The Relation Art Labor Economy Cultural Studies Essay

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The chapter is focused on depicting some of the most important theories about the interdependent relation between art, labor and economy as compartments of the social life, built on specific strategies, forms of communication and types of messages, codes and laws that have various kinds of utility and finality for man as an artist and social performer.


Any action in the social area involves a reason and certain goals that have an interest available in the art world and intellectual activities, too. This mechanism made function by social agents is extended to the field of those actions apparently uninterested, with no practical utility and connection with the material world, that is the artistic universe. Procedures, steps, rules, results and the whole mechanism of work also apply in case of artistic and intellectual play which, in spite of their most often undermining the pragmatic and material universe, spotlight exactly the artistic products and productions as work of creation, moulding and refining ideas and feelings, in fact serving an aesthetic finality. That is why it is interesting to cover an itinerary of the philosophical, sociological, aesthetic views that have discussed the relation between art and labor, identified in the theories of some of the most remarkable thinkers and writers. Communication itself is a social play that sets relations between those who recognize the rules and goals, and art launches to public products and productions that communicate various types of messages which challenge the artistic sense to contemplation, decoding and comprehension. All these proceedings involve efforts and pleasure which, although apparently lacked of utility and finality, obey the rules of the play, establish chain reactions and connections between objective and subjective world. Each field of the social world, either economy, politics or art develops communication relations, goals, rules of its own compartment. Art interacts with each segment in the structures of society and especially with economy more than ever in the present hyper consumption society due to the multitude of financial mechanisms and market strategies that both condition and promote the artistic products on the consumption market. The present seems to cancel the traditional theories about the pure art as having no connection with the praxis and profitable purposes but opposed to the economic law. Whereas in the past the authentic art refused commercial targets and the artist denied the production performed at request, the present blurs the border between art and craft, artistic and useful, success is established in terms of popularity or best-seller, an example that illustrates the interference of art with fields incompatible in the past, such as industry and economy.

The judgments upon labor have had various expressions in philosophy, literature, arts in general and social practices, according to the social context of the epoch but also related to the regional and geographical specific. In the following pages we will analyze the conception over labor and leisure time solidly supported by the European aesthetics and philosophy from the end of the XVIII-th century - the middle of the XIX-th century, concentrated around the Dandyism. Beyond the etymological and historical meanings of the term which entered in use in the fashionable saloons and London clubs in 1815-1817 along with the admission of the first authentic dandy, George Brummell, the Dandyism was a remarkable aesthetic value, having numerous acceptances among which those of art, mentality, convention, social practice, doctrine, life style, etc. Among the personalities who were influenced by the Dandyism and wrote studies about it we can mention Honoré de Balzac, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Stendhal, Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc., and in the following pages we will make an analysis of their judgments over this concept which still has influences in the contemporary aesthetics and philosophy.

As a historic phenomenon that proposed and showed a spiritual and behavioral pattern expressed in the European mentality from the end of the XVIII-th century, the Dandyism insisted on cultivating the idea of Beauty that can flourish at its best only within an aristocratic and elegant environment protected against the pressures and urges of labor, indifferent at the pragmatic and utilitarian concerns that are not compatible with art and elitist spirit. The Dandy is a personage on the social stage of gossip chronicles, with controversial appearances due to his eccentric gestures and elegance of clothes stylized to shocking, effeminization, the topics tackled in the art of conversation seen as a strategy of seduction. All these non-conventional displays meant to defy and undermine the moral laws turn themselves into conventions. The life style of the Dandies is supposed to possess a solid financial base, meant to grant them the relaxation and luxury of the constant presence in select clubs and cafes, at the card-tables, in private saloons. This sense of property contradicts their anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois conception by which they despise upstart and labor as object and goal and justifies itself by means of affiliation to elegance as an inborn gene but not obtained, as a distinction and nobility title inherited or cultivated but not bought or transferred (Babeţi, 2004, p. 73). It is the principle by virtue of which the Dandyism unites under his protection those artists who refuse bourgeois compromises among which labor seen as a restriction from creativity and freedom sold in exchange for a sum of money meant to guarantee their everyday living. In order to avoid the compromises necessary to survive, that is the good will and favors of a questionable aristocracy, or the extreme solutions having as a result the total break up with the world, the Dandyism concentrates around a spiritual centre that aims at protecting the artistic community justified to show its elitism sometimes expressed ostentatiously by means of defiance, contempt and indifference at the pragmatic concerns, parasitism. It is the way that acts Baudelaire, who although impoverished, plunged into debts and chased by the money lenders, refuses to sign the treaty with the bourgeois conventions, preferring vagrancy, misery, squalid outskirts, creating a title of glory from his contempt against material values. His remonstrative spirit and the culture of nihilism make the Dandy a decadent that is distinguished by means of his attitude of indifference to the generic references available for individual identity. Thus the Dandy becomes non-conventional by the right virtue of approaching different conventions that defy material values, economic and financial power, cultural system, social roles (Babeţi, 2004, p.177). By being a revolted, the Dandy is placed in opposition to these values that he refuses. The decadent aesthetics despises social order and manners, disputes bourgeois economy, adopting in turn the pleasure of its priceless efforts, the stylization of life seen as an artistic emotion focused on details, the worship of artificial as a constructive result superior to natural beauty.

