Shifting Economic Power: New Horizons for Cultural Exchange in our Multi-Polar World

Subject category: 
Date of publication: 
Thursday, February 14, 2013

White Paper distributed in preparation for discussion at the Salzburg Global Seminar Session 490 on "Public and Private Cultural Exchange-Based Diplomacy."

Executive Summary

How is the changing distribution of wealth among nations transforming the ways in which actors in the arts and culture sector engage with each other across the planet?
To address the question, this paper first sketches out the variegated contours of the global shift in economic power from “the West” to “the Rest.” It then explores how the new wealth impacts on the cultural field, where a far more nuanced, if not uneven landscape has emerged.
Economic power may well give greater voice and self-confidence to entire societies among “the Rest,” but there is little sign that it either reduces the asymmetries significantly or leads directly to more and better practices of trans-national cultural exchange. Increasing wealth has undoubtedly strengthened the capacity and desire of many cultural actors in these societies to step up their engagement with the rest of the world. But neither governments nor the corporate sector are providing means proportionate to the new horizons of aspiration. And while considerable energies are emerging from civil societies, these can compensate for the lack of resources only to a limited extent.
In the face of such intractable obstacles to greater, less asymmetric and more dialogical cultural engagement, how can cultural actors — artists, operators, activists, scholars, and policy maker — organize themselves better? How can they act, concretely and to good effect, on the conviction that, as this paper will argue, cultural interactions are indispensable to the weaving of the complex cultural polyphony our interconnected and interdependent world so urgently requires?

Read the entire Paper here.