Le problème de l’art contemporain

Dire qu’on a du mal avec l’art contemporain, c’est toujours un problème vis-à-vis des autres et de soi-même.

Les autres 

Vis-à-vis des autres, d’abord, car les raisons pour lesquelles l’art contemporain pose problème ne sont souvent pas valables aux yeux des connaisseurs.

Devant un monochrome de Malevitch, si j’affirme qu’un “enfant peut faire la même chose”, on me prend pour cet idiot qui réduit l’art à un simple savoir-faire, on me résume à cette personne un peu limitée qui n’a pas compris que le Beau en art est bel et bien mort.

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Si je me scandalise que le Balloon Dog orange de Jeff Koons se soit vendu 58,4 millions de dollars chez Christie’s en 2013 et que j’assure “trouver la même chose à moins de 20 euros chez GiFi”, on sourit très poliment devant ma crédulité et ma méconnaissance du marché de l’art.

En société, affirmer ne pas comprendre l’art contemporain, c’est ainsi jouer le rôle du rabat-joie ou de “l’imbécile”.

Je suis forcément rabat-joie quand je ne partage pas l’euphorie générale qui se manifeste devant trois points noirs au milieu d’un carré blanc. J’ai un peu l’impression d’être un “imbécile” quand l’art contemporain suscite chez les autres une réflexion sur notre rapport à l’univers, et que moi je pense surtout que le billet d’entrée et l’audioguide m’ont coûté 15 euros.

J’ai beau me forcer : si je n’ai aucun scrupule à reconnaître que la peinture byzantine du IXème siècle me laisse de marbre, je me sens un peu coupable de dire que l’art contemporain provoque chez moi une espèce de malaise.

Affirmer que l’art contemporain pose problème est devenu délicat pour une raison simple : il est aujourd’hui institué. Pour aller à l’essentiel : il est entré dans les musées. Or, une œuvre qui passe la porte du Centre Pompidou ou du  MoMA c’est un peu comme un auteur qui entre dans la Pléiade : il devient peu ou prou impossible d’en formuler une critique qui ne soit pas érudite sans se mettre en danger. On peut être en désaccord, mais pas n’importe comment.

La mise en danger vis-à-vis des autres repose souvent sur le risque de révéler sa méconnaissance des codes artistiques, des déplacements, des références que l’artiste mobilise et prend plaisir à détourner. Confier que l’on n’aime pas l’art contemporain, c’est souvent avouer qu’on ne maîtrise pas assez l’histoire de l’art pour voir la subversion, comprendre la démarche, bref, comprendre pourquoi “c’est du génie !”.

Car l’art contemporain est souvent un plaisir intellectuel avant d’être un plaisir esthétique. Il suffit pour s’en convaincre de reprendre le jargon des artistes eux-mêmes.

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C’est, par exemple, Vasarely qui affirme avec ses multiples concevoir “un système d’art mural à intégrer organiquement dans l’architecture”. C’est aussi Michael Heizer qui déplace un bloc de granite de 340 tonnes pour l’exposer au Musée d’art du comté de Los Angeles et ainsi faire de “l’art statique”. Enfin, c’est Yves Klein qui réalise en 1958 à la galerie Iris Clert une exposition complètement vide au titre énigmatique : “La spécialisation de la sensibilité à l’état de matière première en sensibilité (dite “Le Vide”)”.

Devant ce plaisir intellectuel, nous ne sommes pas tous égaux. On le sait depuis La Distinction de Pierre Bourdieu, la culture légitime est une affaire d’initiés, c’est-à-dire une affaire d’origine sociale. Or, “l’influence de l’origine sociale n’est jamais aussi forte, toutes choses étant égales par ailleurs, qu’en matière de culture libre ou de culture d’avant-garde”.

Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire ? Que le malaise que j’éprouve devant les autres, eux ne l’éprouvent peut-être pas. Pourquoi ? Car la stratification temporelle des goûts repose sur un double mouvement d’innovation des classes supérieures et de diffusion aux classes populaires. En un mot : l’art contemporain est fait par une élite, pour une élite, dans un souci de distinction. Si l’art contemporain me dérange, c’est que je n’appartiens probablement pas à cette élite.

Dans l’art contemporain, une poignée de galeries suffisent à faire le déclin ou le succès d’un artiste. La sociologue Annie Verger en cite quelques unes dans son article “Le champ des avants-garde” publié dans les Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. Pêle-mêle : la galerie Jean Fournier, la galerie Iris Clert, la galerie Maeght. Le monopole de la consécration dans l’art contemporain est souvent détenu par des individus au fort capital social (Aimé Maeght rencontre Bonnard et Matisse, édite les poèmes de René Char), économique (Iris Clert est fille de grands propriétaires terriens et de banquiers), et culturel (les deux directrices de la Galerie Gillespie-Laage-Salomon sont historiennes).