Leisure time is also an attribute of the elite and it is a subject extended in the decadent theories and writings among which Honoré de Balzac's Traité de la vie élégante is an authentic guidebook for the Dandy's manners and operates a typology that identifies social characters. According to this typology there are three main types of people with different manners, that is the man that works, the man that thinks and the man that does nothing (which, in Oscar Wilde's opinion is the most difficult and intellectual thing!), these having three correspondent life formulas: busy life, artistic life and elegant life (apud Balzac in BabeÅ£i, 2004, p. 304). The decadent theory that explains the existence of the psychological and social profile of the elegant person that does nothing is formed as follows: the purpose of the civilized life is the rest. The total rest goes to the feeling of spleen and elegant life is a kind of art that intermediates producing the rest. Thus this is the privilege of the elite as the man used to working is not capable of understanding elegant life (apud Balzac in BabeÅ£i, 2004, p. 306). The artist enjoys a special status among the elite as his creative effort places him in the productive social area in spite of its lack of finality and practical utility: the artist is an exception as his laziness is a kind of work and his work is a kind or rest. He permanently expresses an outstanding reflection and dominates the society in all the contexts that is either when he does nothing concrete, or he deeply thinks of a masterpiece or he does not have even pocket money or have a plenty of it and generously wastes it (apud Balzac in BabeÅ£i, 2004, p. 307). We will find later a similar version of this theory in one of the essays gathered by Roland Barthes in the volume entitled Mythologies, in which he analyses the profile of the Writer on holiday: while the writer shares its vacations with the laborers and merchants, he keeps on producing and even working; he carries out a false work but also enjoys a false vacation deprived of the tranquility and rest that the others enjoy by being simple tourists on the beach, as he never gets rid of his artistic nature; no matter where he is, the writer always moves under the sign of his inner Muse that inspires him even those moments when he is obviously as human as the other people around (Barthes, 1987, p. 87). Thus the artist's status can be interpreted form a double perspective: the writer, the sculptor, the painter are members of the elite, legitimated due to their creative activities that produce artistic significance and expressive meanings, while in terms of economy their efforts are non-productive, as they cannot be used practically for concrete and pragmatic purposes. The artistic creations prove to be useful as their utility is moral, educational, aesthetic and informative, those elements becoming standards that define the cultural level of a civilized society.

Coming back to Balzac's analysis, he considers that busy life, the productive one practically and materially speaking, is dull and flat, missing its variation as physical labor brutalizes and atrophies emotions and does not know individual manifestations, as laborers' personality is collective. Laborers are uniform work instruments that action by command, the result of their work is inexpressive and cannot impress the viewer, and their exhausting effort arouses only compassion. For a farmer or a bricklayer, work is a burden by means of which they earn their everyday living. Their minimum expectations resume to having a shelter and a loaf of bread at their poor meals. Paradoxically, the separation between producers and consumers makes just the ones that supply the products launched on the consumer market be deprived of the results of their work. If the two categories of workers mentioned earlier are placed on the lowest level of the social scale characterized by poverty, misery and misfortune, the next level, less exposed to physical labor but also dull and oblate is represented by various clerks and civil servants who carry out their everyday activities according to a rigidly planned schedule, acting like real bureaucratic machines having the role to account the evidence of the movements of the other social categories. Luxury is the privilege of great landowners, politicians, aristocrats who afford to idle and show ostentatiously their social status. For them, fortune is just an ambition meant to push them upper on the social ladder thus having the insurance that would never fall to the poor level. This fear often leads the upstarts to make compromises and doubtful partnerships but profitable in the effort to protect their status. Their vanity as a sign of upstartness is displayed ostentatiously by means of the whole inventory of material badges (outfits, exterior look, interior decors, servants, fashionable goods, etc.) sometimes crammed and aesthetically inappropriate thus leading to kitsch effects so present nowadays. Fortune is defined exclusively in terms of quantity and material goods for the petty bourgeoisie dominated by mercantile references, by the utility of money as currency that serves their status visible as obvious as possible at the level of image.

Superior elegant life, instead, supposes the harmony between exterior and spiritual existence that is for the possessors of financial welfare the science to enjoy it with the respect and honor for their fortune dedicated to the refinement of grace and good taste, the ability to use nobility transposed in the world on objects focused on activities of artistic patronage, appreciation and encouragement of valuable creativity that might be protected by financial stability (apud Balzac in Babeţi, 2004, p. 308). Thus having nothing to do with the vulgarity of bourgeois laziness and upstartness, elegant life represents the science of manners, an expression of refining the existence for which financial comfort is just a support necessary for the artistic efforts, power is moderately and favorably used and morals, order and harmony are principles of elegant life as progress of the individual and public life of a nation. The perfect match between exterior and interior life, or, in other words, the harmony between spirit and fortune make possible the welfare that provides elegant man his freedom as means of expressing naturally his grace in any context and moment. The elegant man that enjoys his welfare doesn't have to restrict himself from buying any goods he wants without saving money and has a good taste in showing the items he possesses, whereas the representatives of the busy life enjoy special moments with a certain kind of reserve and solemnity as holidays or celebrations are occasions for them to wear their best clothes and have a richer meal compared with the poor usual one. For the elegant class, money support their luxury and distinction considered natural states that make equal their representatives placed on the same superior stair. Money and power grant the same rights to the aristocracy that act according to well established laws of conduct available in their everyday activities, either in speaking, gestures, or in selecting their outfits, decorations, or any other types of goods, thus following an authentic guidebook of manners permanently updated according to the trends in fashion seen as innovation and progress.

