Monuments as Consumption Goods

Economic Aspects of Preservation of Monuments in Postmodern Society

Scientific Essay, 2011

18 Pages

Free online reading

František Svoboda is a PhD student at Faculty of Economics and Administration, Masaryk University, Czech Republic. His scientific interests incorporate in the first place theoretical problems of public economy. He is also researcher in economic issues of ecclesiastic affairs and preservation of monuments. Mr. Svoboda has published several articles on the issues of economic dimension of preservation of monuments and pilot project for research in economy of religious institutions.

Petra Dvorakova within her up to now PhD studies, research and participation on education on the Faculty of Economics and Administration of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, has focused on public finance issues, especially on the income and expenditure sides of public budgets and their mutual relationships related to the phenomenon called fiscal imbalance and its theoretical as well as practical dimensions. She is also interested in theoretical issues connected with public economy.


The paper attends to economic dimension of preservation of monuments in today’s society together with possibilities and threats that is connected with.

The first part of the paper defines term postmodern society and explores its influence to resources of economic theories. Characteristic of postmodern society is followed by specification of two basic economic methods how to reflect on society and individual. Society and individual could be measured on the one hand by net economic criterion such as society of optimizing individuals. The main emphasis is laid on individual maximization of benefit in that case. On the other hand the true is that individuals don’t live in conditions of the neoclassical economy. Our society entails many regulations and restrictions that were defined by people in the past and that are used to direct life of the society. Those constraints and restrictions are called institutions. It is impossible to think out postmodern society and not to take into account both dynamic changes in society and persistent influence of many institutions from the past.

The two basic methods of reflection on behavior of individual emphasize either maximization of utility or influence of institutions. The methods complete each other and together offer optimum base for researching of public sector. They make possible to analyze the approaches of individuals and society to given issue, preservation of monuments in our case. The approaches make possible to define and to analyze threats of postmodern reality in the paper. New opportunities and possibilities of effective preservation of monuments are analyzed in the paper too.

Preservation of monuments came into existence as a response to conversion of feudal society to industrial one. Its rapid economic growth began to endanger many rare monuments from the past. The major threat for monuments was except of economic pressure to change of towns and country also ideological interference with idea of modernity and progress. Those basic problems of preservation of monuments associated especially with dynamism of economic mechanism have survived changes in society till nowadays.

Postmodern society brought along transformation of live style and models of behavior. On the one hand there is individual as individualistic, conceited, hedonist collector of experiences. On the other hand stand institutions whose influence is weakened as well as cohesion of communities. Unbelief to metanarratives dominates in society together with strengthening of relativism. We can learn new types of endanger for nowadays monuments by analyzing consequences that arise from current situation in society. Growing individualism has weakened conception of ownership as stewardship and at the same time has strengthened conception of ownership with net private and consumption character. It has established purchasers for market with artistic objects stolen from public places as well as from sacral buildings. Creation of travel industry sometimes fulfills demand for meeting with the past in a way that threatens and devastates monuments.

Postmodern society on the other hand entails new support for preservation of monuments. One of the models of postmodern personality is tourist as it is demonstrated in the paper. Tourist with his interest in unlikely and difference experiences has created demand for conserved monuments and has enabled the origin of economic interest in maintenance of historical buildings and objects. Tourist traveling through the world as a “knowledgeable spectator” has made possible economical evaluation of cultural heritage. Growing education of today’s society contribute too to appreciation of ancient values and consequently to their preservation.

The results of the paper suggest that our epoch as well as any other epoch brings along new possibilities that could be utilized as well as abused. In order to exploit given possibilities right we should accept the fact that new possibilities require new discipline.

Keywords: preservation of monuments, postmodern society, market mechanism, institutions.


Researching of nowadays society and its changes is mostly focused on analyzing new features and their causes and consequences. By analyzing our society we can not pass by present frame of social institutions that influence our society in the long run; society can be analyzed also by monitoring of the old institutions, their changes or persistence, how they balance changes and how they manage to use new possibilities to fulfill their goals. The maintenance of the old time evidence principle called sometimes the monument cult is distinct and special. It is still conserved in different social systems and is also affirmed as actual.

The paper is concerned on questions of preservations of monuments in postmodern society. The basic conflict that caused origin of the monuments preservation organizations is a tension between utilitarian and aesthetic-emotional thinking. The goal is to convergence the economic and artistic-historical point of view to one unifying frame of economic thinking. It is necessary to define monument value and to analyze different approaches to monuments in connection with practice and professional literature to achieve this goal.

The structure of the paper is created in order to move from common to definite. The first part is dedicated to characteristics of nowadays society that are also determinative to some problems of monuments preservation. In the second part there is analyzed term value and its conception in the economic theories as well as in the monuments preservation theory.

The next part considers possibilities and limits of trade mechanism. In the last part there are analyzed nowadays problems of monuments preservation.

Analyzing the issue of preservation of historical monuments in the contemporary society, for full coverage of the related problems, it is necessary to study the literature of three spheres: art-historical, economical and sociological sphere, whereby these spheres overlap each other very often. Cultural concurrences are dealt with not only in the sociological literature, but particularly in the literature of art history and monuments preservation. The current issues of monuments preservation reflect not only long-term inconsistencies between the development of new facilities and the protection of old objects (Riegl 2003; Hájek & Bukacová 2001), but also some theoretical problems related to searching for a solid point in the contemporary times (Mádl 2004) and some practical ones concerning the contemporary negative phenomena in the sphere of monuments preservation (Horyna 2004, Vokolková 2004). Many works have been written on the impacts of tourism as a specific phenomenon nowadays on society and on the objects of tourists' interest (Bauman 1995; Russo 2002). Specific features of post-modern tourism in the context of tension between tradition and modernity and the issue of further development of tourism (Nuryanti 1996) is discussed. Considering the influences of tourism, a unifying approach is being established linking the global and local levels of the issue (Chang & Milne 1996).

