Agner Fog: Cultural selection © 1999
Why do humans love art? Why do we waste so much time and energy making pictures, drama, song, dance, etc. for each other? Is that all useless diversion or does the art have a function? However useless it may seem, we must admit that it is present in all known societies no matter how much people have to economize otherwise with their time and energy. A big question requires an answer here: is the strong propensity in humans for producing and enjoying art just a random whim, or has it arisen by some kind of natural selection? (Dissanayake 1984, Coe 1992). If art is only an unproductive waste of time and energy, then why has it not been weeded out by the merciless axe of natural selection? If we want an answer to these questions then we have to examine whether art has a function and if so what this function might be.
Many philosophers have given art an aesthetic justification: We produce art because it is beautiful or because it represents creativity and inspiration. Art is regarded as good and valuable in itself without requiring any further justification. This philosophy of art for its own sake, l'art pour l'art, may have a rhetorical value as a defense for artistic freedom, but it is meaningless as an ethological explanation because it does not explain our taste for art. An aesthetic justification can only be a proximate, not an ultimate, explanation for the art.
A little digression is needed here to explain the difference between proximate and ultimate causes. If you ask a child why it is playing you get the answer: because it is fun. If you ask an ethologist why children play, you get the answer that play is a learning process. The child's own reason is subjectively true. He or she may not necessarily be aware that playing is a learning process. But the child feels that playing is pleasurable and this pleasure is expressed by the word 'fun'. The feeling that playing is fun is of course adaptive because the child learns important skills during the play. It is therefore obvious that this feeling of a desire to play is likely to have arisen by natural selection. This is the ultimate cause of play. The proximate cause is that playing is fun20.
In general, you may say that human instincts function by means of pleasure and pain21. We feel pleasure by doing things that are in agreement with our instincts, such as eating, whereas we feel pain or fear by those acts which are against our instincts, as for example approaching a dangerous snake. (I will return to this discussion in chapter 13.3). In the light of this theory, it seems natural to hypothesize that the human affection for art may have a genetic basis. The ultimate cause of art must therefore be sought in a theory of how such a genetic propensity may have arisen and what kind of adaptive function the art may have or have had.
It is a widespread opinion among scientists that pictorial art and dance among primeval man was an important form of communication which was used mainly to instruct and rehearse hunting techniques (Hewes 1973, 1974, Schenk 1982, Sachs 1933). Spoken language is phylogenetically quite young. Other means of communication must have been necessary before the ability to talk came into being. Gesticulation must be older than spoken language, and it is very likely that dance has its origin herein (Hanna 1979a). This theory is supported by the fact that dance in primitive hunting tribes often contains a mimicry of hunted animal species (Hewes 1973). Dance is not unique to humans. It is also found in certain animals, such as birds and bees, where it is evident that the function of the dance is communication (Hanna 1979a). Music is probably also older than spoken language (Livingstone 1973).
It is obvious to look for similar forms of communication in related animals like the apes, and we soon find that many primate species are able to communicate by means of movements, although these movements seldom are particularly rhythmical (Morris 1967, Hanna 1979a). I find it quite interesting to mention a form of communication used by groups of hamadryas baboons before they go searching for food. The decision on where to go for their foraging trip is not based merely on dominance and aggression, but rather on negotiation and compromise. Before the troop leaves for foraging they may spend several hours on this process. One male moves a few meters in the direction he thinks is best and eventually some other animals follow. Other animals move in another direction. Thereby the group takes the shape of an amoeba with pseudopods in different directions. Some pseudopods grow bigger while others shrink until the animals have come to an agreement about which direction to go (Kummer 1968, 1971). This process makes use of the knowledge of a considerable number of animals about where there is food to find, and it is therefore more effective than if the decision was taken by a dominant leader alone.
This form of communication in the baboons has functional similarities with the waggle-dance of bees as well as with human dance. As I will explain later in this chapter, it may be that human dance and singing has, or has had, a similar consensus-seeking function.
Of course there is a big difference between human art and any phenomenon found in animals, not least when it comes to pictorial art. Chimpanzees and other apes are able to draw if you give them the necessary tools, and they love it. But such a creative activity has only been observed for animals in captivity, and the drawings only consist of a bunch of lines which apparently do not represent anything (Morris 1962). The artistic abilities of apes are by far surpassed by the male bowerbird that builds elaborate and colorful constructions in order to attract the female (Diamond 1986).
Paleolithic cave paintings show that our early ancestors also produced art. These cave paintings are depictions of animals or hunting scenes. It is assumed that this art had a social function in connection with a religious animal cult. The relationship of the humans to the animals was characterized by magic, and the depiction of the animals by means of drawings and dance served as a materialization of the supernatural beliefs. The hunting required instruction, collaboration, coordination, and organization, which were achieved by means of art and rituals (Schenk 1982, Hewes 1973)22.
Body painting and -adornment is an art form which may be even older. The function of body adornment is to symbolize social identity, social roles, and possibly also a sexual signal (Coe 1992).
Various art forms have acquired several new functions by cultural evolution during prehistoric and historic times, and it is of course difficult to determine how old the various functions are.
There can be no doubt that art is subjected to cultural selection based on human preferences and taste. Psychologist Colin Martindale has studied the cultural evolution of art and tried to find regularities in the changes. He does not attach much importance to the connection between art and other social phenomena, but directs his focus on art as an autonomous phenomenon by studying how new art depends on earlier produced art. According to Martindale, art is subject to a selection pressure in the direction of novelty and variation, which in the long term lead to cyclic variation in the artistic representation (Martindale 1990).
Sociologist Vytautas Kavolis maintains that arts form and reinforce the tendencies of humans to interpret social situations in certain structured ways. Art facilitates the development of an emotional relationship in humans to their social environment by creating symbolic foci for the sociocultural integration. Arts confirm and legitimize the cultural value orientations of a society by filling the visible world with forms which are psychologically congruent with these value orientations. Kavolis does not find that the social and cultural orientations are reflected directly and specifically in the expressions of art. He finds it more likely that the cultural conditions shape the organization of personality or the cognitive dispositions, and that this cognitive structure entails an aesthetic preference for forms and styles which are psychologically congruent with the internalized value orientations (Kavolis 1968).
A related theory says that art expresses social fantasy. Artistic expression is a projection of the social environment of the artist as he perceives it or as he wishes it to be. Among the possible styles, the artist prefers the one that is most congruent with the social conditions under which he lives. Even though this selection process may be unconscious to the artist himself, the consequence is that art may be regarded as a cognitive image of the society that the artist represents (Fischer 1961).
The latter two theories are supported by cross-cultural investigations that demonstrate a remarkable connection between artistic expressions and social structure (Fischer 1961, Kavolis 1968, Lomax 1968, Billings 1987).
An important part of the messages that art communicates is unconscious for the artist as well as for the receiver. Art often speaks the language of the unconscious mind. This is the same symbolic language that is found in our dreams, and this language is probably much older than the spoken word. Any intelligent mental activity requires symbols to represent the items we think about. The words of the spoken language play a dominant role as symbols in the conscious thinking of modern human beings, but before the spoken language arose, our ancestors must have used other symbols such as images, forms, colors, gestures, sounds, etc. as the symbols necessary for mental activity. This primitive symbol language still lives on in our unconscious, and it becomes visible to the conscious mind when it is expressed in dreams and in art.
