Unit 1

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UNIT 1: CULTURE AND SOCIETY
An understanding and appreciation of the changing nature and
importance of culture
There is a danger that our views of culture might become stereotyped. One way of illustrating this is
the distinction that is sometimes made between 'high' (appreciated and understood by an
intellectual elite) and 'low' culture (easier to understand and approved by the masses). Such
distinctions, largely based on stereotypes, are outofdate and insulting.
They are based on a class system that, in the twentyfirst century, is far less easy to recognise and
define. There is also an underlying assumption that certain types of culture are intrinsically worth
more than others. Typical of the sort of shorthand used is the distinction made between classical
music and popular music.
'Culture' is a word that is used widely in conversation and it appears many times on the printed
page and in arts blogs. Language is a very important part of culture because we use it to describe
our ideas, feelings, values and preferences. It helps to shape our identity and it is not difficult to
summon up an image of a 'cultured' person. Yet to do so would be to submit too readily to
stereotypes because culture, like society, is always changing -- sometimes slightly, sometimes
significantly.
Culture also takes on a geographical dimension. Most people in the United Kingdom are likely to be
more familiar with Western culture (which might include the USA), if only because they experience
it more often. Alternatively, some refer to a European culture that would exclude examples from the
United States.
Equally valid would be references to Eastern culture, but this is a broad term and might incorporate
many examples from different art forms. The boom in Indian art has created one of the
fastestgrowing markets among exiled Indian, and Western, buyers in the West Prices of Indian art
were more than 20 times higher in 2007 than they were in 2001. In the Arab world, the ruling family
of Qatar are financing a Museum of Islamic Arts to hold their collection of manuscripts, books,
coins, paintings, glassware and weaponry. In marked contrast, the National Museum of Iraq was
looted after the USled invasion.
Another important distinction that is sometimes made is between mainstream or dominant culture
(an example of this is the way that the importance of Shakespeare's writings is widely recognised)
and subculture. A subculture might represent a minority view, possibly signifying a protest against

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Graffiti tags for some people are the signatures of urban artists. For others they
simply represent another form of vandalism.
In recent years, a graffiti street artist called Banksy has achieved both fame and notoriety. His
identity remains a secret but it is believed that his name is Robin or Robert Banks and that he is a
Bristolian in his early 30s.…read more

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The lists are not exhaustive and 'sport' remains a controversial area, as many continue to see it as
a recreational, rather than an art, form.
The arts, however they might be defined, are largely dependent on the government for funding. The
government department responsible for the arts is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and
its title is informative. 'Culture' cannot be rigidly or securely defined.…read more

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The Arts Council has an important role in planning for the future in the arts, not least for new, or
expanded, communities that are likely to emerge as the UK's population continues to grow. It states
that 'the arts have a major part to play in helping to galvanise community engagement and
participation and in creating a common sense of identity and pride'
'Vibrant communities' are envisaged in which:
...…read more

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Cool Britannia' was a populist theme used soon after Labour returned
to power in 1997, but it quickly disappeared. Perhaps we need to see what results from Liverpool's
stint as European capital of culture in 2008.
Elites, although not numerically large, are powerful. They can secure access to politicians and civil
servants easily.…read more

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For politicians, whatever they may say about the importance of the arts in national life, there are
always conflicting spending priorities. Voters may express many preferences for what they would
like to see but tax rises are rarely one of them.…read more

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There is a lot of debate about whether the public really cares that much about art but the success
of this appeal seems to answer the question in the affirmative. Critics of subsidised art suggest that
we value more the things that we pay for directly.…read more

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Marks are awarded for the quality of your
arguments, and you may be asked to put the case both for and against subsidising the arts.
This does not mean that you should always 'sit on the fence' -- on the contrary, a clear and
wellargued case with plenty of supporting examples will be generously rewarded. Without
subsidies, the arts would undoubtedly become less accessible, their availability would be reduced
and the lives of many people would be less enriched.…read more

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The new facilities will be available for national use at the end of the games and the
area of London concerned is in need of regeneration.
Examination Practice
Below is a typical source and question that might be used in Section B of the Unit 1 examination.
Many connected with the arts have ambiguous feelings about politicians and tend to treat them with
suspicion.…read more

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The answer requires both use of information from the source and wider knowledge supplied
by the candidates themselves. Failure to use both will limit the marks available, usually to
50%.
Candidates must note the command word, `explain'. It is a matter of `giving reasons for' rather
than describing.
Students should make clear, briefly, what they understand by `the arts'. It is an umbrella term
that might include the performing arts and a blend of creative arts.…read more

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