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Forbes-November-2012

[Download Forbes November 2012 Interplay of Culture and Economy]

 by Jennie S. Bev

“Culture” is probably one of
the hardest English-language words to define. Almost anything we encounter
everyday—consciously or not—is part of it. Raymond Williams in his 1976 book “Culture”
posited that culture “never
completes or finishes. It is continuously evolving, propagating with various
meanings and identities, and shaping every aspect of the society.” 

As individuals and
institutions, we shape and are shaped by culture. A strict approach in
comprehending and analyzing it would be problematic. Either as a producer or a
consumer of goods and services, we are culture-shapers. According to Williams, there
are four interplays of culture and economy: negative, positive, competitive or emergent.

In the case of Indonesia, how
has culture been shaping the economy or vice versa? Which cultural elements are
involved, such as regional, national or international? Which is dominant: state
or private? How are digitalization and globalization affecting this process? Do
capitalistic interests reduce the purity of artistic and scientific elements of
culture?

Despite the misunderstood
notion of culture as something of the past that we inherit today, culture is
more than an edifice of the past. It is a key determinant of the future. We can
expect to see more interplay between digital and cross-boundary cultural
elements while at the same time private actors will gain influence at the
expense of state actors. Traditional and modern cultural aspects can be
expected to interact at a greater speed than two decades ago. 

Bali, batik, keris (Javanese dagger) and gamelan
immediately come to mind as stereotypical traditional Indonesian cultural
elements. Yet digitalization and globalization have created an unprecedented condition
in which a direct linkage can be formed flawlessly between capitalistic
interests and traditional cultural gatekeepers.

For instance, Bali, batik, keris and gamelan now exist in an age in
which they can no longer be independently enjoyed in a conventional
context—they can only exist side by side with modern technologies such as cell
phones and television. The convergence of media such as television and the
Internet also provides an unprecedented opportunity for a blended culture. Thus
another question emerges: Do
capitalistic interests taint artistic products?

There is no simple answer. It
is both a “profit” and a “loss” whenever artistic pursuits are mixed with
capitalistic interests. Using a paradigm that every cultural product has a
value to users, then capitalistic interests impressively increase the
opportunity in creating value.

Indonesia has an
unprecedented opportunity to rise above the rest of the world. With its
economic momentum as a new G20 member, per capita income close to $4,000, and a
243 million-strong domestic market, we can expect to see Indonesia become an
increasingly important economic force. This growth, combined with the country’s
rich cultural elements, will undoubtedly raise Indonesia’s global profile. Indonesia
should take advantage of its economic momentum and cultural richness to improve
both its global position and the quality of life for all Indonesians.[]

Forbes Indonesia, November 2012


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