Psychoanalyst C.G. Jung has demonstrated that many of the symbols of the unconscious are survivals from earlier evolutionary steps where our psyche resembled that of animals. This ancient heritage, the so-called archetypes, are common to all humans, and they constitute what Jung calls the collective unconscious. The concept of archetypes should not be interpreted as fixed well-defined images or motives, but as an inherited tendency to form representations of mythological motives which may vary considerably without loosing their basic pattern (Jung 1969). I do not doubt that fundamental parts of the collective unconscious phenomena are determined by genetic heritage, but there is reason to emphasize that the theory of unconscious communication through art and rituals opens the possibility that many of those products of the unconscious which are common for all humans in a society may have been transmitted through this channel, i.e. a kind of cultural inheritance.
The very fact that art speaks a language which the unconscious mind understands better than the conscious, makes it possible that humans can receive an emotional influence through art of which they are not conscious, and therefore have few possibilities of resisting:
"The purpose and sense of an outspoken confession or of a message which is ordered, or communicated as if ordered, are always known to the speaker and the transmitter, and the appeal is either consciously accepted or rejected by the addressee. The impulse which is exercised by a work of art may, however, also remain unconscious and, indeed, not only may be expressed in an unconscious manner but also may have an unconscious effect; that is, it influences the ideas, the feelings, and the actions of the recipient without his taking it into account. In any case it is a significant fact that the social and political effect of a work is that much stronger the less obviously the intention is expressed and the less it seeks agreement..." (Hauser 1982:216).
Even though it is possible to prove a strong connection between art forms and social structure, it is difficult to distinguish between cause and effect. Is it society that influences the art, or is it the art that influences society? Most probably they are both part of an integrated network of factors which all mutually influence one another. Art is no unimportant appendix in this interaction, but an important channel for the communication of worldview, outlook, ways of thinking - in other words: cognitive structures. Art may therefore be a conveyer or catalyst of changes in the social structure.
It is well known that totalitarian regimes attempt to consolidate their power and suppress any tendency to uprising by a strict control and regulation of artistic production. Many rebellious movements likewise make use of battle songs or satiric art as a means of creating ideological unity and solidarity among their adherents. Peaceful democratic societies, on the other hand, focus far less on the ideological importance of art, and often regard very different artistic styles as equally valid.
The conclusion is that pictorial art, literature, drama, music, song, dance, and other forms of art are means of communication that contain a social message which may be conscious or unconscious to the sender as well as to the receiver. Such messages may be transmitted in a society through many generations and are thus subject to cultural selection. Based on this thesis, the following paragraphs will study how various branches of art are influenced by cultural selection, and in particular how the cultural r/k-dimension is reflected in art.
The powerful upper class in a socially stratified society have an egoistic interest in maintaining a regal social structure because its power is thereby consolidated, whereas the members of a repressed lower class may be interested in a kalyptization, unless they are dependent on protection from the upper class. This conflict of interests is often reflected in a difference in aesthetic taste and a differentiation of styles23. Since these differences in style are important to the population, the various styles will often have names and a classification system will be constructed. Sociologist Paul DiMaggio has studied such art classification systems in various societies and found that the more pronounced the social stratification, the more differentiated is the art classification system (DiMaggio 1987). The upper class prefers the regal high culture and despises the more kalyptic pop culture of the lower class. The state or the upper class often consolidate their power by giving economic support to a high culture which, unlike the pop culture, could not exist without this support. The upper class also attempts to order the art styles into a hierarchic system, where the high culture has the highest prestige, whereas the popular art is given the lowest prestige, or is simply not regarded as art at all. The bigger the social disparities in a society, the more hierarchic its art classification system.
If art is subject to the mechanisms of a free economic market, then these mechanisms will often counteract a hierarchic classification of art because the producers have an interest in creating respect for a product which appeals to the broadest possible areas of the population (DiMaggio 1987). Thus there may appear a conflict between various art classification systems, and the outcome of such a conflict has importance for the future r/k-status of the society.
Pictorial art is an art form which contains almost unlimited possibilities for expression. The number of genres, styles, and possible symbolisms is so great that in principle the artist can express almost any mood or attitude to life through his painting. Sociologist V. Kavolis has studied how various aspects of social life and worldviews are reflected in the pictorial art. I will give a brief account of some of these relationships here. The reader is referred to Kavolis (1968) for further details.
Some societies have the common view that humans by nature are good. This view is mirrored in the art by a realistic and naturalistic depiction of humans. But if humans are regarded as evil, then this is shown by a distorted picture of humans. The idea that the world is disharmonious and that evil exists as an autonomous force is reflected in an expressionistic distortion of reality.
A people's conception of time can also be read from the art. A society which is oriented towards the past and which worships its ancestors, typically produces three-dimensional pictures with a deep perspective, where important figures are found in the background. A people which lives in the present produces perspectiveless pictures without horizon or depth. A growth-society oriented towards the future will typically produce dynamic and unfinished expressionistic pictures which sometimes break out of the frame.
The religious worldview obviously has a great influence on artistic creativity. Kavolis makes a distinction between religions which are based on a strong faith, and emotive religions where spiritual experiences are important. He finds that the art of emotion-based religions is characterized by sensualism and mysticism, whereas the dogmatic faith-religions express an abstract symbolism and puritanical strictness. Authoritarian religions based on God's absolute power produce a massive art full of rigid formalism, whereas a less controlling religion gives rise to a more flexible and informal art, full of spontaneity and individual expression.
Technological progress which gives the humans a feeling of improved control over nature leads to geometrical patterns in the art, whereas people who are dependent on nature or live in harmony with nature produce a more naturalistic art, according to Kavolis.
Political and social structures have particular importance for the cultural r/k-theory. A strictly hierarchical society with an absolutist regime characterizes itself by grandiose and luxurious art forms full of sumptuous ornamentation. The pictorial area is packed. Any vacant space is filled with perfectionist details. The purpose of the rich ornamentation is to emphasize the greatness and honor of the ruler or the god. Persons are usually depicted frontally, unless they are evil. A rigid conventionalism and stereotype formalism is typical of religious and political absolutism.
The art is very different in an egalitarian or democratic society. Informal and individual spontaneity is given free rein. There is no finical ornamentation and no accentuation or glorification of certain elements at the expense of inferior details. Colors are given more importance than lines.
Cultures based on solidarity are characterized by abstract and repetitive elements in the paintings. The pictorial area is not filled up, but may contain empty or irrelevant spaces. The figures are not sharply demarcated by full drawn outlines as they may be in the art of hierarchic cultures (Kavolis 1972, Bergesen 1984).
There is reason to warn, however, against regarding the connection between artistic style and social structure as specific and unequivocal. Kavolis emphasizes that whenever an artistic style has been established, it is likely to persist even when society changes. A society under change will not necessarily produce new styles. A static correlation therefore neither confirms a causal connection nor a psychological congruence between artistic style and social conditions. But if new styles emerge concurrently with new social structures, then there is reason to regard the connection as principal (Kavolis 1968). In a later book Kavolis states that the artistic creativity does not reach its peak in periods of intense political activity or upheavals, but rather in the subsequent phase of reintegration (Kavolis 1972)24.
Example: european art
Artists had status as artisans in the middle ages. They were working for the church and produced art which served the interests of the church. What was in demand was talented workmanship, not originality. Art and architecture was sumptuous and glorifying in order to emphasize the dignity and authority of the church. This regal control over art reached its peak in the late medieval gothic style.