At the climax of the Dandyism, that had made a cultural topos from the relation between art and life, but also in the middle of the enthusiastic and frantic social movements in a revolutionary Europe, the Cuban-born French theorist Paul Lafargue wrote in 1880 a polemical and contradictory essay at least from the point of view of his ideological affiliation and relation with Karl Marx whose daughter, Laura, he was married with. Le droit à la paresse: réfutation du droit au travail de 1848 analyses in a special manner the issues of work and social problems and finds numerous similarities with the idealistic theories of the writers mentioned earlier, focused on the idea that affording himself the right to be lazy, man enjoys a state of freedom that enables him to be productive an creative, and, consequently, creativity represents a key of progress in a civilized society. Without entering the details of the political connections of the writing which proves to be more present than ever, we will identify the main significant elements of Lafargue's philosophy. Busy life, represented in Balzac's view by the class of handicraftsmen, laborers and poor people, is oppressed in Lafargue's opinion, by the capitalist morals that exploits the laborers and keeps them busy with earning their own everyday living for which they are grateful, having no time for analyzing the differences around them, being distracted from the real problems and social discrepancies. By suppressing their pleasures and limiting their expectations, the capitalism keeps laborers in a state of masked imprisonment as they are trapped in the mechanisms of ceaseless production. This is a situation similar with the present strategies of the consumer society that is strongly supported by its reliable ally namely mass media with all their channels meant to broadcast and spread information. Making use of diversion, mass media spotlight, either during the TV news programs or on the first page of newspapers, ordinary events turned into prime news. Thus, especially television hides exactly by showing, approaching and debating dramatized topics, overreacting, exaggerating the importance of facts, insisting on false or dissimulated representations or happenings meant to arouse people's sympathy and civic solidarity such as fires, accidents, domestic violence, kidnappings, etc (Bourdieu, 2007, p. 28-29).

Coming back to Lafargue's essay, he combats the euphoria of work inoculated like a drug to the working class and worshiped even by some intellectuals and artists enthusiastic with their Messianic beliefs and over-zeal. According to Lafargue, excessive work leads to degeneracy and atrophies senses, exhausts people and pushes them to the state of animalism (Lafargue, 2009). The economic restrictions and effects of industrialization have turned man into a slave of technology, ruled by the machines that he serves. However, there are partisans of the work for work's sake which is performed especially by petty merchants and peasants who hope for getting their independence from the domination of great capitalist trusts and tentacles of the economic octopus. In fact they sacrifice their freedom in the fight with everyday burdensome concerns to survive in the thickets of the big industrial cities and being aware of their unprofitable work reported to the maintenance expenses and insignificant gains. The degenerated obsession for work has made the proletarians themselves betray their initial mission that of saving people from the state of animalism and give them freedom by getting rid of the burden of servile labor.

In another chapter of his manifesto, Lafargue combats and denies the boons of labor, worshiped even by the French proletarians who had proclaimed the right to work encouraged as a saving ideal meant to bring independence and freedom of action but, on the contrary, admitted as exactly its opposite by the imprisonment and slavery within the 12 work hours both for men, women deprived of their femininity and children grown up earlier than normally. Just by means of claiming the right to work, the proletarians enslaved themselves and entered the service of great capitalists thus increasing the number of willingly slaves, sacrificing their families and freedom in the name of an ideal that proved to be a trap full of sufferings, misery and compromises. The French proletarians, pioneers of the revolutionary propaganda and ideals displayed as flags of democracy, are denigrated by Lafargue, compared with the firm and constant attitude of the Ancient Greeks for whom their being humiliated in front of the "boons" of capitalism could have only been accepted as an extreme solution of surrender (Lafargue, 2009). Here is the way that the predictions of the spiritual vanguard have become real and proved their presence nowadays. Lafargue's assertion is just a relevant example as well as Baudelaire's prediction for the modern times seen as direct proportion between technological progress and spiritual regression, as progress is viewed as a gradual diminution of soul, increasing domination of the objects world and atrophy of spirit (apud Baudelaire in Friedrich, 1998, p. 39). Within a few ironic paragraphs, Lafargue is directing a parody acted by the main characters, namely Progress and Labor seen as personified almighty deities worshiped by some of the philosophers, bourgeois writers, intellectuals and economists, considered by the author puppets of the disastrous indoctrinated bourgeois morals, thus depicting a grotesque picture within the frames of workshops and factories seen as swamping the workforce meant to feed the bulimia of the capitalists.

