Art in the Age of Democracy (Flaubert’s Correspondance)

Just finished my reading of Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Correspondance’. It is striking that he observed already 150 years ago that the individual is destroyed by democracy. I assume that nowadays, artists in the Netherlands have the same experience. What disturbed me most in reading his letters was that the current reduction of arts budgets is possibly not primarily the result of a decision by the majority, but due to democracy as a system: “It is the hatred which the Bedouins, the heretic, the philosopher, the hermit and the poet is exposed to…”. At the same time, Flaubert saw already in 1875 that concepts such as democracy, equality and fraternity are subject to erosion. We only have to turn on the news to see this erosion today. Nevertheless, while he saw no possibility to introduce new principles, for me the question remains whether the task of art consists precisely in the creation of such new principles. Maybe, the main difference between his and our time is that he was still able to cherish antipathy towards the world of action, while we are forced to ´act´. The nature of such acts and their relation with creative – artistic – production is still one of the main questions we face today. Also in this respect, it is instructive to read Flaubert’s letters.

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