By the end of the middle ages, artists had got more freedom and gradually came to constitute a separate cultural class distinct from tradesmen. The production of the artists was no longer determined by closely defined assignments for predefined purposes, but was increasingly determined by free market forces and by the private taste of the individual artist. This freedom made it possible for the artists to show originality and genius which had not previously been possible: Talent can be controlled by authority - genius cannot. Artists got a hitherto unknown prestige. Society began to develop theories of aesthetics and to appreciate art for its own sake. The result of this kalyptization was renaissance art. The formal symbolism of the gothic style was superseded by a more naturalistic and sensuous art.
The political and religious conflicts in the period around the reformation and the counter-reformation led to a corresponding turbulence in the realm of art. Several different styles existed side by side in the sixteenth century: renaissance, mannerism, and baroque. Mannerism was connected to the court and the international intellectual elite. The more national and emotional baroque was the propaganda of the counter-reformation (Hauser 1982).
One of the most illustrative examples of the connection between social ideology and artistic style was the difference between flemish baroque and dutch naturalism in the 17th century. These two styles arose almost simultaneously in geographic proximity out of the same cultural traditions and the same historical past. The difference can only be explained from the political, economical and social differences between the two countries. The aristocratic and monarchistic norms and conventions prevailed in catholic Flanders where a strong alliance between church and state existed, and the artists had to pay for their security with their freedom. The dutch protestantism, on the other hand, was from the beginning on democratic and against authoritarianism. The republican, bourgeois and capitalist life-style and the independence of the artists made a significantly more free art form possible (Hauser 1982:236,290).
The regal baroque was replaced by the somewhat less regal rococo as the influence of the aristocracy was reduced in favor of the bourgeoisie. The age of enlightenment and the french revolution favored the advent of the more kalyptic classicism in the 18th century. The classicism was a more simple and naturalistic style without the turgid ornamentation of earlier times.
Nineteenth century romanticism marked a new regalization in the european culture. Nationalism, imperialism, puritanism, and victorianism prevailed. The romantic literature was immersed in a spiritual idealized world which rejected the external prosaic life. Religious thought was characterized by self-control, philanthropy, and missionary calling. Pictorial art was inspired by rococo and architecture by the gothic style. Art education in british schools was an exercise in the production of standardized ornamentations; there was no place for individual creativity (Thistlewood 1986).
Art was relieved from the spiritual tyranny with the advent of modern art at the end of the 19th century. Modern art with its bright colors and unconventional expressions indicates a striking individualism. The multiplicity of styles in the modern period is, in itself, a proof that the cultural uniformity had been broken.
Ideological and aesthetic conflicts
Artists may sometimes be perfectly aware of the connection between ideology and aesthetic style, but quite often they are totally unaware that they are involved in social turbulence. Let us look at an example from the renaissance:
At the beginning of the 16th century, Venice was losing a great deal of its power and influence. This gave rise to a political and moral crisis within this empire. The venetians felt that God had let them down and they tried in all ways to be reconciled with God and to repair the threatened alliance with him. The artists took part in this process, and this gave rise to a significantly more naturalistic style which, according to contemporary conceptions, should improve the relationship with God (Steinberg & Wylie 1990). While the logical reaction in this situation would be to produce an art which expressed more glorification and praise of God, the reality was exactly the opposite. The naturalistic style in the religious paintings made it more difficult to mark the difference between sacred and profane, which meant that the difference between God and humans was reduced. In retrospect it is evident that the transition to naturalism was connected with the kalyptization which caused the collapse of the venetian empire, but the artists of that time apparently did not know that they were part of a process which weakened the power of Venice. Their own conception was that they were doing just the opposite.
Music is a form of communication which exists in all cultures. It communicates cultural and aesthetic values which gives it a socializing function (Lull 1985). Music is activating: it inspires to dance, song, beating the rhythm, and other active participation. The production of music and song is a social ritual which has an emotional influence on the performing musicians as well as on any spectators and listeners.
It may be difficult to interpret the message that lies in, say, a piece of music and translate it into words, even though music, singing and dance are very well-known to everybody and we listen to it with great interest. We intuitively feel that we understand the music because it speaks the language of the unconscious.
But what are the messages that are communicated through these branches of art? We have all experienced how music can convey feelings and emotions such as happiness, merriment, love, sorrow, melancholy, national pride, and religious awe. The function of such emotions is to control our actions. What is less obvious is that music also is able to communicate a variety of informations about social structure and value norms. This is evident from research which shows a surprising connection between social structure and the structure of singing and dance (I will return to these studies shortly). Communication through music is a transmission of information from the unconscious mind of one person to the unconscious mind of another. Neither sender nor receiver needs to be aware that a communication is taking place.
We may therefore assume that music has a sociobiological function by contributing to the creation of solidarity and collective identity within a tribe or society. As I will explain later, it also communicates norms of how the society is structured and how people should relate to one another.
I imagine that every human in a society expresses his personal opinion on how the social structure is or should be through his artistic taste or style. By the communal singing and dancing in a tribal society, the styles of the individuals approach one another in a common compromise which is the expression of a kind of consensus on how to structure that society. In other words, this is a kind of primitive unconscious negotiation process which resembles the way a troop of baboons reach an agreement on where to go foraging (see above).
I have already argued that it is important for the long term survival of a society that it is able to adapt rapidly to changes in external conditions by regalization or kalyptization (see chapt. 4.7). The assessment of which r/k-strategy is optimal under given conditions can not be efficient if it is done by the leader alone because he would always have an egoistic interest in regalization. In order to be effective, this assessment must be executed by all members of a society in cooperation, and it is my hypothesis that communal singing, dancing, and other artistic expressions in a tribe or society are vehicles for negotiating a consensus on r/k-strategies and other aspects of social structure.
The r/k-strategy is probably only one among many social factors which can be expressed through music. Later I will return to this discussion with some examples on how negotiations about social structure are disguised as discussions over the aesthetic value and the social danger of various musical genres (see below).
In the 1960's, a research team headed by ethnologist Alan Lomax (1968) carried out a fascinating study of songs from many different cultures. A number of characteristics of each song were meticulously recorded and the entire data file was then compared with various ethnological and sociological data for the cultures which had produced each piece of music. This research method was called cantometrics. A statistical analysis of these comprehensive data revealed a systematic connection between song style and social structure: ".. as people live so do they sing." This correlation showed a degree of statistical significance which is seldom seen in the social sciences. A better proof of a connection between song style and social structure can hardly be conceived.
Lomax discusses numerous characteristics in folk songs and examines the social significance of these characteristics. One of the most important attributes is the difference between solo and choral singing. Choral singing in unison is predominately found in societies with high solidarity and where collaboration and teamwork is an important part of daily life. Solo singing, on the other hand, is found both in societies that stress the importance of self-assertion and in societies where a strong leader decides everything. These songs are often complicated and the voice is noisy which makes it particularly difficult for the listeners to join in. Solo singing is often more wordy than choral singing. Wordy songs with a precise pronunciation belong is societies with a very complex social and economic structure where people meet complex instructions in their daily life and where the words of leaders and experts are important. At the opposite end of the scale we find songs full of repetitions, nonsense, or inarticulate sounds. Such non-wordy songs are found in societies with a simple social structure where everybody understands a short message and where there is no need for detailed explanations.