Lafargue explains the chain reactions that lead to the industrial crises caused by overproduction, having as an inevitable effect the convulsions in the social system. The insolvent workshops and factories close their doors because of the excess of goods and penury of buyers, leading to blocking the commodity circulation unable to be distributed, forced unemployment, poverty and misery. Excessive production finally creates an oversaturated market, the moment when the fixed-date bills of the owners plunged into debts cannot be paid as the selling is stopped and their bankruptcy leads to mass dismissals. Rapacity along with the lust for power and domination in order to get more influence seems to be the base for all crises of the modern world. As long as work were done according to people's needs and goods were distributed in moderate and necessary quantities and sold at reasonable prices so that the workers themselves had buying power and the possibility to enjoy the result of their effort, not only to make goods meant to supply the needs of the rich ones, industrial crises, bankruptcy and unemployment would be prevented. Rapacity urges the great capitalists to recruit excessive workforce, so that a proportion of the rural population has set in the industrial areas, on one hand leading to overpopulation in some districts or neighborhoods and, on the other hand, leaving the lands uncultivated, abandoning traditions and professions that normally would have supplied peasants with earning their everyday living if they hadn't been impoverished with huge farmer's taxes. Without being able to pay them, some of the peasants sell their lands monopolized by large associations and concerns and, finally, come to buy at a double price just the products grown on their former fields or, nowadays, pick from the supermarkets vegetables and fruits they normally would have grown in their own gardens. Thus the old theories and problems are more present than ever; Lafargue is not totally against work and refuses it just the moment when the uncovered excess leads to an oversaturated market and dismissal of former employees recruited by irresponsible owners who does not succeed in sustaining financially the surplus of workforce and selling their products. The abundance of capitals in need for new locations to be placed in has led, during history, to colonial conflicts and conquering wars that ended up with annexation of territories, most of the geographical expeditions and seagoing forays having been encouraged and financed just in order to discover new potential places for the great empires to expand and extend their economic power and political influence. The disturbances in the balance and rhythm of life in its cultural and geopolitical climate consequently lead to disorder in the economic and social organism that collapses and blocks because of the excesses. The mechanism that makes a living body function is available as well in case of the political, economic and social structures so that once the excess of workforce, capitals and over-industrialization are settled, the natural laws are canceled and the economic system collapses. Reorientation of the societies to natural instincts, encouraging the traditional professions and individual producers, keeping the balance between habitats and living areas could reoffer people the safety of their lives and the value of the work they do not just in the advantage of their employers but their own as well. The right to be lazy proclaimed by Lafargue does not mean the refusal to work and parasitism or encouraging laziness but the right to work in a state of freedom within a well-balanced society in which those that work are able to consume the goods they produce and enjoy the effort of their work and the appreciation of their human value. But as long as industrialization does not only make work efficient with the help of the machines but also monopolizes the human subject to annihilating him by being absorbed by the modern technology, it is understood why the factories and industrial plants close their gates, operate mass dismissals and people turn to serve the machines and not vice versa.

The inequalities between the social classes and the absurd pretentions of the grand bourgeoisie to enjoy products exclusively dedicated to them, meant to maintain their refined tastes, could be seen until the XVIII-th century even at the level of diet as a distinctive sign to make the difference between the social classes. For example, the copious tables of the aristocrats were full of various courses prepared from venison such as pheasant, lean fowl and vegetables or fruits grown over the soil, considered to be noble and clean, whereas ordinary people used to eat vegetables and fruits grown under the soil such as onion, potatoes, melon, etc. and pork meat. The non-observance of that code was punished and the peasant was forced to confess in case he would have dared to eat birds reserved only to their masters. The class of those that supported in the past the luxurious lifestyle of the rich, namely jewelers, dressmakers, lace and embroidery seamstresses, decorators, etc. has its contemporary correspondent in the professionals that serve the expensive fancy tastes of the rich people, that is personal cooks, chauffeurs, housekeepers, baby-sitters, stylists, etc. The non-productive and over-consumer bourgeois mentioned by Lafargue, driven by his greed to force his gestures and make excesses, is encouraged nowadays in his contemporary version by the exclusive malls reserved only to a financial minority and accessible to masses just as places for transit and contemplation but not in terms of buying power.