Ainsi, si les classes supérieures sont “en avance” sur l’art contemporain, c’est qu’elles décident de ce qui sera artistique ou non. Si on trouve aujourd’hui les Marilyn Monroe d’Andy Warhol à la La Foir’Fouille, c’est par mimétisme des classes populaires : double mouvement d’innovation et de diffusion.

Le vrai problème de l’art contemporain se situe pourtant au-delà de ces inégalités sociales. Au fond, le Grand Prix de Rome n’a-t-il pas exercé dans le passé une influence semblable à celle des grandes galeries parisiennes aujourd’hui ? N’y a-t-il pas toujours eu d’art populaire et d’art “légitime” ?

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Moi

C’est en réalité vis-à-vis de moi-même, spectateur, que se situe le véritable problème. C’est un fait : l’art contemporain est une mise en doute si radicale du jugement esthétique qu’il dégonfle mes certitudes en matière d’art pour les réduire à ce qu’elles ont de minimal. Ce  qui me touche, ce que je trouve artistique, a probablement été décrié dans le passé puis digéré et finalement adulé des dizaines d’années plus tard. Je suis au fond toujours condamné au rejet de l’art qui m’est contemporain. En perpétuel retard sur les créations de mon époque, je suis comme forcé d’attendre que d’autres digèrent la nouveauté pour me la rendre plus familière.

L’histoire de l’art nous enseigne d’ailleurs qu’il faut redoubler de prudence lorsqu’on condamne le renouvellement des formes artistiques.

La plupart des historiens retiennent comme acte fondateur de l’art moderne – au choix – l’ouverture du Salon des Refusés de 1863 ou l’exposition de l’Olympia au Salon de 1865. Dans les deux cas, Manet n’échappe pas aux rires moqueurs de ses contemporains. Ernest Chesneau, critique d’art alors en vogue décrit « une ignorance presque enfantine des premiers éléments du dessin, parti-pris de vulgarité inconcevable ».

Mais voilà, après le clip de Womanizer de Britney Spears et les happenings d’Yves Klein où de jeunes femmes nues s’enduisent de peinture bleue, le scandale de 1865 n’est plus si tapageur et le propos d’Ernest Chesneau nous semble clairement rétrograde. Olympia s’est assagie et Manet est devenu très fréquentable.

La démarche de Carolee Schneemann autour de “l’espace vulvique” qui consiste, disons-le, à dérouler un rouleau de papier logé dans son vagin, m’apparaîtra-t-elle un jour artistique avant de m’inspirer le sentiment d’une imposture ? Le doute est permis.

Le problème de l’art contemporain, c’est qu’on ne sait pas si la confusion qu’il provoque est l’indice que mon jugement est prisonnier de son époque, ou que, décidément, nous faisons fausse route.

 

par Rémi Perrichon

The English Language: History and Etymology

 

TheEnglishLanguage-HistoryAndEtymology_Title

Old English – First three lines of the epic Beowulf (composed in the early eighth century) 1. in the “Insular Hand”, the handwriting of the time, which had been adopted from the Irish, 2. the transcription into the Latin alphabet and the translation into modern English (read line by line).

 

Each of us uses, hears, and reads words every day. And beneath the manifold meanings a word can have in its current usage, lies its even richer history which can span millennia and continents. The study of words, their origins and their development is called etymology – a branch of linguistics. The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of the development and etymology of the English language, then to provide some examples of words and their history, and finally to convince you that etymology can be practical in everyday life.

English is a particularly gratifying object of etymological study, as it combines the influences of several language families. Old English (449-1100) was imported to the British Isles by the Germanic Angle, Saxon and Jute tribes of the northern European mainland. Their own language had evolved in the Indo-European language family, a prehistoric tongue which was the source of most other European and many south-Asian languages. In due course, the languages on the British Isles incurred influences of  , Latin through the spread of Christianity and the alignment with the Roman Catholic Church, and Scandinavian through repeated invasions by the Vikings.

 

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Old English (late West Saxon dialect) – Opening verses of Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, as translated by Ælfric, the greatest prose writer of the Old English period.