A harsh and raspy voice is a sign of self-assertion. Narrow melodic intervals are found in cultures with rigid status systems, whereas wide intervals are found where people are less confined and have more freedom of movement, physically as well as socially. A narrow, nasal voice and a predominance of love themes in the text indicate restrictions in the sexual lives of the people.
It is not only the sound itself which is significant, but definitely also the way it is created. The difference between the various singers or musicians in an orchestra reflects the social relations in the society in many ways. A large and compound orchestra led by a single conductor or choirmaster is closely connected with a social system based on centralized political control and pyramidal social stratification. Part-singing and counterpoint symbolize the division of labor, especially between men and women, and a complementarity of sex roles. This applies regardless of the sex of the singers, according to Lomax.
Elaborate and detailed orchestral music full of embellishments and ornamentation is characteristic of religious music expressing reverence and awe towards God (Lomax 1968).
A more limited study of black american music shows a similar connection between music style and social solidarity (Bergesen 1979). This study is far less comprehensive than the Lomax study and includes only a single social parameter: solidarity. Bergesen's theory is based on Bernstein's (1975) theory of restricted and elaborated code. A restricted code is a communication where the vocabulary and the number of syntactic alternatives are limited. An elaborated code provides more freedom and more alternative possibilities of expression. The restricted code is typically found in societies characterized by solidarity, uniformity, and consensus, where there is no need for detailed expressions. The elaborated code is found in more pluralistic societies where there are more possibilities for expressing unique and personal ideas. Bergesen applies this distinction to music as communication and uses black american music as example.
The history of the blacks in America began with slavery, which was a period with strong solidarity among the blacks. This was expressed through the spirituals-genre, which is a more regular musical expression than the later forms. Jazz and blues arose when the blacks began to migrate north and gain independence so that the solidarity dwindled. The music is now a typically elaborated code. This is particularly easy to see in the jazz where irregularities and improvisations is the rule rather than the exception. When the civil rights movement and the increased ethnic consciousness led to a renewed need for solidarity among the blacks, then the soul music was born, representing again a more restricted code (Bergesen 1979).
Regal and kalyptic music
Now, let us see how the results of Lomax and Bergesen can be used in connection with the cultural r/k-theory. Lomax describes a number of characteristics which are directly related to the social structure and political hierarchy (Lomax 1968:150-163). The most significant marker is embellishment. Elaborate details and ornamentation are symbols of reverence and glory. The more extreme and rigid the social stratification, the more awe must be expressed through an embellished music. Ornamentation is a clear indicator of regality. The relation between leader and singers in a choir or between conductor and musicians in an orchestra is also a clear indicator of social stratification. A big choir led by a single choirmaster or a big orchestra controlled by a single conductor reflect the political structure of the regal society. The opposite extreme is a singing style where everybody sings by turns without any kind of leadership - like a flock of birds. This kalyptic singing style may be found in primitive societies who lack any political integration.
The difference between solo and choral singing leads us to the concept of solidarity. The feeling of solidarity belongs near the middle of the cultural r/k-scale. A regal society is based on compulsory collaboration and imposed uniformity, the intermediate society is based on voluntary collaboration and uniformity, and the most kalyptic society entails limited collaboration and no uniformity. The voluntary collaboration, particularly, is carried by the feeling of solidarity. This may be expressed through groups or choirs singing in unison without a conductor.
Somewhat more regal is choir singing with a lead singer. The next step is litany, where the leader sings first and the choir repeats. And the last step towards regality is solo singing where the soloist sings a song which is so complicated that it is impossible to join in and where the audience listen quiet and devoutly. The singer here is a symbolic representative for the dictator.
But solo singing is also found in the opposite end of the r/k-scale: Solo singing is an expression of individualism in kalyptic cultures. Occasionally you may also hear what may be called reversed litany: the choir sings a line and the lead singer repeats. This is an elegant symbol of a representative democracy.
The regal music and singing is closely defined by a rigid syntax and perfectionism. There are strict rules for rhythm, harmonies, rhymes, and foot with few possibilities for alternative expressions. This is a restricted code in Bergesen's terminology. The intermediate music expressing solidarity and voluntary collaboration is also a restricted code, but at the kalyptic end of the scale we find the elaborated code where irregularities are allowed. Jazz music is an obvious example.
I will argue that the social hierarchy is expressed, not only through the relations between lead singer and choir or between conductor and orchestra, but also through the relations between the principal melodic voice and the bass part or between singing voice and accompanying instruments. Regal music has a prominent melodic voice full of elaborate detail accompanied by a discreet and soft bass voice. Characteristic examples are classical music and oriental music. At the opposite end we find pop music where the bass voice and rhythmical accompaniment play a dominant part. Rock, jazz, and similar music styles are kalyptic.
The individual musical taste of a person is an unconscious expression of his or her socialization and social attitude. A comprehensive investigation of the musical tastes of north americans (Fink et.al 1985) shows that some musical genres are close to each other in the sense that persons who like one genre are very likely to also like the other, whereas other genres are very distant, like for example opera and rock music. A statistical factor analysis shows that the distance between american music genres can be expressed by two main factors, so that it is possible to illustrate the distance between genres by plotting them into a two-dimensional diagram. The dimension or factor which is responsible for most of the variance (30%) is interpreted by the authors as a measure of formalism and complexity. In the complex and formalistic end of the scale we find opera, classical music, musicals, big band, and religious music. In the simple and informal end we find rock, country, bluegrass, soul, and jazz. The other factor in the analysis (which is responsible for 27% of the variance) reflects the difference between urban and rural populations, where rock, jazz, and classical music appeal mostly to townspeople, while country and gospel are mostly preferred by the rural population (Fink et.al 1985). In the cultural selection paradigm, the first dimension (the one that Fink and co-workers describe as formalism and complexity) fits the r/k-scale quite well, with opera as the most regal and rock music as the most kalyptic of the genres mentioned. This indicates that the cultural r/k-factor is one of the most significant factors in determining people's music tastes.
Of course, a detailed examination of the world history of music in the light of the cultural selection theory is not possible here, so I hope the reader will be contend with a few illustrative examples.
In the early middle ages, musicians were, just like other artists, appointed by the church or the royal court. The purpose of the music was to praise God, and later also kings and war heroes. The middle ages were a time full of wars, which was reflected in the regal music controlled by the ruling establishment. Religious themes dominated until the age of romanticism when themes of love broke through.
This new theme is connected with a change in the social structure, originating in the 18th century, where the nuclear family was introduced as the fundamental element of society (Aričs 1960). Marriage and family life were romanticized and celebrated in song at the same time as a new and stricter sexual morality taught monogamy and marital fidelity through the ideal of true love. The obvious political and religious tyranny of earlier times had been replaced by a more subtle and less transparent regal device, namely sexual morality (see chapt. 10). The love theme, which is still predominating in modern pop music, maintains this sexual morality by idealizing true love.
Another indicator that romantic music is no less regal than its predecessors, is that audiences became much more disciplined in the second half of the 19th century. Theaters and concert halls were darkened and the audience had to sit nice and quietly and wait with their applause until the number was finished. The architectural design of the theater emphasized the deep gap between the few idols on the stage and the many anonymous members of the audience. The difference between the fictive world of the actors or musicians and the world of the audience becomes analogous to the difference between the divine and the earthly worlds. The thousands of spectators become gray, anonymous, powerless, and humble (Sennett 1974:205ff).