The middle of the XX-th century brought up major shifts in the mentality with effects at the level of behavior, tastes and expectations of people integrated in the consumer society. The base of the consumer society is identified in the principles of capitalism orientated to the market economy that functions according to the dependence between demand and offer. All the products and productions of the contemporary civilization obey the rules of comfort and entertainment aimed as major targets of consumption. The masses that are the main representatives of the consumer society establish their relations with objects, individuals, places and time in terms of the urge of desire. The big companies elaborate market strategies based on studies about consumers' psychology and develop their desires as predictable element meant to anticipate the demand and launch the offer. The range of products, the variety of offers, the imperative of originality and low costs of production draw a certain level of superficiality reported to the time allocated to finishing the products launched on market or studying the information necessary to increase their quality. The alert pace requested by commodity circulation, the agglomeration on the market and the need to cover in terms of information as many fields of knowledge as possible lead to the relativity of values, deficiencies in the behavior and the decrease of the cultural level. In an oversaturated consumer society, the confusion of people is obvious in their direction to a facile entertainment as compensatory solution to everyday problems and support for the comfort of mind. The internet, television, malls are the new temples that encourage the religion of the modern consumer. Job offers posted on the internet, online interviews, dismissals via the e-mail, on-line shops are examples for the relation between man and objects and also depict the diminishing of interpersonal communication reduced to accessing the sites that take messages. The same time, the intellectual difference between the masses and the elite increases as well as the differences between the social classes, visible in antisocial acts, drug consumption, domestic violence, unemployment, miserable living conditions compared with spectacular social and financial climbing, ostentatious appearances and fashionable looks or impressive residences possessed by those that have had a fulminating climbing on the social ladder and success. All these kinds of contrasts are parts of le bonheur paradoxal, explained by Gilles Lipovetski in his essai sur la société d'hyperconsommation: on one side, the hyper consumption society worships the reference systems of welfare, harmony and balance and, on the other side, it shows itself as a hypertrophic system out of function, a bulimic body that heads to extremes and chaos and emphasizes the inequities and sub consumption (Lipovetsky, 2007, p. 12). The disorder in the consumption society feeds the social and mental disorder; the frantic consumption goes to addiction, thus there are all the time requests for new products, techniques, opportunities for leisure time, varied ways of entertainment, facile mass cultural experiences on the background of a mad furious optimism. Consumption is an evident presence in our contemporary society, identified especially at the level of technological information having effects on people's lifestyle and mercantile communication.

The production techniques promoted by the industrial revolution allowed for the serial and standard production. The same time, the developments in the infrastructure of the means of transport made possible the faster circulation of goods and the access to information. These processes have led to a new point of view over consumption seen from the angle of getting profit by practicing low prices for a great amount of goods available for the masses. The brand, package and advertising campaigns are the three elements involved in the education of the modern consumer. The good name of the brand that grants for the quality of the product and the design for the most suitable and attractive package are targets in the marketing strategies meant to register the market trends and attract clients devoted to a specific brand. The shifts in the relation with consumption have been revolutionized with the appearance of the chains of department stores that stimulated the mass distribution at the end of the XIX-th century. New selling politics such as promotions, discounts, additional included services such as retouches, free transportation, free buyer's address delivery created a complete image of the multifunctional store: monumental architecture, luxurious decors, multicolored glass windows and sparkling light are meant to catch the eye, to turn the store into a place arranged for a permanent celebration, to astonish the potential client, to create a sensual and compulsive climate especially made for shopping. The big store not only sells goods but also strives to stimulate the need for consumption, exciting the taste for the new and fashion by making use of seduction strategies that prefigure the modern marketing techniques. The big stores focused on impressing imagination, challenging desire, displaying the act of buying as a pleasure itself. Together with publicity, department stores have been the main tools of promoting consumption as art and badge of the modern happiness (Lipovetsky, 2007, p. 24). Along with the goods merchandized, nowadays updated malls offer their clients a great range of services meant to reduce the time for search and the effort to look for the products outside their walls: banks, phones, parking places, also create jobs within the same building. The mall is a vivid place: the various glamorous decors are the mission of the stage designers, the public fashion shows are animated by fashion models, and the coffee shops, restaurants and fast-foods serve the various tastes of the clients in a cozy place. We can find the same miniature simulation of the big city in the commercial practices developed around the transit places: bus stations, train stations, airports, subways, gas stations have non-stop multifunctional shops meant to offer the passengers items available at any hour, such as newspapers, cosmetics, food, clothes, etc. Time is a major reference that co-ordinates our everyday life so the fast access to products satisfies people's need to save time and favors spontaneous experiences. The urge of the contemporary man to rush and compress time is a sign of his anxiety that expresses a feeling of confusion, social and psychological disorganization in the context of a disordered society. The supermarkets and malls turn into places of refuge for the individual consumption that is planned according to personal distribution of time. The crowd of services and labor force under the roof of the same supermarket composes a picture of a miniature town that proposes a new lifestyle and leisure time adjusted to the alert pace of the urban society. The privilege of shopping, once reserved to the elite, has democratized and become accessible to the middle classes as well. Aristocratic advantages such as travels abroad or having a car have become popular by making use of credit as a mean of putting off the financial urgencies.