 

 

The transition to the Middle English period (1100-1500) was marked by an important shift in grammar compared to Old English. Its starting point can be seen at the year 1066, when the Norman army invaded and conquered England. The Normans came from Normandy in northern France and were descendants of the Vikings who had settled that area some generations earlier;  y the time of the conquest they had become culturally Frankish. They replaced the native English nobility and thus Norman French became the language of   government. Latin remained the language of the clergy and English the language spoken by the majority of the population – Britain effectively became trilingual. With time, English regained in importance, as ties with France loosened (e.g. by the loss of the Normandy territory, the Hundred Year’s War between England and France). The power of the English-speaking common people increased, partly due to the Black Death killing around 1/3 of England’s population; English language poetry (e.g. by Chaucer) became popular and the Bible was translated into English. By the end of the 14th century public documents were written in English and kings made their declarations in English. By that time, Middle English had changed considerably compared to Old English: Latin and Scandinavian had introduced new words into the word-stock, and Old French – the largest influence by far – besides adding words to the vocabulary, also influenced the grammar.

 

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Late Middle English – Opening verses of Genesis, in the translation to English by John Wycliffe in the 1380s

 

In the period of Early Modern English (1500-1800), British influence vastly expanded across the world, laying the foundations for English as a world language. This was also not only the time of Shakespeare, but also one of transformation for the language. While the transition from Old to Middle English occurred in terms of grammar, the shift of Middle to Early Modern English (1500-1800) was driven by a notable pronunciation change and an expansion of the word-stock.

In part, new words were acquired from foreign languages: the Renaissance period led to an influx of Latin and Ancient Greek vocabulary, French remained a strong influence, and Portuguese and Spanish gained in importance due to their role in the colonial conquests in Latin America. Britain itself expanded its influence during that time, founding colonies in America, Asia and Australia, and through this  not only goods but also words.

 

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Early Modern English – Opening verses of Genesis from the
King James Bible published in 1611.

 

Furthermore, starting in the 15th century, the English language underwent its most important shift in pronunciation, termed the Great Vowel Shift: the phonetics of all of the Middle English long vowels changed as described in the picture below -and that of many other vowels and consonants as well. For example the a in name used to be pronounced as in spa, or the double e of feet was pronounced as the vowel in made. The reasons for this shift are essentially unknown. Spelling, however, was not adjusted to reflect the new pronunciation, as the archaic medieval ways of spelling were preferred; this is one of the reasons why spellings do not correspond to pronunciation. Another one is that, at the time,   men studying etymology were fond of introducing -sometimes erroneously- new spellings of words based on their etymological roots. This explains the gap between the writing and the pronunciation of words such as debt or doubt. Those words come from Old French and were spelled det and dout in Middle English, in line with its pronunciation. Today’s b was inserted to reflect the Latin origin debere (to owe, to have to) and dubitare (to doubt). Similar examples are indict, victual, receipt, all pronounced differently than suggested by their spelling.

 

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Early Modern English: The Great Vowel Shift

 

Today, in the period of Late Modern English (1800-present), English is a world language; the total number of speakers may be two billion -although of varying competence . Algeo (2009) differentiates three circles of English speakers: “an inner circle of native speakers in countries where English is the primary language, an outer circle of second-language speakers in countries where English has wide use alongside native official languages, and an expanding circle of foreign-language speakers in countries where English has no official standing but is used for ever-increasing special purposes.

To illustrate the concept of etymology, let me present an example. One rather far-fetched etymology is that of the word muscle: it derives from the Latin word for muscle musculus, which is literally the diminutive of mus, for mouse. Apparently the shape and the movement of muscles, in particular the biceps, invoked the image of mice. This image of muscles as little moving animals underneath the skin seems to have been widespread: in Greek mys is also both mouse and muscle, in Arabic adalah is for muscle and adal for field mouse, and the Middle English lacerte meant both muscle and lizard.

How can such knowledge be not only entertaining but also useful? Since we are studying in Toulouse, I want to finish by focusing on the links between English and French, and give you some tricks I accumulated over the years to figure out the meaning of unknown French words. They do not always work perfectly or at all, but are awesome when they do.

English started off as the language of a few Germanic tribes who had settled a small island off the coast of Europe. Over its history it evolved and by some coincidences became a world language with many millions of speakers – in this process collecting and incorporating words and grammar from French, Latin, Scandinavian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and many other languages around the world. These influences are still visible today – and knowing how languages are interrelated can help us use our knowledge about one language to decipher another.

By Julia  Baarck

 

For those who would like to learn more about languages and etymology, I warmly recommend the “Johnson” column in The Economist, and further the book “The origins and development of the English language” (base for the history part of this text).

Further references

Algeo, John. “The origins and development of the English language.” (2009).

