword Bingo
10.25.2008 1:38pm
David Schraub (mail) (www):
I read it the same way Mike Keenan did, in part because it is a "more of the same" reading: protection along the axis of (dis)ability tends to often get grouped right in with race, gender, orientation, religion, etc. "Ability" in the sense of "talent" would be a novel addition to that list. Given the choice between the commonly used, consistent with the surroundings reading, and a bizarre, easily mockable reading, charity would seem to advise choosing the former.
10.25.2008 1:52pm
byomtov (mail):
I found it not very clear, but lean towards Bill Poser's explanation. Everyone should have the right to learn to play music, not to perform at Carnegie Hall.
10.25.2008 3:26pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Don't get me wrong, unless I know the people I won't be in the audience, but I don't see what's so strange about the idea that even non-talented people should have "[o]pportunities for ... cultural self-expression"."

Agreed. Even the clumsy students benefits from some ballet, and the non musical students benefit from music lessons. "Talent" is greatly overrated. Any real musician or artist will tell you that talent only gets you so far -- what is far more important is hard work. The person with a little talent and works hard will beat out the highlly talented who hardly works any day.

And how do you teach a student to work hard? By giving them something difficult for them to do, like ballet or piano lessons.
10.25.2008 4:01pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
Is sitting in your bedroom doing a really bad job playing guitar participating in culture? I tend to think not.

So, the implication here is that the requirement is on the culture (that is, the people which comprise it) to be an audience for the bad guitarist. Nothing like working against human nature, eh?
10.27.2008 12:56am
A.C.:
Specific disabilities may cause problems with specific cultural activities, but plenty of disabled people can perform at high levels in areas not affected by their physical limitations. Look at Itzhak Perlman. Plenty of people will pay to hear him play.
10.27.2008 9:44am
keypusher (mail):
So children who are clumsy shouldn't take dance classes? Children who aren't musical shouldn't take piano lessons? Angst-ridden teenagers shouldn't write bad poetry?

No, no, and for the love of God no.
10.28.2008 12:06pm
A.C.:
Dance lessons make people less clumsy, and piano lessons make people more musical. Writing bad poetry can be a warm-up to writing good poetry. Not everyone who starts in these areas will ever make a living at them, and in fact the vast majority won't, but everyone should at least get to try them. People often discover interests and talents that weren't immediately apparent to outside observers.

That's the whole argument against tracking kids too young. Different talents become apparent at different ages, and beginners should always be allowed to make mistakes as they learn.

Didn't we have this discussion about baseball? In any activity there's room for a beginner class AND a world-class competitive level, and everything in between.
10.28.2008 1:39pm