Looked from the point of view of the projects that aim at improving living conditions, economic growth, increasing particular comfort and organizing the outdoor space as a familiar climate, the image of the consumer society is promising and seductive. Mass consumer's mentality is built on the euphoria of the present moment, stimulated by superficial common wishes. As they become urgent imperatives, consumer's desires are speculated by mass-media and publicity in the direction of comfort, leisure and entertainment as lifestyle. Emotional consumption is focused on satisfying the tastes and desires of the public and supplying market with permanently new products. Consumption varies socially according to people's status, profession, age thus the items bought by the exponents of different social categories form symbols that exceed their utilitarian value and illustrate the buyer's prestige, his position recognized in the society. The useful value of the object is surpassed by the symbolism of success, competition, social ascension achieved due to the number and variety of services and products that the possessor of a privileged social position affords. Contemporary consumption develops under the sign of hedonism as a mark for a euphoric, subjective, free and flexible lifestyle. In the crowd of goods and services displayed for the masses, the consumer has the opportunity to buy the products most suitable to his personal demands, by virtue of an individualist hedonism. The personal reason is the prime finality of consumption that gets subjective function to express identity in a time of melting down the traditional differences such as ethnic, religious and cultural ones. The fidelity to a specific brand is an element of the subjective consumption as the product made by that brand supplies emotions that represents the wearer. The promise of happiness is the utopia speculated by publicity making use of persuasive techniques that deprive the consumer of any form of autonomy and make him depend on the grabber mechanisms of mercantile communication. The sacred exigencies of the consumer society such as the image of the dynamic woman, the home comfort, prolonging youth by using beauty products and techniques, the material environment made familiar by personifying the objects of domestic use are myths of the everyday culture headed to standard living styles. Consumption is an alternative solution to diminishing the impact of everyday frustrations that offers an ephemeral satisfaction manifested frantically with the effect of a drug that cancels indisposition, discontent, worries related to job or family. Not being aware of the pathological aspect of the expression, the pleasure of the act of buying turns into vice. The buyer becomes addicted to permanently buying more and more products and lives a euphoric satisfaction in his frantic and confused search. Compared with other examples of dependence, that of shopping may seem inoffensive and viewed as an entertaining goal. Though, contemporary man's anxiety is illustrated by the act of buying with no end, with no immediate use, weakness when facing the material temptations generously displayed in windows, his euphoric state when rambling around the malls halls, but the same time having the feeling of being a member in the community united by the same stimuli. While simulating entertainment, consumption becomes a tiresome, sometimes exhausting experience. Socialization as a must imposed by the standards of contemporary life, especially in the urban area, requires attending the places designed for leisure time, discovering the latest fashionable destinations, information about the trends in leisure. While pretending it integrates people in society, excessive consumption empties them from substance and breaks up interpersonal communication.

In the present society, personal satisfaction may mostly depend on material achievement, thus happiness turns into an exchange value merchandized on the goods market according to the amount of the items that counterbalance it. In its abundance, the material universe reflects like in a mirror everyday disappointments and frustrations impossible to be fully compensated in spite of either the quantity of objects crammed in homes or by the latest automobiles, phones or fashionable outfits. Trying to compensate his existential pessimism by means of material comfort, man becomes aware of his spiritual regression and his emotional involution is transferred to the level of his relation with objects. Novelty and variation are defining in search for objects able to submit not only to the principle of comfort but also to cancel banality and stimulate curiosity as long as possible. Man's disappointment in his everyday experiences explains his discontent and complaints about products and services that do not fit his expectations. The dispute over the quality of products is usually solved by replacing them with more competitive ones or becomes concrete by complaints addressed to the institutions able to protect consumers' rights. In more serious cases, when the problems cause prejudices to the health or educational systems, the protest may be expressed in the form of public manifestations; the unions take over the expectations of happiness as the right granted to each of the participants to the protest against the system. The financial deficit feels in the decrease in the economic power of population, and the deprivations related with hyper consumption are socially debated.

The defective communication on the background of financial deficit, restrictions of the access to consumption and degradation in the living conditions raise serious problems. The precarious living conditions limit the access to certain areas and sub-consumption as a diminution of identity affects especially young people as it is equal to excluding them from certain social groups. The interdiction to having access to leisure places, the impossibility to get the standards of image that are popular in the consumption society draw an invisible border which separates the periphery form the middle or elitist areas. The exponents of the disadvantaged categories are often identified by their aggressive attitudes and delinquency as expressions of inferiority, frustration, contempt. The decline in the traditional references such as religion, morals, family, education, the deficiencies in communication made acute on the background of unemployment are causes of the youngsters' confusion, who see delinquency as an alternative and normal lifestyle in a society interpreted in terms of alienation, inequalities, ignorance and intolerance. Without taking part at paid professional activities, social unbalance increases thus unemployed people miss the direct contact with the social climate. The lack of socialization and insufficiency of financial resources are factors that generate the crisis in the identity of the man insecure about his immediate future, consequently self-depreciative and negativist in his relation with the inner self on the context of social fear. Even among the population that is professionally active, the pressures of consumerist mechanism with its emphasized requirements about competition cause depression and frustrations as results of the feeling of self-deficiency. The disproportionate image from the concrete reality and unfulfilled personal expectations become a leitmotif that supplies delusions and mind fragility. Confused in a individualist society that promotes self-identity, contemporary man is completely unarmed in front of the attacks of consumption and mass-media, that challenge him from all over in the same time and weakness his self-confidence and his trust in the others, paradoxically isolating him in a world of abundance.