Crystal, David. “Two thousand million?.” English today 24.1 (2008): 3-6 , retrieved at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/english-today/article/two-thousand-million/68BFD87E5C867F7C3C47FD0749C7D417

Etymologyonline. https://www.etymonline.com/word/muscle

http://www.gbarto.com/languages/frvocab.html

Merriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/

The Economist. Johnson Column. https://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson

Profit vs. Usury: difference from the point of view of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Aquin

 

 

“Main use of money is its consumption or investment” 

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1265-1274)

 

 

 

From the above quote and his works, we know that St. Thomas Aquinas considered money as a non-durable good, which by definition should be destroyed when exchanged / consumed, and thus should not be used to generate even more money. For him, if money is used to acquire goods or to obtain services, then it is not fair to ask for more money than is worth the service or good itself. Thus Aquinas makes the distinction between the true price for a good or service, and the illegitimate price for the use of such good or service. The price of the use of money is what Aquinas calls usury because when one charges for the use of a good, one charges for more than the fair price of the good. It follows that, for Aquinas, it is evil to sell goods at prices which are higher than their just price; yet he still allows merchants to make profits from their merchandise – which means that they have increased the original price of the goods they are selling. Thence, what is usury for St. Thomas Aquinas and why does he think that profit is not usury?

St. Thomas, in the same way as Aristotle, sees the just or fair price of a good as the price which corresponds to the true value of said object. With this definition, Aquinas considers that usury and profits are sins; still, he puts certain conditions under which one may charge at a different price than the fair price when selling objects, i.e., make profit. If the object provides the consumer with a lot of utility, he could pay a price higher than the fair price; similarly, if the seller does not want to sell the object, then the buyer could pay more than the fair price in case of emergency. You can also charge more than the fair price because of transport costs or modifications to the object. But the most important and valid reason to set a higher price is when the seller sells and makes profit to support his own family or to help the poor. Continuing on the previous example, the seller is a merchant whose profession is to trade, and only through the profits he makes can he can support his family and, if possible, help the needy. For this reason, Aquinas allows profit, if profit is not an end in itself but a compensation for the work of the merchant.

 Aside from purchases and sales, in general Aquinas condemns usury in an absolute way. The author Chasterton (Persky, 2007) interprets Aquinas’ thoughts in the following way: Aquinas considers that people who take loans are people who really need the money, such as poor people who have to take care of themselves and their family. To do so they ask a lender, but this lender does not need the money. Indeed, lenders have typically more resources than necessary to cover their needs and this allows them to loan money. In these circumstances, lending with interest implies two sins for lenders: first, they take advantage of the needy, and second, they want more than they need, i.e., they commit the sins of vanity and greed. Other authors, such as Wilson and Stark (Worland 1977), see a different reason behind Aquinas position on money, profit and usury. Both authors take into account the environment in which Aquinas lived, which was characterised by a “chronic low level stagnation”, i.e. a society of orders, with a predetermined status quo and a strong religious devotion among all members of society. In this context the authors, mainly Stark, believe that the reasons why Aquinas wanted to prohibit usury were not those exposed in his Summa Theology, but rather an exogenous factor: the dynamism of Capitalism was threatening the social order, threatening the status quo, and such dynamism began with the loan of money which requires interest -so that one may be able to make profit when lending money. If we follow these authors’ explanation, one could consider that Aquinas did not think that the poor were those who were going to request loans. Instead, he may have thought that only merchants would sought out such loans in order to improve their businesses and generate wealth. In turn this would boost the world economy and in this scenario, a new social order could be established.

In both interpretations of Aquinas’ thoughts, the practice of usury is wrong and detrimental to society. With the first explanation, it is possible that Aquinas outlawed usury in order to defend the poor from the exploitation of unscrupulous lenders. This defense of the poor may not even be genuine and may be due to the potential benefit that Aquinas sees that the lenders could obtain. Indeed, Bentham (1816) showed in his work how the poor were actually willing to accept any interest rate in exchange for a loan. Consequently, unimaginably high rates – that a poor person would not be able to cope with – could be the norm.

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If the true intentions of Aquinas are those given by Wilson and Stark, then he wanted to prevent society from developing, from changing; for this reason, he prohibits usury.

