Culture with sustainable development of the country

    14:17 27/12/2019

    By the end of the 20th century, socio-economic development, especially the large-scale global financial crisis posed a demand for sustainable development. A series of issues were raised including relation between the growth and development, elements that ensure sustainable development and dialectical relations of those elements; the role of culture, guiding and organizing modes to ensure sustainable development. These issues must be addressed by each country in the world, including Vietnam.

    1. In order for a country to achieve the development goals, meet the material needs of society, there must be economic growth, material basis, technology and technique, national potential and strength. It is a requirement, at the same time, an objective rule. It is necessary and correct to highly value the importance of economic growth. However, it is of concern that in the last time, there is still a tendency of concentrating on economic growth only, not correctly resolving the relationship between growth and development, considering economy as a determinant of overall development, and that other factors do not contribute directly to development. What is wrong in this concept is that it focuses on economic growth and considers that economic growth itself will create national power and strength and solve other problems, such as society and culture.

    Here it is necessary to clarify the relationship between growth and development. Development is a broader, deeper, more comprehensive concept than growth. The connotation of development implies and indicates the progress and advancement in the quality of society on all its dimensions and areas; of the harmony between the standard of living and the quality of life; of human virtues and values, including economic growth and the need to improve the living standard of the entire population, in association with the level of harmonious and comprehensive human development, and cultural development. That means that, from development perspective, there may be growth but no development because the social quality in general and the quality of life of people in particular are not guaranteed, politics may be unstable, and there may be degradation in culture, morality, and lifestyle. Thus, even if the material life is improved in the wake of economic growth, it may not yet achieve the highest goal of development, which is to improve the quality of life materially and spiritually. If only to achieve simple economic growth at any price at the expense of other aspects, such as culture, society, and human construction, there is a direct risk of breaking sustainable development, creating social disorder. In that case, there is growth but no development, that is counter development. Some scientists who study this growth situation in some countries call it "rude", “without root”, "unconscionable" and "defying the future" growth. Consequently, in those countries, there may be a risk of social conflict, a serious decline in lifestyle, personality, humanity, morality, creating "poor people without roots and rich people without ideal," which can cause political and cultural instability. This assumption is no longer a theoretical issue but has become a bitter and foreseeable lesson for some states at present.

    2. Development but not growth at all costs. Sustainable development does not restrict the speed and acceleration of evolution in positive direction. But it must be achieved, ensuring "rapid development associated with sustainable development," in which "sustainable development is permanent requirement,” “a basis for rapid development” and “fast and sustainable development must always be closely linked with each other in socio-economic plans and development policies.” It is a scientific thinking of profound, dialectical theoretical level, which was summed up and especially emphasized in the 11th Party Congress document.

    However, sustainable development, first and foremost, requires synchronous development of all the important elements of development, the basic areas of social life and dialectical settlement of relationship between the elements, and areas. In recent years, people talk about pillars of sustainable development in modern society, that is, to ensure the harmonious development, consider them equally important and make the pillars closely link with each other for sustainable development. Recently, researchers through discussions in the United Nations, and based on their countries’ socio-economic development pointed out four pillars of sustainable development, namely politics, economy, culture and environment (in the past, many people talked about social factor, but recently, environment has emerged with many challenges. So environment has been emphasized with larger connotations than social pillar which is viewed as an important part of environment in general). More than 70 years ago, President Ho Chi Minh pointed out that: "In the cause of national construction, equal attention must be given to four issues of politics, economy and culture and society ”(National Salvation Newspaper issued on October 8, 1945).

    The thinking about the four pillars of sustainable development, including culture is a step forward in theoretical thinking. The synchronous, harmonious and intermingled development of those four pillars will create sustainable development and vice versa, if any of these four pillars is given little attention to, to whatever extent, they will crack, leading to disruption of sustainable development.

    The requirement to ensure sustainable development is also associated with effective combination of development width and depth, with a focus on development depth. The direct factors that create development depth are improving labor productivity, applying scientific-technological advances, innovation and creativity, and improving the quality of human resources. All these factors belong to culture and are built by culture.

    Growth and development at present cannot be made, with a limited perspective, at the expense of growth which defies the future, exhaustedly exploits resources, consumes and excessively discharges to environment. Sustainable development requires a harmonious resolution between immediate and long-term goals, for the current for future generations.

