The Pandemic as Occasion: Arts and Cultures as a “Socially Irrelevant Domain”


This paper aims to provide a theoretical framework for analyzing the social status of the arts and cultures in the German-speaking countries. The de facto insignificance became visible during the Covid pandemic. In the 1970s, a broad social consensus formed about public funding of artistic and cultural activities in order to achieve social, educational, and democratic policy goals. This consensus disappeared in recent years, and one indication of this is the marginalization of arts and cultures in the political discourse. Referring to different social science theorists (Niklas Luhmann, Pierre Bourdieu, Ulrich Beck, Hartmut Rosa), this article examines sociological interpretations of ‘crises’ but also addresses the transformative potential of the arts and cultures due to crises. It explores the question of how the arts and cultures can interpret the recent global and comprehensive socio-ecological crises and contribute to finding solutions.