Humanitarian competence in a global world. Does the culture have its rights?


The definition of culture. In 1952 Clyde Kluckhohn and Alfred Louis Kroeber, famous American social anthropologists – published a book that became the most cited work in culturology of the second half of the twentieth century. In the book "Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions”, 1952, Cambridge, the authors have collected known at that period definitions of culture that have been suggested by anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers. Exploring the relationship between culture and language, culture and society, the individual, the authors attempted to synthesize a universal definition of culture.

A phenomenon of culture was so versatile that the attempts to emphasize in the concept of "culture" elements that would be restrictive markings, characteristic for a particular sphere of knowledge, objects, phenomena, properties and relations, had led not only to its polysemy, but also to the fact that in various studies the culture was spoken about not as different sides of the same phenomenon, but as different phenomena in principle. Nevertheless, we intuitively understand that culture is directly linked to such concepts as "personality", "society", "beauty" and "harmony".

Matthew Arnold, an English poet and culturologist, one of the most reputable literary critics and essayists of the Victorian period in his book "Culture and Anarchy", 1869 described this phenomenon as following. He thought that the basis of culture consists of love to that surrounds a man and also the impulses that encourage him to do good, to help others. These impulses also create in a man the desire to work on our mistakes, the mistakes of past generations, to remove the veil of human delusions and, ultimately, a noble desire to make the world better and happier than it was before us.

Culture — a passion for perfection. The phenomenon of culture acquires its true meaning only when it is based not on the curiosity but on a passion for perfection, and then the culture can be called a science of perfection. The quintessence of this science is not only a thirst for knowledge but also moral and social commitment to do good. Thus, if culture is the desire for perfection, that manifests itself as an internal condition of mind and spirit but not as a set of external circumstances and the desire for assignment and possession, its role for mankind appears to us in a completely other light. And this role is especially important in the modern world, that, unlike traditional civilizations, where the devotion to traditions penetrates in all the spheres of social and individual being, is socially disunited, mechanistic and has a rampant tendency to possession and consumption.

The idea of a perfection as the internal condition of mind and spirit is in conflict with the world of consumption. The idea of mankind as of a big family is in conflict with the problems of extreme individualism and a well-known maxim "every man for himself". The idea of perfection as a natural continuation of a human nature is in conflict with the lack of flexibility, the inability to look at things from a different angle, the desire for absorption of resources in a search of happiness.

Here we approach the basic issue: does the culture have its rights? Let's try to consider this problem.

On September 1, 1995 in a Saint-Petersburg University of The Humanities and Social Sciences Dmitry Likhachev presented to the public the draft Declaration on the rights of culture. In the opinion of the scientist, the modern stage of civilization development necessitated the formal adoption by the international community, the governments of a number of principles and statutes to further the preservation and development of culture as the heritage of mankind [1].

On the proposal of the University under the government of Saint-Petersburg the public Commission for further development of the ideas of the "Declaration of the rights of culture" that included O. Basilashvili, Y. Gordin, D. Granin, V. Znamenov, M. Kagan, A. Mylnikov, M. Piotrovsky, V. Triodin, etc. was created.

As a result, under the scientific guidance of D. Likhachev the final document was developed. The Declaration consists of 16 articles and especially noteworthy is the statement that "culture is a determining condition for the realization of creative potential of the individual and society ... a humanistic benchmark and a criterion of human and civilization development. Without culture the present and the future of peoples, ethnic groups and states becomes devoid of meaning" [1].

Besides, Likhachev shares his vision of globalization as a contemporary process of interaction of cultures in a global scale, that is driven primarily not by economic but the cultural interests of a mankind. In his opinion, humanity should build the concept of globalization as a harmonic process of the world cultural development. [2]

Thus, culture as the science of perfection, the quintessence of what is not only thirst for knowledge, but also moral and social desire to do good is a main point and the global existence value of an individual and society.

Like a state, a culture arises as a product of a conscious creativity of people. Let us suppose that the culture has its rights and in this case, the person is obligated to give to it, in his turn, a part of his rights: the society and the culture will have a complex of cross rights and obligations, as well as the responsibility for a nonfulfilment of the latter. This statement may seem meaningless. How can the product of human activity, in a literal sense, receive some of the freedoms of its creator? However, the statement is not an isolated one and the book of Matthew Arnold mentioned above , the author completed with the assumption that the best condition for man is unity, harmony, impartiality, and giving a part of our rights to culture, we, however, find the most reliable friend; when anarchy presents an obvious threat to people (note that under the anarchy and chaos the author means that things that weren`t included in his definition of culture), culture is all the best in the world and it becomes our defender. Endowing a culture with the vitality, the author says that our unity is its goal, and thus repeatedly recognizes its authority.