However, the regal art is not always pacifying. It is necessary to make a distinction here between defensive and offensive regality. A regal culture is in a defensive situation if it is threatened by external enemies or inner kalyptic forces. This situation creates a solemn and grave music whose function is to discipline people and prevent revolt. Not so in the offensive situation characteristic of an expansive regal culture. Offensive regal music is bombastic and pompous, calling for national pride and fighting spirit as a basis for an imperialistic policy. Listen for example to the last night of the famous british promenade concerts where the audience loves to sing along to Elgar's well-known jingle:
Land of Hope and Glory
Mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee,
who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider
shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty,
make thee mightier yet.
God, who made thee mighty,
make thee mightier yet.
Nobody can doubt the regality of this imperialistic text from the beginning of the 20th century when Britain was the world's leading colonial power. The audience has certainly become less disciplined since then, but the jingoism and nationalistic enthusiasm lives on.
Many new and more kalyptic cultural trends have popped up during the 20th century, especially in youth subcultures. Such cultures arise over just a few years and develop their own norms, values, dress style, music, dance, visual art, territories, and gangs - altogether nearly all the elements that are characteristic of a primitive culture. Such subcultures arise spontaneously when a group feels superfluous or threatened or simply dissatisfied with the surrounding society. The speed with which such subcultures arise, spread, and change is an indicator of how effective the cultural adaptability of humans is, even though many aspects of it are more or less controlled by the unconscious. These youth subcultures may sometimes be characterized as counter-cultures, representing a kalyptic revolt against the established more regal society. Music is an important means of expression of these subcultures - often the most important of all - as a communicator of cultural messages and cultural identity. Many young people simply define their identity by their musical taste25. Not surprisingly, most of the new kalyptic genres like rock, jazz, etc. have their origin in youth cultures.
During the last two decades, music videos have come up as a new art form and gained an enormous popularity among the young, even though it has not yet gained the status as a recognized branch of art. The art of music videos purveys a predominantly kalyptic music together with an equally kalyptic visual art.
The most popular subcultures and counter-cultures in a modern society often gradually become commercialized and integrated into the main culture. They loose some of their original contents at the same time as they move the main culture a little bit in their direction. In other words: The mainstream culture and the counter-culture gradually move towards one another to meet in a common compromise.
Music and singing has often been used by political leaders, schools, and churches as an effective means for influencing the population (Kincheloe 1985). Totalitarian regimes are often much more conscious of the social and political effects of artistic expressions than are democratic governments. Art censorship is therefore most widespread in undemocratic states.
Changes in the arts and music of a country are most pronounced when the r/k-balance of the culture is drastically changed. A recent example is the collapse of the Soviet empire. The last years of the communist history of the eastern bloc countries showed an increasing degree of artistic freedom including an increasing accept of rock music (Rácz & Zétényi 1994). Many critical voices were heard, however, and there were vehement debates over the harmfulness of the rock music which, quite aptly, was called a cultural trojan horse (Meynert 1987). The arguments against rock music were that it was stupidifying and pacifying and that it appealed to the audience as a group rather than as individuals (Popov 1987, Sarkitov 1987). Even though these arguments could hardly be more mistaken26, they are an interesting example of the general human ability to rationalize an emotional or instinctive aversion against exactly those cultural expressions which most threaten the cultural status quo.
A similar conflict is seen in the USA where many people feel that popular music can influence people's attitudes (Toohey 1982). The most regal forces in the country (primarily the religious fundamentalists) have often tried to combat jazz and rock music, to which they feel a strong aversion (Gray 1989). For example, they claim that rock music contains hidden satanic messages which can be heard when the music is played backwards (Locke 1991, Vokey & Read 1985). But the music is protected by one of the most effective ideological weapons of kalypticism: the freedom of speech. The most important exception from freedom of speech is pornography, and it is therefore not surprising that some rock songs have been censored and banned because of obscene contents (American Civil Liberties Union 1991a,b). Likewise, attempts have been made to hold a rock band responsible for the suicide of a few of its fans (Locke 1991).
However unimportant these conflicts may seem in the overall view, they are nevertheless expressions of a very fundamental process guiding social evolution: Every human being expresses - often unconsciously - his or her personal view of society by the exercise of his/her musical and artistic taste. The debate over which musical genres are aesthetically acceptable is therefore at the unconscious level a negotiation about the desired social structure.
Dance is a form of communication just like other arts. Not only humans dance, but also certain birds, bees, and apes. Many mammals have a highly developed body language, and since dance is a kind of body language, there is reason to believe that this form of communication is evolutionary much older than spoken language. Some scientists claim that dance as a form of communication has been used in primordial times to communicate and rehearse hunting techniques (Hewes 1973, 1974, Sachs 1933).
Dance has many similarities with the spoken language (Kaeppler 1972, Williams, D. 1978, Hanna 1979c). It is an important part of the social and religious organization in primitive societies (Spencer, P. 1985). Dance imitates social behavior, hunting and other pursuits, animals, war, and religious myths. Dance is used for negotiating and solving conflicts. Prolonged dancing to an often monotonous musical accompaniment is used in religious rituals for obtaining ecstasy and changes in the level of consciousness (Snyder 1974, Hanna 1979b). The dancer achieves an alternative level of consciousness which is so foreign to his everyday self that he may describe it as a foreign spirit having entered into and taken possession of his body. The religious dancer is possibly closer to his unconscious mind in this state than in his normal state of consciousness, and therefore in better contact with the symbolic language of the dance.
Just as in music and pictorial art, it is possible to demonstrate an important connection between the style of dance and social structure (Rust 1969, Lomax 1968). Dance is a more effective way of influencing people's attitudes than other forms of communication because it incites to active participation and it influences several senses at the same time, according to anthropologist Judith Hanna. The same message is repeated many times and communicated through several channels in parallel: movement, music, song text, body decoration, social context, and social roles in the dance (i.e. who dances what). Both body and mind are involved through active participation and the attention is totally focused on the dance. Somebody who is not interested in listening to the message of the dance will unavoidably get it anyway because he is attracted by other stimuli which work as bait. People are influenced by the dance - not with power, but with seduction. Hanna therefore claims that dance has a cybernetic function in controlling and regulating the social system (Hanna 1979a: 86-90).
The symbolism of the dance
It is a widespread opinion that dance is a form of communication, but, just like in other of the arts, it is difficult to tell what is communicated.
The dance is full of symbolism, and there have been many attempts to interpret these symbols. One recurrent motif is the ring. People who dance around something will focus their attention on whatever object is in the center of the ring. It may be a totem pole, a spear, a fire, a pot with water, a person to be initiated, a death body to bury or, in our days, a christmas tree. To encircle an object is to take possession of it - to incorporate it into the community, or to expel it. The captured scalp which is encircled must transfer its power from its previous owner. The shaman dances around the sick person to exorcise the evil spirit from him. The dance around a sacrificial animal means that the animal dies for the sake of the community. The circle has a religious meaning which is seen, for example, in the fact that the nahua people of the old Mexico danced their ceremonious dances in a circle, but their profane dances in two straight rows (Sachs 1963:144).
Everybody is equal in a circle dance. The equality is broken if the dancers appear in other formations, such as a snake. There is one person who goes in front and the other dancers follow and imitate the leader. Another motif is two straight rows facing each other. Here the dancers are usually exclusively men, and the two rows confronting each other symbolize war. In other cases, one row consists of men and the other of women. Here the pantomime represents a mating game (Sachs 1933). In big kingdoms and empires you see military parades where a large number of soldiers march in long straight columns led by a single commander. The similarity with the command structure of a monarchy is striking.