Going forward, for Aquinas, usury is such a great misdeed that in the Summa Theologica he extends the sin of usury to any objects that were bought with the gain of it. Even so, he allows in certain occasions to receive some type of appreciation when money is lent. Aquinas says that it is lawful, and not sinful, “to demand in compensation for the loan, those things that are not measured, such as benevolence, friendship of the one to whom it was lent or other similar … if the gift of services or in words not it is granted by way of real obligation, but by benevolence, which does not fall under the pecuniary assessment, it is lawful to receive, demand and wait for it.” (Aquinas 1265-1274, Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, question 78). Here, Aquinas affirms again that nothing material can be received in exchange for a loan, nothing except things that cannot be measured, things which cannot be sold or exchanged.

Therefore, we see that Aquinas distinguishes very clearly between selling goods and lending money. With selling, the fair price of the object can be modified given the preferences of the agents and given the transformations the object went through (not only physical but also due to time and location); you may do the same if you are a merchant by profession and the profit made by increasing the price is used for good. However, making profits through lending cannot be allowed. Indeed, if people were allowed to lend money and charge this service, then it could not be in order to feed their family or help the poor, because if they were really altruistic they would have used their excess money for these purposes initially. This is the main difference Aquinas sees between profit and usury and why it is strongly condemned, censored, and forbidden by him and by the Catholic Church. But Aquinas could also maintain the status quo of society, according to Stark. For it, Aquinas used the best way to hide it this double intention: coming out in defense of the poor.  In the end, even with the strong condemnation on usury, Aquinas and the Catholic Church did not manage to stop usury because it was secretly camouflaged as interest  (Persky, 2007), becoming the fundamental pillar of today’s capitalist world.

By José Alfonso Muñoz

 

References

Aquinas, T. (1265-1274). Summa Theologica. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.pdf

Bentham, J. (1816). Defence of Usury: Showing the Impolicy of the Present Legal Restraints on the Term of Pecuniary Bargains. Payne & Foss.

Persky, J. (2007). Retrospectives: from usury to interest. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(1), 227-236.

Worland, S. T. (1977). Justum pretium: One more round in an “endless series”. History of Political Economy, 9(4), 504-521

Le patrimoine culturel en France : les dangers des modes de gestion non optimaux

CaptureAlors que nous assistions, impuissants, à l’incendie ravageant la Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Paris en avril 2019, un débat abordé depuis longtemps par les spécialistes est revenu sur la scène politique : la question des modes de gestion du patrimoine culturel français, et notamment du patrimoine religieux.

Comment équilibrer les recettes générées par le tourisme culturel avec les coûts d’entretien de bâtiments parfois âgés de plusieurs siècles ?

Cet article revient sur le mode actuel de gestion du patrimoine français, et plus particulièrement du patrimoine religieux, ainsi que sur les innovations proposées par l’actuel gouvernement ainsi que par des professionnels et engagés dans ce secteur.

Retour sur la définition de patrimoine

Il convient de faire un petit point sur la définition de patrimoine, ainsi que sur la distinction entre propriétaires publics et propriétaires privés.

La notion de patrimoine culturel est définie par l’article L1 du code du patrimoine comme « l’ensemble des biens, immobiliers ou mobiliers, relevant de la propriété publique ou privée, qui présentent un intérêt historique, artistique, archéologique, esthétique, scientifique ou technique ». Pour ce qui est des édifices de cultes, le régime de soumission diffère selon la période d’édification du lieu de culte. Les biens du clergé qui, en 1789, ont été constitués « Biens de la Nation », sont propriétés de personnes publiques. La loi de séparation de l’Eglise et de l’Etat de 1905 prescrivait le transfert des biens mobiliers et immobiliers religieux à des associations cultuelles constituées et a été complétée par la loi de 1908 préconisant la prise des droits de propriété des édifices cultuels par les communes s’ils ne sont ni restitués, ni revendiqué dans un délai légal. L’Eglise catholique ayant refusé la constitution d’associations cultuelles, les édifices religieux catholiques – représentant la quasi-totalité des édifices religieux en France – construits avant 1905 appartiennent donc à des personnes publiques. Le plus souvent, les cathédrales sont propriétés de l’Etat, tandis que les chapelles et les églises sont propriétés des communes (ce régime ne s’applique ni à l’Alsace-Moselle – sous le régime du Concordat – ni à la Guyane, à Mayotte et à Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon). Les lieux de culte construits ou acquis après 1905 relèvent du régime de propriété privée pour les personnes privées, et du domaine privé pour les personnes publiques. Il revient aux propriétaires, publics ou privés, d’effectuer les travaux nécessaires à l’entretien et à la conservation de leur patrimoine culturel.