There is an opinion that the culture is an entertaining thing, that it is necessary for propaganda, cultivating a good taste and patriotism. In this lies the biggest contradiction in the understanding of the phenomenon of culture. Understanding/ possession of some set of cultural symbols, the ability to understand literature, cinema, music, painting, still do not make a man cultural in the sense that we mentioned at the beginning of the article. Such a person can be equally called a collector, connoisseur and the most extreme case - a consumer. Very often in the modern world going to the theatre, reading books, visiting the exhibition is presented as a "cultural duty", a tribute to fashion ("reading is fashionable"), which, ultimately, can be interpreted as "one should buy". And in this context culture has nearly no difference from mass production of consumer goods: it can be bought, sold, in some cases to broken and thrown away. It can be destroyed.

Let us suppose that culture has its own rights that "may not match with human rights". In this case, in the field of culture it is necessary to develop its own formally defined rules of behavior, norms, hypotheses, dispositions, and finally, sanctions. In addition, one will need to develop a system of these regulations management. One should not forget about such a symptom of the rule standard as microsystematic character, according to what rules standards are interrelated and, as a rule, do not contradict each other. And what about human rights? At a first sight it seems that it is not the right way. In addition, the public condemnation of the anti-cultural actions can provoke people. And there had already been an example when after the UNESCO conference on the protection of landmarks in June,2012 vandals destroyed the tombs, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, including the mausoleum of Mahmud in Timbuktu and three other mausoleums in Mali.

Of course, the state is obliged to consider culture as the basis of spiritual security of people, the basic premise and criterion of social change models development, to provide the legal framework for support and development of cultural life and to take administrative measures on strict abidance of international and national regulations in the field of the culture. However, these actions are focused primarily on one side of social life - concretely on the preservation of cultural heritage and the person`s joining а culture. The opposite side of the coin – culture as love for perfection – where the unity, harmony, impartiality, moral and social desire to do good come from and are entities of a different order, and the government is not responsible for them. There is no law under what a person would be obliged to resist the expansion of a mass commercial culture, help other people or protect nature. It is obvious that for it a work in a completely different direction should be conducted.

Humanitarian culture. Since the early 80's of XX century there is the concept of humanitarian culture, a culture oriented to the development of the creative principles in man and society. The Humanities have established in institutionalized disciplines long ago, nevertheless, for many countries, the term "humanist" is often associated with something insignificant. It is believed that a man with technical education is informally a step above a humanist in terms of development. Often the humanist is looked at like a person who has read a lot, knows a lot, but cannot do anything.

As Michael Weller wrote in the book "All about life", "If almost all people want to love and be loved – it is simply the law of large numbers why a majority should have it. Life assures us that there is nothing like that". In this context people with a technical education who see the results of their work anyway, have the right to accuse the humanists of inaction. The shame of inactivity - the thing for that Hamlet despised himself so sincerely. If there is the concept of humanitarian culture, which is focused, as mentioned above, on the development of the creative principles in a man, prevention of wars and violence at a deep level, and Humanities in particular, why are humanists are speaking about the growing expansion of inhumane phenomena, threats to the national cultures identity and the moral fall of man more and more often? It turns out that a constantly increasing production and increasingly perfect technologies "maintain" chaos and anarchy (Arnold)?

We can assume that this is an evidence of moral ideals duality. On the one hand the humanists express sincere regrets about the decline of the cultural level, on the other hand, those regrets are presented as if from the outside, and therefore slightly debar and exalt the accuser, take the responsibility away from him.

An invitation to a discussion. Does the culture have its rights? Is it really such an important issue? The culture is created by man, for man in the name of love to perfection. In my opinion, the question must be asked as follows: what can a humanitarian culture, humanitarian Sciences, an owner of humanitarian knowledge offer to the development of culture of every nation has become a matter of the entire world community, to the amount of cultural elements, ultimately, was not the list of artifacts protected by the state, but created an impulse for the development of the creative principles in man and society?

The list of references:

  1. The declaration on the rights of culture (electronic source ) // The Square of D. S. Likhachev – an access mode: (date of access: 29.01.2018)
  2. A.S. Zapesotsky On the scientific heritage of Dmitry Likhachev // Voprosy Literatury (The Issues of Literature).2006 N6.