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6 The Planning of Culture T HE CONCEPTION OF a planned society has had a revolutionary effect on social thought and political action during the last twenty years and its importance is still hardly realized by public opinion. Yet it is possible that it marks a change in human civilization greater than anything that has occurred since the end of the stone age and the rise of the archaic cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia and the valleys of the Indus and the Yellow River. No doubt it is implicit in the idea of applied science, as was already perceived by the men of the Renaissance such as Leonardo da Vinci, Campanella and Bacon. It is less evident in the following period owing to the eighteenth-century belief in a pre-established harmony between the natural and moral worlds which made individual interest an infallible guide to social good and regarded governmental action with suspicion. It was the nineteenthcentury Socialists, above all the St. Simonians, who first popularized the idea and made it the basis of their social philosophy. Finally it became a political reality in the twentieth century with the Russian Revolution and the rise of the totalitarian r82 The Planning of Culture state. Above all the launching of the Five Year plan by Stalin in 1928 aroused world-wide interest in the possibility of largescale state planning and gave birth to a whole literature of propaganda and controversy on the subject. The conception of social and economic planning was, however , by no means confined to Russia or to the Communists. It was accepted by the Western democracies as the solution of economic depression and unemployment and was the inspiration of President Roosevelt's New Deal in the United States; while in Germany it was applied with immense technical efficiency and ruthless force in order to remold the whole life of the nation according to Nazi ideas and to equip it for the task of world conquest and domination. The revelation of the sinister possibilities of this scientific organization when it is exploited by totalitarian states has led to a certain reaction against the naIve idealization of planning as an infallible social panacea. There is a general recognition of the need to defend human freedom and spiritual values against the dehumanizing effects of a totalitarian organization of society. The original advocates of social planning in England and in America had been reformist socialists who still accepted liberal and humanitarian values and who did not look far beyond the elimination of the selfishness and confusion of the capitalist system. But when they saw it applied for very different ends of dictators and militarists, they were forced to revise their ideas. They began to realize that the liberal values that they had taken for granted were more closely related to the Christian values that they had discarded than they had believed, and that unless these values could be defended against the soul-destroying inhumanity of the new tyrannies all these achievements of scientific organization and social control would not only be worthless, but would be perverted into instruments of destruction and degradation . It is therefore time for us to reconsider the problem of planning in its wider implications. The discussion has hitherto been mainly confined to the political and economic issues. The underlying problem of a Selected Essays planned culture has as yet hardly touched public opinion. And it is the instinctive recoil from a planned culture which is one of the strongest forces making against totalitarianism. But one need not be a materialist in order to see that it is impossible to have a planned society without involving cultural as well as economic issues. You can limit your planning as the democratic states have done in the past, but then you also limit your economic planning. Any total economic planning means a planned society and therefore a planned culture. And it is this situation in which cultural planning is an extemporized affair that is forced on society by its planned economy without being willed or desired that is responsible for the crude and utilitarian character of modern culture. For if we accept the principle of social planning from the bottom upwards without regard for spiritual values we are left with a machine-made culture which differs from one country to another only in so far as the process of mechanization is more or less perfected. To most people this is rather an appalling prospect, for the ordinary man does not regard...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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