Par ailleurs, les éléments du patrimoine culturel – public ou privé – peuvent être « inscrits » ou « classés » comme « monuments historiques », ce qui leur assure une certaine protection légale. L’Etat peut financer les travaux d’entretien jusqu’à 25% – pour les monuments inscrits – ou 50% – pour les monuments classés. Environ 72% de ces monuments historiques sont des habitations (châteaux, manoirs, villas, …) ou des édifices religieux.

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Le problème du financement de l’entretien et de la conservation du patrimoine culturel

Le patrimoine culturel peut bien évidemment être source de revenus importants pour les personnes publiques, soit directement – droits d’entrée, dons de particuliers, … – soit indirectement – création d’emplois, impôts directs ou indirects, taxes de séjour, … Il est donc important pour elles de valoriser au maximum leurs atouts. Malheureusement, c’est chose difficile pour certaines collectivités territoriales, pour qui les coûts surpassent parfois les produits.

En effet, la difficulté de financer l’entretien et la conservation du patrimoine culturel et des monuments historiques est de plus en plus soulevée. Pour les collectivités territoriales, qui détiennent environ 50% des monuments historiques, les fonds qu’elles doivent souvent se procurer par elles-mêmes, sont parfois difficiles à trouver. De plus, si les travaux sont à la charge des propriétaires privés de patrimoine, les fonds publics sont souvent sollicités. Les personnes publiques – en particulier les collectivités – ont du mal à s’en sortir, et sont même parfois tentées de vendre ou de détruire certains de leurs biens. Il en résulte que certains éléments du patrimoine se trouvent en situation de péril. La mission Stéphane Bern, créée en partenariat avec la Fondation du Patrimoine et confiée par Emmanuel Macron à Stéphane Bern en 2018, visant à récolter des fonds pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine, a recensé quelques 3500 signalements sur les 44 000 biens répertoriés comme monuments historiques. Parmi les projets jugés prioritaires, la grande majorité se trouvent dans des territoires ruraux ou sont gérés par de petites communes.

Le problème souvent mis en avant est que, dans des régions reculées ou en zone rurale, il peut être difficile d’attirer beaucoup de visiteurs. Si la France est le pays qui attire le plus de touristes, ils ne sont pas également répartis sur le territoire. Certains endroits comme Paris ou le sud de la France sont très prisés, quand d’autres sont délaissés.

Des prises d’initiatives par le gouvernement et les élus locaux

Avec environ 85% de la population vivant dans des communes de 10 000 habitants ou moins, le gouvernement actuel semble avoir conscience que le patrimoine français n’est pas uniquement constitué des biens des grandes métropoles, et propose donc des initiatives. Le projet de loi de finances pour 2018 présente une hausse des crédits pour les monuments historiques, ainsi que la création d’un fond d’aide à la rénovation de 15 millions d’euros pour les collectivités territoriales à faibles ressources. Le projet de loi de finance pour 2019 reste sur le budget moyen annuel alloué à la culture de 10 milliards d’euros – avec toutefois une augmentation de 17 millions d’euros. Par ailleurs, par le biais de la première édition du loto du patrimoine organisé par la Mission Stéphane Bern en partenariat avec la Française des Jeux en 2018, 22 millions d’euros avaient été récoltés pour la restauration de 269 monuments en péril. Le loto du patrimoine a été reconduit le 14 juillet 2019 et le sera en septembre 2019, lors des Journées Européennes du Patrimoine. En parallèle, on observe une volonté de démocratisation de la culture, notamment auprès des jeunes. Le Ministère de la Culture porte le projet du Pass Culture, une application gratuite qui relaie les activités culturelles et artistiques à proximité, et permet l’octroi sur demande d’une enveloppe de 500 euros aux jeunes de 18 ans à dépenser sur ce Pass – spectacles, visites, …

Des efforts encourageants, mais pour certains des réformes plus en profondeur sont nécessaires

Les initiatives du gouvernement sont louables mais seraient insuffisantes en terme de besoin financiers. Certains appellent à encourager les fonds privés pour sauver le patrimoine. La Mission Stéphane Bern en est un exemple.  Par ailleurs des régimes juridiques comme le bail emphytéotique administratif, qui confie la jouissance par une personne publique – qui en reste propriétaire – d’un bien à une personne privée, pourraient stimuler les recettes liées au tourisme et permettrait donc de mieux amortir les coûts. Le château de Versailles, par exemple, devrait prochainement accueillir un hôtel ainsi qu’un restaurant gastronomique. D’autres comme Marie-Hélène Jouzeau, directrice du Musée du château des Ducs à Nantes, dénonce un système de gratuité croissante qui, en plus de limiter les recettes, serait peu efficace pour démocratiser l’accès à la culture. En effet, si le nombre de visiteurs d’un monument augmente, cela peut être davantage parce que les habitués s’y rendent plus souvent, que par un élargissement de son public. L’impact réel de la gratuité est difficile à évaluer.

