Today culture is everywhere as maybe never before. We read culture reviews, watch culture shows, and live in Cities of Culture. Government, museums and arts councils worry that we are not getting enough culture and shape policy around notions of art and culture for all. All believe the arts can be good for us: represent some kind of tonic against parochialism, discrimination and prejudice. Just get enough of the arts, they argue, and we can all be better citizens and live longer, happier, lives.
But are we burdening culture and the arts with too much: are they really good for us? Can the arts have such magical effects on audiences that may have nothing in common? Do some forms of art produce these effects more reliably than others? Are some arts, in other words, better than other arts? Is there still room for aesthetic judgements or just impact statements?