There are several societies where mothers lift their children into the air in order to support their growth (Sachs 1933). A similar symbolism is found in modern couple dances where the man lifts the woman as a symbol of economic support. This leads us to the sex roles. Judith Hanna has documented that, to a high degree, the dance in various societies reflects the sex roles (Hanna 1988, 1989).
Primitive societies mostly have single-sex dances. There are dances for men and dances for women, but men and women seldom dance together (Sachs 1933). This reflects the typical division of labor between the sexes that is seen in primitive societies. Here the tribal or village community spirit is more important than marriage fellowship. Unisex dances still dominated in the middle ages, and they even had special profession dances which belonged to a particular trade (Aričs 1960). Dancing in couples arose during the middle ages. In the beginning there were hardly any touching between the man and the woman in these dances, but later they began to hold hands, and the coupling together culminated in the 19th century with what today are called ballroom dances, where the man and the woman hold each other tight (Sachs 1933). In these dances the man and woman move together completely as if they were one. This was most popular in the time of romanticism where marriage and the nuclear family became regarded as the building blocks of society. Today, where the importance of the nuclear family is decreasing, there is a tendency among young people for the man and woman to touch each other less during the dance and move more independently, although they still dance almost exclusively in couples.
But the couple dances have never completely displaced communal dances, which have lived on in rural areas and in the singing games of children. Today single-sex dances are slowly appearing again in urban youth cultures in forms like break dance and hip hop, where young men compete as to who can perform the most acrobatic dance.
You may discuss whether dance is a superfluous relic of a distant past, an empty diversion and senseless pastime whose function has been long superseded by other more effective means of communication, or if it still has a ritual meaning and a function in connection with our social life and organization. It has been found that the dance style changes when the social structure changes (Richman & Schmeidler 1955, Sachs 1933, Rust 1969), and closer study reveals that the dance may contain a quite rich and detailed symbolism. Music historian Kurt Sachs had an eye for the more advanced symbols. Let me quote a few examples: Many societies have dances where one or more couples make a bridge with their arms under which the other dancers have to pass. Sometimes there is a whole row of couples forming bridges, where the hindmost couple go under, come up in front, and form a new bridge which the next can go under. To go under the arms or legs of other dancers is usually a symbol of birth, and in the formation described here we see the perpetual renewal of life, generation after generation. Another advanced motif which is found in many cultures is the braiding chain dance (chaîne anglaise) where men and women move round in opposite directions in the chain. Every second time you meet a person going in the opposite direction you give him your left hand and pass to the right of him, and every other time the right hand and pass to the left. Sachs believes that this braiding motion symbolizes weaving which in turn symbolizes creation (Sachs 1963:162ff). Is he right, or is this an over-interpretation?
There is every reason to ask if such an advanced symbolism is understood at all. Few dancers speculate over the analysis of symbols when having fun on the dance floor. Neither do any of the passive spectators. Perhaps not even the person who originally invented a particular dance was conscious of its symbolism. But maybe at the unconscious level? Eleanor Metheny poses exactly this question:
""Growing up to be a man" can be an exciting, frightening, and rewarding process at any age. It was an intensely fearsome experience for the boys who came to manhood during the years of World War II, an experience made more complex by the need to hide those fears. To me, the sense of these complex feelings is connoted by the adult wartime version of looby-loo, which was called the hokey-pokey.
In the hokey-pokey, the old tune was "jazzed up" and the dancers moved to a syncopated beat. The hand became a fist, with pointing index finger, and every movement in the dance was enlarged and executed forcefully. The old words were changed to fit these forceful and syncopated movements, with the emphasis falling on the italicized words. "I put my right arm in" was executed in stride position with a full striking pattern as the fist with its extended index finger was snapped into place, pointing toward the center of the circle. "I pull my right arm out" reversed this pattern. "I do the hokey-pokey as I shake it all about." Here "it" referred to a very important part of the body which could not be named directly but was shaken vigorously as the extended finger was raised overhead and waggled from side to side. Then the dancers shuffled or "trucked" around the circle, waggling their fingers overhead, doing the hokey-pokey. Left arm, right leg, and left leg were successively put in and pulled out, and finally "all of me" was committed to the requirements of the dance.
Did these fearful and brave young men who were growing up in a hokey-pokey world of danger and death recognize the connotations of the movement patterns of reaching out, withdrawing, and shaking? Did they identify the pointing finger as a symbolic gun or as a phallic symbol? Did they sense the connotations of bravado in the finger-waggling pattern? Did they comprehend the sense of assurance with which they resolved their in-out-shake conflicts by resolutely shuffling along or "trucking on down?" Probably not. Probably they would have been embarrassed beyond words if anyone had suggested such meanings to them. But we do know that they called for this adult version of an old children's dance again and again, not just because the movement patterns could be performed with any "hello-good-bye" partner in the USO recreation centers, but because the feelings and emotions evoked by this performance were meaningful to them." (Metheny 1968:45).
There can be no doubt that the hokey-pokey dancing young men in this example understand the symbolism of the dance better with their unconscious than with their conscious mind, just like any other dancers. But it is almost impossible to answer exactly how much, how, and why, as long as we do not have any effective and reliable means for studying the unconscious. It is evident that human dance reflects many aspects of social life, but whether this symbolism actually serves a function or purpose is difficult to tell. Maybe the function of the dance is to communicate and rehearse the norms of social behavior. Maybe the dance is used for negotiating and reaching agreement about the desired social structure. Maybe the dance is utilized for proposing and experimenting with new social structures. Maybe for working through and solving psychological or social conflicts.
Most of the studies of dance and its symbolism have concentrated on the movements of the individual dancer: which parts of the body he moves, in which direction, how fast, etc. (See e.g. Lomax 1968). But if we are looking especially for those symbols which are relevant for the social structure and for the cultural r/k-theory, then we have to look at the interaction between the dancers and their different roles. Who is dancing? How many dance together? Are there passive spectators or do everybody join in? Do people dance for their own sake, for the community, for a deity, or for the spectators? Do the dancers appear in certain formations or randomly among each other? Are all positions in a formation equivalent (as in a circle) or are there different roles (for example a leader in front of a row). Are there certain dances or certain roles in a dance which only are danced by persons with a particular social status? Are the movements of the dancers coordinated or independent of each other? Do they touch each other? All these questions are important for interpreting the social symbolism of a dance.
I have already mentioned how the sex roles and family structure are mirrored in the dance (for a further analysis see Hanna 1988). Another important aspect which is reflected in the dance is solidarity versus individualism. In a society with high solidarity, everybody participates in the dance and follow each other in coordinated movement. They often touch each other, for example in a ring where everybody hold hands. The opposite is an individualistic dance where people dance randomly among each other without any coordination and do not touch each other except for unintended collisions. Even more individualistic is the situation where only one person dances at a time, as for example in the Greenland drum dance.
The theory of restricted versus elaborated code (see above) is also applicable to dance. A restricted code is found in regal and intermediate (solidaric) societies, whereas the elaborated code primarily is found in kalyptic societies. A restricted code means that the dance is regulated by complex rules and a strict syntax with no room for individual variations. An extreme example is the minuet which was danced at european courts in the years around 1700. The minuet was a complicated dance with small delicate steps. It required several years of learning and an immense precision. The minuet was more a lesson in proper manners and self-discipline than a relaxing diversion.