The laws on the market namely demand and offer, devaluation and standardization of the actions that aim at adjusting to consumer's requests imposed by the contemporary consumption are also identified in the cultural industry. By being adapted to the mass tastes and promoting facile emotional consumption in order to get relaxation, mass culture abandons the process of selecting the real values, in turn suffocating the market with cheap, commercial and ephemeral publications which supply the need for sensational of the middle public thus disadvantaging the scale of values and general image of a society. Popular literature with kitsch elements, tabloids, high life magazines, the numerous brochures that try to buy secrets for beauty and happiness or products designed for household use meant to ease the work of the housewives are all examples that agglomerate the market and catch the curious and superficial eye of the mass readers, the same time distorting their attention from the real valuable publications. This way, the authentic artists are left in the backstage or forced to surrender to the imperatives of the consumer culture, performing insignificant and compromised productions. The cutting down in the pseudo-cultural production and the selection in contents would help at decongesting the editorial market oversaturated with cheap publications, recognizing the merits and status of the writers and rearranging the image of the editorial market that is prejudiced not only in terms of its status but also financially. Numerous traditional magazines, newspapers and bookshops were forced to close their doors or stop production as they had been eclipsed by the cheap productions that tempted the middle reader and reoriented his taste or because of ignorance of the public uninterested in the complex cultural act. This way, the relation of the artist with the socio-economic context becomes questionable. Art's initial status supposes its lack of interest in mercantile actions and lack of finality from the creative effort, artist's separation from the praxis of the material world, which are principles impossible to rich or avoid in the universe of mass consumption.

The definition of culture as ideology is based on the refusal against the domination of material realities and exchange values that is only partial or compromised in the present society which does not allow even the artistic universe the escape from the economic system (Adorno, 1999, p. 39). The material praxis as a world incompatible with artist's preoccupations represents the base of the criticism and debates coming from the resistance of the militant artists who use their antagonist relation with socio-economic context in order to express the content of their writings as alternatives that promote difference, opposition, revolt. The praxis represents a necessary base of knowledge that the artist has to inform about and study from the inside for his later separation and undermining due to his subversive or explicit manifests. The paradox consists in his delicate and double position that affects him on one hand because of his being informed about the pragmatic field thus risking to betray his primary nature namely that of disinterest in material values and, on the other hand because his total non-involvement is equal to vain theory. This way, conditioning and constraint grant freedom that consists exactly in the fight against the restrictive system. The militant attitudes and vanguard ideologies bring in the first place the image of the spirit freed from moral, political or economic constraints. There are numerous studies dedicated especially to researching and explaining the mechanisms that make the socio-economic and politic space function, which is then challenged by the artistic nature. In his Archaeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault applies the concept of discourse together with its laws of construction and expression to most of the fields of action in our civilized society. Everyday reality forms a primary exterior frame that connects human relations to a unitary and coherent institutional link, economic and social processes, behavioral types, systems of norms, techniques, classifications that do not consist in their inner construction but in their capacity to interact, appear and exist due to relations with other function fields submitted to the same laws of the discourse namely the relations between sender and receiver, nature of enunciation, symbolism of message (Foucault, 1999, p. 56). Foucault's interpretation meets analogies with R. Barthes's theory, who considers that all the domains of social, economic, political life, private or public existence are potential pretexts for the codes of the discourse seen as text and saying not necessary verbal but also represented by means of various ways of expression either by image, sounds, letters or other kinds of displays that communicate messages due to specific forms of signification. As all these elements are parts in the construction of the myth, R. Barthes admits that anything can function as myth as the universe is infinitely suggestive: written texts, photos, movies, sport, shows, reportage, publicity (Barthes, 1987, p. 95). This way the economic and politic systems are demythisized myths as well as the labor canceled previously by P. Lafargue by proclaiming the right to be lazy.

In his study entitled Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action, the French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu analyzes the mechanisms that make cultural fields function, borrowing a series of terms from economic vocabulary as he makes an analysis of the economy of symbolic goods related to material goods endowed with exchange value. The key-concepts used along the whole study of the relations that build social, economic, politic and artistic life are: habitus, field, capital. These terms work as methods for qualitative and quantitative research, statistic macro and micro sociological data for observing, recording, measuring social fields, meant to explain the logical construction and action of social life. P. Bourdieu states that reality is made of a network of connections between social positions, moods (or habitus) and choices, options, tastes, preferences of the participants to the dynamics of the economic or cultural system, in terms of private or public life (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 12). Cultural capital is distributed according to affiliation to a social class that possesses a specific amount of economic capital, for example intellectuals opposed to big owners in industry or estates, which makes the difference between the habitus they act in. Each social class is characterized by particular lifestyle as a result of selection of people, goods, practices, tastes, properties, affiliation. This stratification is found in a table of social classes identified according to parameters referring to consumption, capital, habitus, etc. Thus, intellectual and artists possess maximum of cultural capital while their economic capital is reduced, their leisure activities, consumption and society games are represented by playing piano, drinking whiskey and playing chess; owners in trade and industry have powerful economic capital and reduced cultural capital, they prefer riding, hunting, sailing, playing bridge and drinking champagne; school masters, middle administrative staff, public servants, clerks, laborers and skilled workers prefer fishing, playing football and drinking beer; farmers, merchants and artisans possess reasonable economic capital and prefer red wine, fishing and playing accordion (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 14).

