The Social Effects of Culture


  • Dick Stanley Consultant



Social effects of culture, Community development, Identity formation, Social cohesion, Values, Cultural participation


This report provides an overview of a research Initiative to Study the Social Effects of Culture (ISSEC) which was jointly undertaken by the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), the Canadian Cultural Research Network (CCRN) and the University of Ottawa as a result of discussions that took place at a jointly-sponsored colloquium held in November 2003. The participants at that colloquium, which was entitled “Accounting for Culture: Examining the Building Blocks of Cultural Citizenship”, concluded that more basic research was required on the social effects of culture to supplement ongoing investigations regarding the economic impact of culture and to fill a significant knowledge gap in this area. In particular, it was noted that without a sound and plausible understanding of the connection between individual cultural involvement and other social behaviours and without rigorous empirical evidence, it is difficult to make the case that cultural consumption and participation produce socially valuable externalities that warrant public policy support. The participants at the workshop, held in Montreal on August 24 and 25, 2004, concluded that there were six possible functional social effects of culture: 1) fostering civic participation 2) contributing to community development 3) formation and retention of identity 4) building social cohesion 5) modifying values and preferences for collective choice 6) enhancing collective understanding and capacity for collective action. These effects, which are inter-related and mutually reinforcing, were tested via a series of research propositions, and resulted in a series of papers which are intended to contribute to the evidence base on this subject.

Author Biography

Dick Stanley, Consultant

Dick Stanley is the former director of the Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate of the Department of Canadian Heritage, where he directed a team of social science researchers exploring issues of social cohesion, cultural diversity and citizenship and identity. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University. He has written on such diverse topics as economic development in the third world, management information systems, outdoor recreation demand, and measuring the non-market values of wilderness areas. His current interests include the role of social cohesion in producing social well-being and the effects of cultural participation on social development. He is a graduate of Carleton University and the New School for Research in Sociology.