The minuet disappeared rather suddenly in the middle of the 18th century and was replaced by the contradance which was danced much more amateurishly. This change in dance style is connected to the fact that the cultural and political dominance of the aristocracy was reduced in favor of the bourgeoisie (Sachs 1963:398f) in the same way as the rococo style replaced the baroque in painting and architecture. A similar class difference can be observed in modern society where the dance of the lower classes is more innovative whereas the dance of the upper class is more conservative (Cottle 1966, Rust 1969).
The relationship between dancers and spectators is also interesting. In the classical ballet, for example, the distance between dancers and audience is extreme. The dancers are untouchable experts who move in a lofty fairy-tale world in simulated weightlessness whilst the audience sit quietly at a distance and admire them. This pacifying situation is in itself regal and in sharp contrast to folk dance where people dance for their own sake and where everybody can join in without any requirement for expertise.
Dance has always been a social phenomenon. People dance with others or for others, but seldom alone except when practicing for a later social situation. It is therefore no surprise that dance activity is highest in solidaric societies. The most regal societies have replaced much of the dance activity with less animated movement forms such as parades, marches, and religious rituals. Although these movement forms may be rhythmic, they are not what we normally define as dance, but are no less involving. Although dance as mentioned is an effective means of indoctrination, it may be too frivolous for serious occasions calling for strict discipline and self-control in a regal society. Here there is more need for grave praying rituals resembling the submissive gestures of animals.
Dance activity is also lower at the kalyptic end of the scale although it is not controlled by restrictions as it may be in a regal society. Kalyptic dance is more unrestrained, individualistic, improvised and uncoordinated. People dance independently or one at a time. Despite the sexual liberty, the most kalyptic dance is no couple dance, and there is only little touching between the dancers.
Dance illustrates several aspects of the social structure in any society: social relations, sex-roles, division of labor, etc. Many of these aspects are somehow related to the cultural r/k-level which is therefore indirectly reflected in the dance. But the most significant factor in relation to the r/k-scale may not be the kind of dance but rather its quantity and intensity which, as already said, is highest in solidaric cultures at the middle of the r/k-scale.
It is easy to see a connection between architectural style and regality. Regal regimes have always produced grandiose and ostentatious buildings, whereas the building style of kalyptic societies is more determined by practical and economic considerations than by the wish to impress27.
Regal buildings are characterized by a highly developed and often quite conscious symbolism. Just as in other branches of art, ornamentation is a very characteristic sign of regality. We can observe a profuse richness of meticulous detail with a pronounced symbolism. In important buildings everything is bigger than that which practical considerations demand: huge rooms with high ceilings and enormous gates and steps that make the visitor feel small and humble.
In antiquity, columns were a characteristic element in temples and other big buildings. Besides the practical function, columns also had an ancient polytheist symbolism which was emphasized by their decoration (Hersey 1988).
In the middle ages, the buildings of influential people was supplemented with new elements like towers, spires, domes, portals, etc., in a sumptuousness which went far beyond any practical purpose, but primarily served as symbols of power (Grabar 1978). The tendency to build towers which seemingly served as protective measures but which in reality rather served as status symbols, continued well into the renaissance (Samson 1990).
Islamic buildings were covered inside as well as outside with geometric patterns, arabesques, ornaments, and religious calligraphy to such a degree that there was hardly any bare spot to be found (Jones, D. 1978). The strict geometry in these decorations was an expression of rationality and discipline. The absence of figures, animals, or other naturalistic images reflected the suppression of feelings and fantasy. Feelings are expressions of desires and instincts which govern the free will of the individual. The regal society needs to suppress the unrestrained free will of the individual in favor of the central control and authority, and therefore has to suppress expressions of feelings and fantasy. The endless repetition of regular geometric patterns is not only a symbolic suppression of individual difference, but also a symbol of regularity, diligence, and monotonous hard work.
Another important symbol in religious architecture is light. Light is a monotheistic symbol (Jones, D. 1978), and the conscious utilization of the effects of light and shadow in reliefs, stained glass windows, etc. is widespread in churches, cathedrals, mosques and other monotheist buildings.
Besides the religious powers stand the secular powers with their palaces. These are just as ostentatious and richly embellished as religious buildings, but unlike the latter they have room for more excesses and amusements such as luxurious gardens with lakes and fountains which do not belong around religious buildings where asceticism and regularity is preached.
Architectural art has often been a subject of contemporary debate, and there is a notable connection between the controversies over architectural style and the general ideological and religious debates in a society (Kempers 1987, Clark 1976). The dutch sociologist Bram Kempers has studied monuments, great government buildings, and other monumental state art in Europe. The building of such monuments of greatness and power culminated in the european capitals in the middle of the 19th century and continued until the middle of the 20th century. A strong ideological resistance against imperialism grew up after the second world war which led to an almost complete cessation of the building of pompous state monuments. Modern art, which had been suppressed by the Nazis, flourished in the 1960'ies which for the part of architecture was expressed in a more simple and functionalistic style (Kempers 1987).
Even though government buildings and religious buildings are the most conspicuous architectural signs of regality, it is also possible to read the ideological movements in the style of private houses. The american historian Clifford Clark has documented how the religious and ideological ideas and norms of families and private life was reflected in the american architectural debate in the middle of the 19th century. The most religious rural families preferred, among the prevalent styles, a gothic revival style with marked upward pointing lines, rich ornamentation on the gables, and a perfect symmetry, whereas the more simple and functionalistic styles dominated in the cities. The buildings gradually became more individualistic, whereas the home as a status symbol became also an expression of the personality of its owner. Haughty villa owners tried to outdo one another in curiosities which led to a random mixture of styles (Clark 1976).
Dress and body adornment is something individual and personal which is more suited for expressing a personal identity than, for example, the home or other possessions. Attire as art and a means of communication can say a lot about the wearer: group belonging such as ethnicity, religion, or subculture, as well as personal facts such as sex, age, marital status, number of children, social status, wealth, etc. The dress can also express temporary events such as mourning, celebration, or seasons of the year (Delaporte 1980).
What is particularly interesting for the cultural r/k-theory is how hierarchic rank is signaled through the clothing. Many cultures and organizations have official rules saying that people of a certain rank are entitled to wear particular garments or marks so that everybody can see to which rank they belong, but unwritten rules are also very common (Joseph 1986, Devleeschouwer 1977).
People with high status and wealth can announce this by wearing expensive and ostentatious clothing and by renewing their clothes more often than necessary. They can also demonstrate that they do not need to work hard by keeping their clothes neat and clean and by wearing impractical clothes which curb the freedom of movement and therefore are unsuited for manual labor. Economist Thorsten Veblen has phrased this in the famous expression: conspicuous consumption, conspicuous waste and conspicuous leisure (Veblen 1899, cit. after Squire 1974).
An obvious way of signaling high status is by ornamentation: jewelry, patterns, gold threads, pleating, flounces, bows, puff sleeves, train, etc., etc. (Devleeschouwer 1977, Squire 1974). But ornamentation of the attire not only serves as a sign of wealth and high status, but also as the sign of a delicate fragility and helplessness, especially in women and small children (Kaiser 1985; Roberts, H. 1977). Women's dresses may therefore be much more decorated than men's in a society where women have lower status than men. Women who do not perform hard manual labor may show this by carrying a dress that restricts the freedom of movement, such as a crinoline or corset (Kaiser 1985; Roberts, H. 1977). A similarly impractical and garnished dress may be found on high ranking men in societies where social status is inherited and where men of high status spend their life in passivity and idleness.