Conclusion

La conservation du patrimoine français est un sujet complexe. Il est empreint de la vision européenne de la valeur d’un bien culturel souvent liée à son authenticité – contrairement à l’Asie de l’Est par exemple, où beaucoup de monuments japonais sont traditionnellement souvent reconstruits, et où la plupart des monuments chinois que l’on peut visiter aujourd’hui ont été intégralement reconstruits dans le courant du XXème siècle. Ce soucis d’authenticité peut faire de la rénovation une tâche délicate. Néanmoins, il existe des solutions pour sauver le patrimoine, et notamment le patrimoine des petites villes, de la ruine ou de la destruction. Prendre conscience de l’état actuel du patrimoine est un premier pas. Il nous reste à déterminer la suite du chemin.

Par Rose Mba Mébiame

 

References:

https://www.missionbern.fr/

https://www.patrimoine-religieux.fr

Cariou André, Jouzeau Marie-Helene, Etes-vous pour ou contre la gratuité au musée ?, Ouest France, 26.09.2013

Zunz, Stephen, Sauver le patrimoine historique grâce au financement privé ?, Contrepoints, 16.04.2019

Was Bourdieu right? Art, Culture and Social reproduction

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There is currently a common belief in the Western world that high culture and arts are quite elitist and lead to discrimination: high-end humanities such as classic literature and philosophy, deep knowledge of history, arts or science are inaccessible to the common folk yet very rewarding economically and socially. To what extent is that true and can we – and should we – change it?

Have high arts and humanities actually hindered social mobility in the past?

From Antiquity up until the 19th century, the world was largely a society of classes. Indeed, since the 1960s there has been a consensus among historians, including prominent ones such as Fernand Braudel who worked on Mediterranean societies in the Middle Ages, that there was some vertical and horizontal inter-generational social mobility before the 19th century: some families were getting richer or poorer through generations and they could also change their main activities of subsistence. Both types of social mobility could take place through the military – mostly because officers and nobles killed in wars had to be replaced – but also through religious and administrative institutions which needed “qualified” labour. And while one could argue that at the end of the Middle Ages a more rigid society of orders arose in Europe, so too did the political and economic power of merchants; hence, vertical social mobility was still very present.
In that context, were high arts and literature a stumbling block for the poor? Not really, because the discrimination the “low-born” faced was mostly due to their lineage, and not to their lack of knowledge of the higher arts and humanities. Actually, there are many important historical figures who rose from very poor backgrounds into places of great power, like Pope Gregory VII; in these many examples and in life in general, high culture was actually used as a selection mechanism. Take for instance the Imperial Examination in China. It started in 200 BC and lasted until the beginning of the 20th century, and was a way to rank candidates for the administration of the Chinese Empire. The exams evolved over time but always involved knowledge of Confucian literature, of traditional Chinese history, of writing and painting techniques, along with other essential parts of Chinese high culture. From that description alone, one could definitely assume that this examination blocked the poor from entering the administration. However this reasoning fails because, considering that an examination favouring the poor would never have been accepted by the nobles, the only other alternative would have been selection into the administration based on lineage. Hence the Chinese Imperial Examination was an excellent compromise: it managed to prevent the least talented from the “highborn” from entering the administration while recruiting the most talented of the “lowborn”. The second appeal of such competition is that it was a way to define Chinese high culture and its ideals. In other words, it was also a way to unify culturally the Empire, or at least
its elites, and to spread desirable ideas.

So, historically, one should know that negative discrimination was very often based on one’s blood and not on one’s knowledge of the arts and high culture perpetuated by the nobles. In truth, one can argue that, in the past, using high culture to rank and discriminate people was beneficial to societies who did it, because it was the best alternative in a world where connections and lineage were everything.

How about now?

Much later, the industrial revolution in the second half of the 19th century and the advent of democracy and Capitalism in Europe, changed the foundations of social mobility completely. In these times, both vertical and horizontal social mobility in-
creased very rapidly as a direct result of the lower classes getting richer through new technological advancements in medicine, machinery and agriculture. Additionally, basic education, easier access to loans, and an increase in mobility allowed future generations to change career paths more easily. Nowadays, inter-generational mobility is decreasing in the West because growth has stalled, but is on a strong upward trend in developing countries. It is in this setting that the famous French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu – and many other sociologists – argued that arts, humanities and high culture are a tool of the bourgeois, of the rich, to prevent the poor from moving up the social ladder. In his opinion their main medium of oppression are schools, exams and competitions for highly qualified jobs because they all require such knowledge. For him, the elites are so self-preserving and organised that they have imposed their own culture, a high culture which is inaccessible to the poor, into schools.

