9th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA) European Society or European Societies?

European Sociological Association (ESA) - Research Network for the Sociology of the Arts (RN2)
Department of Sociology of ISCTE - Lisbon University Institute
Human and Social Sciences School of the New University of Lisbon (FCSH-UNL)
Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ICS-UL)
Portuguese Sociological Association (APS)
Lisbon, September 2-5, 2009



Understanding globalization as a complex social phenomenon, this paper takes a different stance from both the cultural imperialism paradigm and the fragmented empiricism of several micro-level approaches of the arts. It is based on the approach of the arts as forms of communication, as systems for the creation, production, dissemination and reception of symbolic forms. In this context, the paper explores several features of globalization that affect the arts in numerous noteworthy ways.

These features include the introduction of alternative modes for the production of symbolic forms, associated with the development of digital technologies, the convergence of different forms of communication and the rise of social networks. They also include the collapse of the barriers in cultural exchanges, the opening of the cultural markets and the increasing importance of the global multimedia conglomerates - developments that entail new regulation problems, concerns about cultural diversity and the freedom of expression, as well as the intensification of the global cultural asymmetries.

It is argued that, nevertheless, these same developments created a new condition, reinforcing the proliferation of social networks and their eventual emergence as an alternative mode for the production of culture. The paper focuses on these peculiarities, supporting that globalization - even in its current, neoliberal form - affected in various, contradictory ways all six facets of the production of culture and created many more possibilities for the study of informal and alternative art worlds that have been hardly explored in the past.

The paper takes also a different stance from both the enthusiastic support and the complete rejection of the market mechanisms in the cultural field, as well as from the Internet Nirvana Theory and suggests that more research needs to be done in the conditions where networks displace communities and global marketization leaves less and less space for alternative form of cultural production.