We may therefore conclude by saying that elaborately decorated clothing is found mostly in regal societies, but not necessarily on the persons who have the highest status. Not all regal cultures or groups can show embellished and richly ornamented clothing: some puritanical cultures or organizations have a dress which is as simple as possible.
Obviously, the dress can not only tell something about the person but also about the society in which he lives. Cultural currents are often reflected in the clothing fashions. European history, for example, shows a parallel evolution of styles within pictorial art, architecture, and clothing: The eccentric mannerism, the formalistic baroque, the somewhat more merry rococo, the rational neoclassicism, the impassioned romanticism are all styles which reflect the world view and view of human nature of their time (Squire 1974). Through many hundreds of years, social status and sex have been the most important messages to express through clothing, but since world war two these identity criteria have lost in importance and to a noticeable degree they have been replaced by other distinctions, which is a sign that the hierarchic system has lost some of its power in the democratization process (Delhaye 1991).
Psychologist Dean Simonton claims that political processes can be read directly from women's fashion. There is a tendency that the waist becomes higher and wider in times of international war, whereas in times of peace it becomes narrower. When it comes to civil wars the tendency is reversed: here the waist becomes narrower than in times of peace. No explanation for these phenomena is given (Simonton 1977). According to cultural r/k-theory, international wars are connected with regality, whereas intra-national, or civil, wars are expressions of rebellion or disruption as a result of the beginning of kalyptization. If we follow this line of thought, then a narrow waist should be a kalyptic sign. This is, however, not in agreement with the claim of feminists that the tightly laced waist is oppressive towards women (Roberts, H. 1977).
A clear sign of regality is conformity and uniformity as is expressed through the uniforms of military and other organizations. Besides having obvious practical reasons, a uniform also suppresses individuality. Individualistic dissent may be seen as small deviations from the prescribed uniform, as documented by Joseph (1986).
A more voluntary conformity is easy to find among modern businessmen. Suit and tie seems to be the preferred uniform in the business world. This discreet and conforming dress signals moderation and sobriety. A businessman with an economic responsibility will usually be reluctant to adopt a personal clothing style for fear that his dress will not be to the taste of his business connections and negotiating partners, and that such personal differences in taste may have economic consequences. This consideration has a selecting effect in the direction of conformity and body-alien impersonality.
The extreme opposite of the businessman's clothing style is the personal and individualistic clothing styles as seen in modern youth cultures and in particular on their musicians. Every musician in a rock band may have his own clothing style which is different from the others. The dress often accentuates and shows as much as possible of the body to make the musician a sex object and idol.
Various subcultures often develop their own clothing style and sometimes also their own music, dance, etc. In urban youth cultures this development may be incredibly rapid, and often there exists many different part-cultures each with their clothing fashion (Delaporte 1982, Cosgrove 1984). Some of these youth groups are kalyptic, rebellious, and antimilitarist - others are regal and racist. A group of psychologists have studied the connection between clothing style and personality among american teenagers. They found that young people who dressed in the so-called greaser style had the most conformist personality, whereas the hippies were the most individualistic. The connection was considerable and statistically significant (Gurel et.al. 1972).
A considerable cultural innovation often takes place in groups of young people with a low social status, after which the new fashion trends diffuse upwards through the social levels. The most kalyptic fashions of the early 1990'ies with worn jeans full of holes or asymmetric colorings on the clothes were inspired by the british punk wave with its consistent protest against all aesthetic norms and by the american teenage lower class urban black ghetto subcultures.
But the diffusion of fashion trends may also go the other way, from the high social strata to the lowest, especially in regal times. Underprivileged people may want to conceal their low status by imitating the style of the upper class which leads to an inflation of styles. The diffusion of fashion may go upwards, downwards, or horizontally in a process where individuals with the same social position influence one another to reach a common style through a collective selection process (Kaiser 1985, Blumer 1969).
I have now gone through several branches of art, but the list is far from exhausted. Art forms like novels, fairy tales, poetry, theater and film may contain a complicated story and are therefore able to communicate a much more detailed message than, for example, music, dance, or sculpture. The interpretation of literature and acting is often quite straightforward. They may, for example, glorify the king or have an easily understandable moral. Art historian Robert Scheller has given some illustrative examples on how literature and art have functioned as propaganda for imperialism and crusades. This propaganda is not necessarily organized or coordinated, but may very well stem from the political and religious mentality of the time and from the artist's loyalty towards the powers (Scheller 1982).
Novels, films, etc. are often selected more for their button-pushing action than for their political or moral messages. The danger button is the most salient one: exciting movies have a lot of conflict, crime, disaster, and heroes that know how to avoid calamity. Next in importance is the sex button, although the amount of explicit sex may be limited by cultural norms.
Even though the audience knows that films and novels are fiction, it may still shape their perception of the world, especially in areas where they have no first-hand experience, for example about exotic cultures, police work, criminal court procedures, organized crime, or war.
20. This difference between proximate and ultimate causes may also be viewed as a difference between vicarious and original selection (see p 74 ??). The choice of pleasurable rather than painful behaviors is vicarious for the selective forces which originally led to the evolution of these feelings of pleasure and pain.
21. The word 'instinct' has often been criticized and many alternative names have been proposed. The main problem with the word instinct is that it may give a conception of a fixed and robot-like behavior beyond intelligent control. It would therefore be more correct to say that there are genetic predispositions which increase the tendency for certain behavioral responses.
22. Dissanayake (1984) has argued that it may be problematic to distinguish between art, ritual, and play in this connection.
23. The differences in taste between different social classes have been described by Kavolis (1968) and Bourdieu (1979).
24. Unfortunately, the comparisons supporting this statement are based on a number of criteria for artistic quality which are claimed to be trans-culturally and trans-historically universal, which is in conflict with Kavolis' own theories of psychological congruence. In my opinion, the existence of such universal criteria is an illusion because the regal art with its monumental sumptuousness always will attract more attention and admiration than the more humble kalyptic art. In other words, I think that it is impossible to compare the quality of regal and kalyptic art, or for that matter to compare art within widely different styles or genres.
25. See Bourdieu (1979) for a discussion of taste as an expression of cultural identity.
26. An analysis of soviet rock music (Kataev 1987) shows that this genre is more varied in terms of intonation and song themes than traditional soviet popular music. The rock musicians are mostly singing about social, moral, psychological, and existential themes, where the all-dominating theme of the soft pop music is love and romance. The soviet rock music demonstrates a reluctance against keeping to the beaten track, it avoids hero worshipping, and it stimulates the listener to form an individual opinion, unlike the banal pop music which more justifiably could be called stupidifying. Since the rock music conveys an alternative ideology with which the audience identifies, this music automatically comes to stand for a deviant social identity which characterizes its fans. It is a general psychological phenomenon that persons with a deviant identity are perceived by outsiders as a group rather than as individuals (Hogg and Abrams 1988). It is therefore not surprising that outsiders see the rock audience as a group rather than as individuals even though this music communicates a more individualistic ideology than the mainstream culture.
27. Troedsson (1964) has proposed a theory that the society evolves
through cyclical processes of alternating expansion and concentration which is related to
political and religious movements, and that these processes are reflected in the architecture.
Despite important similarities, his theory is not in accordance with the cultural r/k-theory,
for the reason among others that Troedsson connects decentralism (k) with expansion (r).