Arts and economy: problems of a distinction.
Institute of Sociology University of Vienna Vienna, Austria
It is a general statement in sociology that modern society is functionally differentiated, i.e. that the social world is divided into different fields which respectively operate according to special social rules and cultural codes. Arts and economy as well are subject to specific norms and regulations that are not to transcribe from one social sphere to the other. The economy in modern society is orientated on money making opportunities whereas the artistic field historically emerged not least in acts of renunciation of business and financial success. In fact, the dissociation from the economic sphere might have always been an idealization since the visual arts needed the demand on markets in order to free themselves from the patronage of throne and altar. But as long as the economic demand was not the equivalent of an aesthetic judgement the field of arts remained delimitable from business. Nowadays, a distinction between visual arts and economy seem to be possible less and less. On art markets today, the aesthetic value and the financial yields are barely to separate from each other. More than ever - so the main thesis of my paper - the sales value of art in itself matters as the decisive judgement about the artistic value, too. In my talk central elements of this development will be reconstructed. I argue that the economization of arts has been accompanied by the dissolution of art terms. One consequence was that economic revenues could be considered as aesthetic signals. But there are limits of an economization of arts, too. Not least for economic reasons itself, actors in the field of arts must be interested in the dissociation from economics in order not to turn from an artist to an ordinary business(wo)man in public perception. The symbolic dimensions of arts still requires strategies of publically distance oneself from the sheer interest in financial gains.