    3. Culture is one of the four pillars of sustainable development. So which is theoretical basis for this point?

    Perhaps, so far, some people (or not many people) think that culture is a non-production field, "a follower" of the economic and production sector. That thinking is “entrenched” in mindset, leading and implementing of a section of cadres and leaders in different fields. To correct that misconception, a very basic thought of K. Marx is briefly presented. K.Marx maintained that human history has two areas of production: material production and spiritual production and both follow the general rules of production. Material production is to create material wealth for people, and spiritual production which creates literature, art, state, morality, science, "the production of thoughts, symbols and consciousness" "and" as manifested in the language of politics, law, religion, metaphysics" is only" specific forms of production and obey the general rules of production." (1) The outcomes of spiritual production are spiritual products which enrich and diversify the spiritual life of human being, that means, human being can only achieve quality development while simultaneously developing both forms of production: physical and mental. If material production is the material foundation of society, of course, spiritual production is the spiritual foundation of that society. Thus, in order to achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to create a synchronous and harmonious development of the two above-mentioned areas, simultaneously building material foundation and spiritual foundation for the society. It is necessary to consider this as the original theory to explain that culture is a pillar of sustainable development.

    The goal of material production is to create more material wealth to ensure the needs of physical development and material life of people. But economic development has no purpose in itself, but the goal to achieve is for happiness, freedom, and comprehensive development of people. And that is culture.

    The ultimate, highest goal of spiritual production is not only spiritual products but to nurture and build people to become the “most human" like K.Marx affirmed. Thus, both fields of production meet at the final goal which is for man with the most beautiful and humane meaning. With that meaning, the synchronous development of material production and spiritual production is prerequisite for sustainable development.

    To clarify the role of culture in sustainable development, it is necessary to analyze the structural characteristics of culture. There are the two layers of culture. The first layer is the specific products of culture. These products are extremely diverse, rich, constantly change and develop to meet the spiritual needs of people and that is the specific cultural life of society, of each person and of each certain community. We call this a mobile element of culture and the surface structure of culture. The second layer of culture is difficult to see, born by the first layer and lies within the perception and reception of humans. That is the value system created by cultural products and accepted by people. It is a static element of culture, a deep structure of culture. The depth structure (value system) is a crystallization, depositing under the first layer of culture, playing a role of orienting and regulating all changes on the surface structure, shaping the culture of each nation in space and time. Identifying culture with the two surfaces and depth layers and dialectical relations between those two is an objective scientific basis for us to determine the role of culture which is the rich, diversified and varied products to meet the spiritual needs of people, and at the same time values and value system which are affirmed and handed down, contributing to the sustainable development of each community, each nation, each country.

    A salient feature of culture is it infiltrates other areas of society, contributing directly to creating development level from economy, politics to law, and morality.

    Therefore, if adding the word culture to the above-mentioned areas, one can immediately recognize the requirements for quality and development level of those fields. Consequently, new phrases, such as political, cultural culture in the Party, transport culture, behavioral culture, family culture, reading culture, office culture, school culture and cuisine culture have appeared. This infiltration is made due to the deep structure of culture, i.e. the deepening of cultural values in the areas of social life. It is from this characteristic that the role of culture is particularly important for development and it is the scientific basis for us to explain the specific cultural relations with the basic areas of evolution.

    4. Properly handling of the relationship between culture and economy, economy and culture will be an extremely important driving force for sustainable development.

    Culture belongs to the superstructure, with organic association with infrastructure, therefore, from its nature and abiding by the general rules, culture lies within and under the impact of the economy. Economic development is an important basis to facilitate cultural development, despite the development of some cultural fields with specific characteristics such as literature and arts. This universal principle is not at all an imposition on culture but is the social nature of culture, an objective law of dialectical relationship between economy and culture. Unfortunately, from that principle, over the years, some dogmatic perception, believing that culture depends on economy, is an non-profit element, and a "follower." In recent years, that wrong perception has been rejected and a new perception on the role of culture in development arrived, finding all possible ways to match production and innovation to make economy be "rooted" in culture. It is not advisable to strive for pure economic growth, and to sacrifice culture in exchange for economic growth.

    In the opening statement for "The Decade of Culture for Development," the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) strongly affirmed a new, profound conception of global universal value in the present era. Practices of the past two decades showed that, in every society at present, regardless of economic level or political and economic trends, culture and development are two closely associated aspects; any country that separates economic development goals from cultural environment will inevitably faces a serious imbalance, both its economy, culture and creative potential will be weakened. Development needs to acknowledge that culture holds the central position and the role of social regulation.

