Culture over Commerce

22 02 2008

I was struck by the powerful message of Jeremy Rifkin while watching extra material on “the Corporation” DVD.

Here’s a nice slice:

What is culture? It’s all the activities you and I engage in that are not commercial and not government. Church, secular, fraternal, sports, arts, civic. It’s where we have deep play. It’s where we have reciprocal relationships. It’s where we explore our humanity. It’s where we revel in each other for the sheer joy of being a human being, and where we explore our relationship to our fellow creatures in the earth we live in. Culture is where we explore deep play. And create intrinsic value. The human story.

Commerce is where we create deep work and utility. In the real world, we live by deep play and deep work. We live by intrinsic and utility values.

The key question is which comes first? The community or the corporation and commerce? What I would argue, and it’s common sense, is that communities precede commerce, and therefore corporations are not the central organising principle of
our life, but they’re an augment. And should only be an essential augment but not sufficient to define who we are.

So, what we need to do is bring back the culture. The problem is that civil society, the culture, the community, has been marginalized and colonised by either corporations or governments. In fact, we call the culture “the third sector” in public policy. As if commerce is the first sector,
government’s the second sector, and then where we live our lives and create our stories is the third sector. And think of the language we use. This is a total colonialised institution. In Canada and Europe, you call organisations in the civil society “non-governmental organizations”. Meaning, not government, but dependant on. Totally colonised. In the U.S., we call these organisations in the culture “non-profit”. Not corporate, but dependant on the commercial arena.

We need to decolonise the civil society, re-embolden it, bring back cultural diversity, understand that the human story is the center of our identity. Then, we can put the corporation in its proper role. We can put the market and the networks in their proper role. Their role is to create utility. But utility is not the end of human existence, it’s simply an augment to human culture. And if we can begin to reestablish culture as the center where people’s power is, then there’s a role for corporations. And there’s a role for government. But those roles are to be attended to, not dominant over the place where people have their story told and where they live out their community values.




2 responses

5 03 2008

Great quote.

5 03 2008

I’m with you Dave, some people know how to string words together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: