International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Arts: Consumption Skills in the Post-Modern Economy

Volume 6.1   1987



Written by an economist with special reference to Canada, this paper proposes that it will be mainly through the study of the arts that the economics profession will begin to understand the nature and impact of quality in the emerging ‘Post-Modem Economy'. He argues that we live in a period in which public confidence in economic theory and practice has been shattered, and in which we must begin again the search for a better understanding of the economic process. At this time, three fundamental demographic changes are contributing to the emergence of a Post-Modern Economy, and are also contributing to an enormous growth in the arts audience. These changes are rising levels of education, increasing participation of women, and ageing of the population. In conjunction with new communications technologies these demographic changes are transforming the nature of economic behaviour. A narrowcast marketplace in which rising standards of design and advertising require greater and greater inputs of artistic talent and technique increasingly dominates consumption. Similarly, consumer research is being transformed as qualitative, aesthetic experience becomes a more important feature of consumer behaviour, and as the time distorting impact of new recording technologies makes the styles and fashions of previous historical periods available to contemporary consumers. He argues that education through art also has significant implications for the production-side of the Post-Modern Economy. It promotes invention, innovation, and diffusion of new technologies and contributes to the development of the new production skills required. It enhances the productivity and performance of an ageing labour force. If we are to develop a better understanding of economic phenomena in the emerging Post-Modern Economy, then we must again account for the impact of culture on economic behaviour, and more specifically, begin to appreciate the role of education through art in the emerging economy of quality.