    From this profound, convincing thesis, we can affirm that economic pragmatism is on the rise as the real risk of unsustainable development, and degradation in the fields of spirit, morality, cultural creativity. Also from the above point of view, the inevitable acknowledgement is that culture is not only the result of development but is the foundation of the sustainable development, or in other words, the economy cannot develop by itself without cultural foundation motivation. In this era, the gray matter proportion is increasing in economic products, keeping a dominant position for the quality of products. That means that the proportion of cultural factors plays an increasingly decisive role. In the face of the increasing, diverse and individual needs of consumers, if economic products and service lack cultural identity, their competition ability will decrease sharply. Therefore, creative arts and culture forces, such as cinematography, painting, industrial arts, architecture, fashion, folk art, festivals have participated directly and deeply into the economic process, economic outcomes, bringing into play cultural factors and values in those products. Up to now, many countries have linked economy with culture, economy in culture and culture in economy, as the strategy of sustainable development.

    In recent years, people talk a lot about cultural industry as a new form of an economic industry, in other words, the result of cultural integration in economy and economy in culture. Film, audiovisual, publishing, entertainment industries have been developing into special economic sectors, linking culture to economy to create not only modern cultural products but also great economic value. It is clear that the trend of cultural production and consumption as new form of industrial production is an objective trend of contemporary society and that is a new feature of mutually economic and cultural penetration in the modern era.

    When discussing the viewpoint of "socialist-oriented market economy," some people often understand and think that it is a motto in the economic field. Actually, the combination of "market" and "socialist orientation" factors bespeaks an encompassing cultural meaning: the motto can only be realized once cultural values dominates our entire market economy. In other words, here the economic and cultural factors are intertwined to ensure the development of society in a healthy and sustainable manner. Therefore, there is always a conflict between market law and cultural law. Today, despite new conditions and major adjustments, the market economy still have limitations. Fully aware of the market economy’s positive aspect in line with development law and its negativity aspect, and limitations, we have persisted in “socialist orientation" because that is the way to overcome the downside of the market economy and create human values of the economy. Culture plays the guiding role of market economy values, meaning that socialist orientation must be within the market economy, in its operation and under its impact. They are not two factors, standing side by side or outside each other. This should be clearly and scientifically affirmed in our sustainable development strategy.

    5. Properly handling the relationship between culture and politics, building the value of political culture.

    First of all, political culture is a particular cultural value, a factor that constitutes a common cultural value and becomes an important element in the cultural life of society and the nation. As a cultural value, when speaking about political culture, we want to emphasize political views’ correctness, law conforming, suitability to people’s demands, and truthfulness which are manifested in ideological level, intellectual range of political organizations and people, knowledge on the laws of historical evolution, political relations as well as political institutions to orient and manage social development effectively. As a high demand of political activities, political culture is shown clearly in political institutions, organizations and institutions.

    On the other hand, talking about political culture, one cannot fail to mention the subject - the political person, the political activist. The subject has good or bad personality, ethical morality, noble way of life, for everyone or just selfishness, and individualism. The ambition of power, status and money will influence political activities in different directions. Political culture is also reflected in the capacity and art of organizing, educating and persuading the masses to voluntarily participate in political activities, following correct viewpoints and policies. From this understanding, it can be affirmed that a righteous and genuine politics must be culturally political. Therefore, a politics which is opposing the people, power politics only for the benefit the ruling forces, is counter-culture politics. In that sense, culture is the factor that creates the strength and persuasion of true politics and genuine politics always takes cultural values as the nucleus, and its foundation. Meanwhile, politics and political activities always play a decisive role in a regime, and a state. That means, a regime, a strongly developed institution always needs unity between politics and culture. To ensure that unity, efforts must be made to build a political value system. That value system must be the meeting between the Party and the people, in which the Party must listen, select the legitimate and lawful aspirations, expectations of the masses to build the political values of the Party, at the same time make those values a political belief of the mass.

    The core of political culture is the leadership and management culture. Leadership and management culture is understood as the overall values which are formulated from ideology, norms, principles and methods to create the position, capacity and prestige of the leading and managing subjects in a harmonious relationship with the object for a common cause, a common goal. In that sense, leadership culture and management play an extremely important role in politics and political activities of the ruling party. Recently, people have paid attention to building a ruling culture because it is a decisive factor for a state, a political institution. Its sustainable development depends on the stuff, capacity, qualifications, correctness, and cleanness of political culture in general and ruling culture in particular.

    Thus, the building and developing economy, politics and society must aim at the highest goal of culture, towards cultural values, such as democracy, freedom, equity, civilization and happiness and comprehensive development of people. Therefore, culture always plays an important role, both in immediate and long-term future for sustainable development of the country.


    (1) K. Marx and F. Engels, V.I. Lenin: On Literature and Arts, The Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1977, pp. 43, 392
    This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 921 (July 2019)


    Prof. Dinh Xuan Dung, PhDThe Council for the Theory and Criticism of Literature and Arts

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