Social practices varying according to social classes and categories imply specific languages built on distinctive codes or signs. Homogeneous social practices favor proximity and approaching between representatives of a certain class due to their affinity, although this proximity is only theoretical and probable. The real unity of social classes is achieved as a result of mobilization and efforts, sometimes even street fights and revolutions. Social organization is based just on the different principles that govern the structure of social system. The attempt of the American, Japanese and French societies to cancel social differences by promoting the middle classes as unique or major holder in the social field is equal to the denial of the difference principle itself that organizes social stratification (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 19). Differences is what makes social field a mobile system interpreted by P. Bourdieu from a comparative point of view. The same time, social field is arranged in relation with political capital that conditions the distribution of goods and public services. Patrimonialization of collective resources is seen in case of social-democratic political regimes - for example Scandinavian pattern - that transmit through the channel of familial dynasties the social capital of political type gathered by administrative bodies such as unions and parties, whereas Soviet regimes have forced to limit the tendency of private appropriation of goods and public services.

School as an institution playing its part in the distribution of cultural capital and consequently interfering in the arrangement of social field, draws social borders (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 28) by means of the economic capital possessed by the families that afford to pay the taxes established by the elite institutions. Attending the elite schools is equal to recognition of a status or nobility title for a particular hereditary scholar nobility made of descendants of the old traditional aristocracy separated from the other social categories due to their possession of cultural symbolic capital supported by that economic one. P. Bourdieu points at the example of the Samurai who promoted in the second half of the XIX-th century the cult for the modern national state that combined noble origin and solid education possessed by the aristocracy and their superiority compared with traders and owners in industry (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 30). The amount of economic and cultural capital is involved in the arrangement of social table and scale of values preferred by the representatives of social fields, influencing their decisions to choose between art and money, culture and economy or politics. Thus social field appears as a field of social, economic, cultural forces having a various range of possession in terms of symbolic or material resources that impose relations between different types of capital and set a game of power between the dominators and the dominated (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 39). The economic dissociation between rich and poor, consequently the distribution of increased economic capital and diminished cultural capital in case of owners in industry and trade, and vice versa, the great amount of cultural capital opposed to economic capital in case of intellectuals and artists is available even inside the cultural field when it comes to choose between art and money. Pure art, incompatible with practical finalities and material universe is most of the time forced to titanic efforts in order to assert and survive on the financial market, whereas commercial art, which is liable to compromises and addresses to immediate and facile consumption, may enjoy financial success although it is less valuable in terms of quality.

The impossibility to separate economic and cultural fields is noticed in the action to concentrate all types of capital under the aegis of the state which functions at the level of all its fields first of all by means of theorizing the information that is then moulded and spread to various domains. School and culture play major parts in unifying juridical, linguistic codes, civic, social, bureaucratic rules that impose mental structures having national specificity meant to grant the particular character of each nation in relation to others (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 83). Thus cultural capital is a valuable investment at the base of societies that have solid, advanced and emancipated constructions and it coexists with economic capital so that the social fields in the structure of state are able to function. State concentrates and wields its power detected in the symbolic capital of economic, cultural, social, legislative nature, and school as an institution of state popularizes and gives value to national image by teaching history, literature and civic education. Classifications in the social hierarchy are also theoretical codes to recognize status, privileges, reputation acknowledged due to appointments from the state that distributes the names which belong to social classes, also identified by the symbolic capital (noble titles that have imposing and ceremonial sonority such as knights, lords, dukes, baronets, ladies, etc.). All the official documents registered by state are symbolic discourses meant to certify social identity and belonging (official reports, civil status, contracts, financial statements, etc.). Thus, all social relations are forms of symbolic communication that have significance, similar with linguistic structures. The compartments of cultural capital that have the greatest amount of symbolic value are literature and religion as forms of subversive language or ideological control that operate at any social level. Both of them work with emotions and experiences, are references for the national identity and the quality of the language used by a society indicates the quality of its private and public life. The literature of a nation is a badge for the creations and progress of that specific civilization at a certain historic moment and placed in a certain social context (Eagleton, 1983, p.32).


The structures in the construction of state that make its functions work are based on linguistic codes and systems of communication registered by the symbolic cultural capital. Culture and economy coexist in the proceedings of social fields and take to various forms of material or symbolic profit thus terms such as art, money, economy, culture, status function in an interdependence that varies according to the amount of material or symbolic capital invested in the fields they belong to. Art cannot work outside the circle that launches it on the market that is museums, libraries, bookshops, festivals, exhibitions, etc. All these manifestations imply market strategies, advertising campaigns, budgets, sponsoring, steps sustained by teams of specialists in economy that help directly or indirectly in the action to popularize the artistic work. The same time, artists select their subjects and themes from the social world they are supposed to know in order to use it as starting point in their future creative activity. Human characters and behavioral patterns proposed by writers may influence certain groups of readers according to their affinity and capacity to look into the content of the artistic work and grasp its impact on the social scene. The incursion into the theories and concepts of the writers brought into attention leads to the conclusion that artist's work, although with no practical use, has a moral utility due just to the unlimited perspectives opened by the infinite horizon of art; the same time, practical universe needs the symbolic cultural capital in order to build itself based on an order primarily set by linguistic concepts meant to provide communication throughout all compartments of social life. Language stays at the base of social constructions and sustains their functions and the art of a nation is an emblem for its level of civilization and progress.


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