Aesthetic Revolution: Art as Culture and Catalyst for Social Change

60 Pages Posted: 12 May 2020 Last revised: 14 Sep 2020

See all articles by Eftychia Stamkou

Eftychia Stamkou

University of Amsterdam; University of California, Berkeley

Dacher Keltner

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Psychology

Date Written: August 15, 2020

Abstract

Since the dawn of humanity, people have turned to art to transmit cultural ideas, values, and practices. At the same time, art has long challenged accepted cultural narratives that define the status quo. How is art both a form of culture and an engine of social change? Here we offer a theoretical framework that is animated by these questions. We first discuss how art embodies culture by representing, communicating, and ritualizing shared ideas, values, and practices. We then turn to how art catalyzes social change by means of three interrelated processes: distance, deviation, and aesthetic emotions like awe. Within the “free play of imagination” that art creates, people encounter ideas that challenge the status quo, and experience emotions that open them up to change. We conclude by connecting our framework’s processes to contextual moderators and highlight new areas of inquiry to increase momentum in this nascent field of study.

Keywords: art, awe, culture, deviation, distance, social change

Suggested Citation

Stamkou, Eftychia and Keltner, Dacher, Aesthetic Revolution: Art as Culture and Catalyst for Social Change (August 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3578575 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3578575

Eftychia Stamkou (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Dacher Keltner

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Psychology ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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