Now, who could argue that arts and humanities are discriminating? Bourdieu’s empirical work already proved it: in any study on income, children who succeed at school have better paying jobs; at the same time children with rich parents succeed much more in school than children with poor parents, especially in the humanities. Hence, high culture requirements contribute to social reproduction and it is still the case today. As a matter of fact, in current France, most grandes écoles – the top universities in engineering, politics and management – require a high proficiency in French but also an extensive knowledge of French classic literature, philosophy and arts. So for anyone who has not been exposed to these texts and ideas from birth, it is extremely difficult to bridge the gap. An even harder ceiling can be found in countries where only one type of thought and behavior, only one type of culture, is allowed at the top such as Vietnam where adherence and knowledge of communist ideas and ideals is required.

So indeed we observe that high culture contributes to social reproduction, but to come back to Bourdieu, his explanation of the origins of social reproduction is extremely far-fetched, and most likely rooted in the marxist belief that the capitalist elites are, as a class, actively trying to destroy the social ladder. The much simpler and rational economic explanation is that the rich are like the rest and are not trying to change a whole system but simply acting individually in their own interests. More specifically, first, in any family the children will inherit the preferences of their parents, and will transmit their preferences to their own children in the future. This means that in rich families preferences for humanities and arts will be transmitted through generations. Second, on average, richer households are much more forward looking than poorer households, so that they will make “smarter” investments for their children and teach them about science and literature from an early age to ensure their future success. These controversial yet relatively old observations were first quantified by nobel prize winner Gary Becker in the 1970s, and largely explain what rich households teach to their children and why. Finally, the nail in the coffin against Bourdieu’s claims is the following: when a rich household emigrates, the advantage the children had because of their culture should vanish; So, by Bourdieu’s theory, they should fare way worse; However, in reality, we observe the contrary, rich kids are on average doing very well at school, even if they migrate.

Could we and should we eliminate discrimination based on high culture?
Knowledge – or the lack of knowledge – of philosophy, literature, etc… Leads to social reproduction. So, from an economic point of view, removing this “cultural” barrier to economic and social success could be seen as efficient. It would make the market for top schools and best jobs more competitive as it would decrease the threshold for entering the competition. Consequently, it could theoretically increase social mobility and total welfare. But there are many reasons to believe the contrary.

First, if these “cultural” barriers are removed, what would be the alternative? Possibly selection based on connections, which is a worse outcome. Possibly higher thresholds in maths, science, history and politics, but these subjects are as hard to apprehend for underprivileged children as literature and the humanities. Second, schools and businesses are private, so it is difficult to remove these “cultural requirements” in a democracy. Third, removing these requirements may have the opposite effect on social mobility because rich families can move their children to schools which still teach high culture. There is actually some evidence of this phenomenon in the U.S: in neighbourhoods which are diverse in terms of income, there is a growing trend of rich
families – including left-leaning families – to send their kids to private schools (see The New York Times “Family by Family, How School Segregation Still Happens”). Finally, there is a powerful philosophical and political argument to be made in favor of selection based on humanities and arts. This is an argument which is very popular among conservative and religious intellectuals such as François-Xavier Bellamy, a leading member of the right-wing French party Les Républicains. As mentioned briefly previously in the case of China, the arts and humanities which are taught or required for a job are most often important ideas and pieces of history over which a nation is built. In that sense, should a country not require its economic and political elites to be comfortable with their own high culture? Shouldn’t these important ideas, ideals and works be promoted, and hence their mastering be expected of people in positions of power?

This question is obviously open and controversial, because there is a lot of potential for abuse. Whether it is learning Latin in France, or knowing by heart the revised biography of Lenin and Mao in China, some teachings and parts of high culture should not be taught or required for a job. Thence, a middle ground could be struck: some dose of discrimination based on arts and humanities could be healthy for social cohesion and the social ladder, but also to push the ideals we think are important. And yes, we could do that and are already doing that because culture is always changing, be it with state intervention or not. Therefore, thinking that high culture will disappear if we do not teach it is foolish, because the rich will transmit it anyway and will segregate themselves. So through schools, museums and festivals, the nice and interesting parts, yet difficult to understand, of one’s own culture could be transmitted to those who grow up and have grown up without it.

by Hippolyte Boucher (September 2019)