The economic dimension of the issue involves not only the analysis of approaches of different streams of economical philosophy about this issue (Mazzanti 2002), but also the question of comparison of term definitions of which the notion of value appears as the most important (Mazzanti 2003, Riegl 2003). Different attitudes of cultural-historical and economical theories can bring to harmony the usage of tools of neo-institutional economy (North 1991; Williamson 2000; Mlcoch 1996). The comparison of different comprehension can facilitate solution of some problems of monuments preservation. Breaking the boundaries between the "culture" and "economy", which is applied also for tourism, is sometimes considered one of the main features of post-modernity (Richards 1996).

1. Characteristics of post-modern society

When Giovanni Pietro Bellori issued his book Le vite de' Pittori, Scultori ed Architetti moderni in 1672, he confirmed only the fact which was established by Giorgio Vasari in the sphere of art as the norm more than hundred years before and which accompanied historical researches up to the 20th century. The notion of modern was perceived in the sense of contemporary and it was simultaneously linked - in the spirit of Vasari's historical conception - to evaluation of contemporaneity as the culmination which in all respects surpasses the past. This connection - contemporary means the best - has remained as one of the invariables in thinking about society for a very long time. Violation of this principle was first of all the two world wars and the development in the post-war time. The belief in progress decreased and with it the era of modernity came historically to the end at the same time. If we analyze now what the post-modern society involves, we must realize that it is particularly a historical end of the era of modernity. The supporters of post-modernism do not insist any longer on that the history aims at progress; on the contrary, the idea of permanent progress has disappeared and no other unifying idea has replaced it since then.

While modernization symbolized progress, specialization and differentiation, the post­modernism is related to decreasing differences and growth of discontinuity, to breaking the system boundaries and mutual pervasion of value spheres. However, the concept of post­modernism is ambiguous and resists a distinct and generally acceptable definition. Therefore, in the following text, we will deal with the determinant characteristics of contemporary society in the way they are reflected in ideas of leading sociologists.

According to the majority of sociologists, it is evident that society has changed significantly in recent years. The appellative of "post-modern" expresses the very change which can be perceived in nearly all human activities. The contemporary society is different and specific. Various authors give different names to the phenomenon of the present-day society. Nevertheless, in their theories, common features describing the modern society can be traced. Most contemporary specialists avoid the term of "post-modern" and they replace it with another attribute, e.g. post-industrial, global or transcultural society.

To the changes which are the most important for the newest concepts of society belong the globalization and phenomena related to it - i.e. pervasion of cultures, expansion of transport possibilities, growth of education and informedness related to growing interconnection of economies. Another significant increase is the growth of changes and risks so that advanced societies are endangered more by themselves and their own activities than by unfavourable elements.

On the other hand, the question is whether we can speak in the contemporary society about characteristics of society if the very notion of "society" is criticised and the individualism is emphasized at the same time. Or rather, not the term of society itself but its content is made dubious. Can it be said about contemporary people that they live in societies? And if so, by means of what are they defined? As nations or is the determinant factor the distribution of people into separate societies something else? And what holds such a society together? In professional circles, decay of cohesion inside society is often discussed which is defined as post-industrial and highly engineered. What ever revolutionary structural changes which this society is experiencing may seem to sociologists, one cannot forget that this society is still being formed by a number of past institutions which are not in contrast with the rapid development. As this paper is dedicated to the relation of economy, historical monuments and contemporary society, we will make an attempt to handle this issue in terms of society concepts of sociology.

In the changing society, world-wide phenomena are reflected, such as globalization. This process has largely contributed to changes in societies and their relations. Development of telecommunication and information technologies "reduces" the world on one hand and they release an individual from tyranny of place which he was allowed to leave only with difficulties before. On the other hand, they evoke new interactions which must be solved both on the level of society and individuals.

The characteristic of the present-day society as "world-wide" is linked with globalization as such. Society has been so far defined in terms of nation. This change is well apparent in comprehension of cultural heritage which was previously understood particularly as the wealth of the nation and on the national level institutions for its protection were established. Today, also for major national monuments, the term of world cultural heritage is commonly used. This shift in thinking is named by Albrow who sees society not as nation but as one global society, world-wide, in which frontiers between national countries are being destroyed. His thesis on the duty of world society to care for and to protect the environment on the Earth because the environment is not a matter of only one country, but it impacts lives of all people, can be easily transferred to the question of historical monuments. Besides, for a very long time, these two problems have been combined, and also, the nature preservation and monuments protection were in competence of one institution. The cultural heritage is considered a part of culture of one global society, which reflects also establishment of multinational organizations such as UNESCO, ICOMOS etc. From Albrow's characteristics of contemporary times related to world society, several factors which are essential for the sphere of historical monuments can be selected. The most essential factor does not seem the damage of environment caused by humans, though to this some problems of monuments preservation are related, but first of all it is the communication ways in connection with global networks, world-wide development of tourism and last but not least the sense of that we live in global society because of social interactions exceeding the frontiers. Economic and social relations are created even beyond state borders, and social structures are transformed. The same can be said about power and influence which overlap the frontiers of state as well (e.g. multinational organizations). The establishment or formation of the present-day world society is the consequence of globalization process and the contemporary society is understood as a "complex of all social relations”.

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Monuments as Consumption Goods
Economic Aspects of Preservation of Monuments in Postmodern Society
Masaryk University  (Public Economics)
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monuments, consumption, goods, economic, aspects, preservation, monuments, postmodern, society
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Frantisek Svoboda (Author)Petra Dvorakova (Author), 2011, Monuments as Consumption Goods, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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