Role of culture in the transformation of human society

Por: Lіudmyla Diadchenko

Perhaps I'm talking not about deep causal relationships, but for me culture is a society created by humans.

Israeli historian Juval No Harari writes in his "Short History of Humanity" that now many scientists consider culture to be a certain mental infection: when a cultural imagination settles in people's heads and a certain idea encourages a person to give his/her whole life for its embodiment or spread.

This approach is called memetics. That is, cultural information is transmitted through the replication of cultural-information elements called memes (Blakcmore).

If we speak the postmodernism language, we are talking about discourses. However, on the other hand, summarizing the findings of scientists Harari, writes that the modern man (all of us), Homo sapiens have been made exactly by the ability to imagine something abstract and to talk about it or to believe in its existence.

Isn't this what culture, in general, and art, is doing as a pinnacle of any developed culture?

In terms of evolution, good to the big logical species is survival and reproduction. But when we look at past civilizations, we are considering number of human beings generated by a particular civilization or their diet, but we are estimating the things left by successful culture: architecture, technologies, literary or sculptural works…

It is only through these assets we can win other biological species, because everything else is usually being lost to them.

The English writer Oscar Wilde was right when he wrote: "It is fortunate for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we should have no art at all. … If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture".

In fact, culture and art appeared as an attempt to perfect the world around us, an attempt to decorate it, to make it better. Why am I focusing only on the cultural arts segment?

Because, in general, we don’t care how many people died in the Punic Wars or the conquest of the Golden Horde, how many soldiers Napoleon threw to the halt in Egypt, what cunning strategic moves came up with the commanders of the past. When we are interested in history, we are only interested in culture, art.

We study history by legends, works of art, and that is how we reconstruct paintings of past eras. How do we study history? What do we look at in the best museums around the world?

We are looking for a culture of ancient civilizations there. This culture is the life of society. There is nothing beyond it that might interest us now.

Centuries have passed, and we look carefully at the statue of Artemis in the Louvre or the bust of Nefertiti in the New Museum of Berlin, we are now ready to perceive the heritage of our ancestors. But maybe we are not ready to appreciate it yet.

However, looking at the past through art, we do not get the truth. Because cultural heritage is always a projection of the future, better than the present.

Art is always a little better than it is, a little better than we can be, a little more beautiful than what has been created now. In fact, art is an individual that has become a collective asset over time and which has become a social reflection in length of time.

That is the eternal collision of innovation (artistic idea) and modernity, because as soon as the individual becomes a socially recognized trend, it immediately ceases to be interesting to the next generation.

Only what you don’t see, what you have not thought about is truly interested for you. If fantasy is lost in art, then art as such does not exist. It is lost. There’re facts, bare news only. Such bare news surrounds us today more and more.

Contemporary culture is becoming more accessible to the masses by fully introducing the kitsch. For example, to get more reaction to what you have written, there must be something tearful, because suffering, as Wilde wrote, is more likely to cause feedback in people than thought."

He had no idea how he was right. In so far as today 's cultural sphere (and television is definitely a part of it) is built on this, on the basic emotions. Now the culture is fueled by news that exploits only fear/tragedy. Basic emotions.

In addition, we are skillfully manipulated when we are constantly said "you need to know it", "you need to hear it", "it concerns you". It does not concern!

On the other hand, art cannot compete with the products of a social network society. No matter what you write, a video with cats gets more than million likes.

Social networks are a new way of organizing people. Countries are losing to them on owning information about people.

Social networks are new digital states on the territories of the old states that cannot delegate their authority to the digital giants. For example, 2.6 billion people now live on Facebook. It is a quasi-state, that will have to formulate a policy of influence on the new state.

If throughout its existence art has sought to individualism as the true evolution of life, then individualism has now been expressed in social networks, Instagram.

So, if literature appeals to a person privately, tet-a-tet. That is why, in fact, art in general and poetry in particular, was not appreciated (Brodsky), (because in order to comprehend a complex personality, we must always spend our own mental powers and intelligence), then Instagram for example, actually has given a pseudo personality, an individuality without privacy.

A kind of simulacrum of individuality. In my opinion, this is the success of social networks. After all, what is a modern format to show yourself uniquely, to show your personality?

Unfortunately, the paradox is that in such desire we became even more like each other, because in order to show our individuality, it should be grown up.

Wilde, whom I mentioned before, in one of the essays predicted that human society was moving towards individualism, which would become in the future more complete, multifaceted, better. But it seems that new individualism - like all ideas - has become embodied in the banal Instagram.

So welcome to the era of hyper-reality, where the picture is more important than the content, where there is less and less place for individual among the trends. And if there is no place for this unique individual in the new era of hyperreality, then the Real Art will disappear or (worse) become the standard.


1.Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harvill Secker, 2014)
2. Susan Blakcmore, The Meme Machine (Oxford University Press, 1999)
3.Oscar Wilde, Essays and Lectures (Read How You Want, 2008)
4. Joseph Brodsky, Nobel Lecture, 1987

Última actualización: 29/04/2021