Aesthetic Revolution: Art as Culture and Catalyst for Social Change
60 Pages Posted: 12 May 2020 Last revised: 14 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 15, 2020
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: Suggested Citation