From the review by Dr. George Simons at

History and biography are important but often overlooked sources of cultural understanding.  What about autobiography, consciously written as an exploration of both culture and cultural processes in one’s life and work?  Voilà, Paul Schafer has done it!  Most timely, when intercultural research and practice, impacted by linguistics and neuropsychology, are shifting toward a more holistic view of human nature and society, the story, our story, and our stories have become front stage.




Click below to access a PDF file of the references for quotations in The Secrets of Culture. 

About the Author:

D. Paul Schafer has worked in the cultural field for five decades as an author, advisor, educator, and researcher. He has taught at York University and the University of Toronto, undertaken a number of missions for UNESCO, and is director of the World Culture Project. His previous books include Culture: Beacon of the Future (1998), Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age (2008), and The Age of Culture (2014). He lives and works in Markham, Ontario.

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"Paul Schafer’s lifelong campaign to establish culture in all its manifestations as the key to a “more equitable, sustainable, and harmonious world” has made his voice one of the most recognizable in the growing international chorus demanding enlightened social change.  This deeply personal book interweaves the threads of his principal argument into the story of how he came to believe, with a fierce and total conviction, that living the compassionate cultural life “in the whole, the good, and the beautiful” is essential to both the fulfillment of the human individual and the preservation and enhancement of the world in which we all live."
-- Max Wyman, author of The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters

"Paul Schafer’s book The Secrets of Culture articulates his belief that “we need to pass out of the present economic age and into a future cultural age,” and that “in order to do this, it is necessary to unlock and capitalize on all the diverse and dynamic secrets of culture.” As an economist turned cultural theorist, Schafer details the limitations of economics and how culture can help meet the totality of humanity’s needs. Insightful, thoughtful, and enjoyable to read, The Secrets of Culture is a special book that will change the way people think." 
​-- Grant Hall, Founder of League Cultural Diplomacy and author of



1. The Formative Years

2. Studying and Teaching Economics

3. Soul Searching Abroad

4. Embarking on a New Career Path

5. Striking Out on My Own

6. Coming to Grips with Culture

7. Writing about Culture and Cultures

8. A New Beacon for the Future

9. Assessing the Economic Age

10. Entering a Cultural Age

11. Flourishing of a Cultural Age

12. Living a Cultural Life

What People Are Saying About The Secrets of Culture

"The Secrets of Culture is a vivid account of Paul Schafer’s unrelenting efforts over the course of his life to search for, discover, clarify, and realize the truth about culture  His objective is to restore culture to its rightful place in human society so that people and countries in all parts of the world can enjoy its benefits.  I believe this is what it means to expose the many different secrets of culture and utilize them fully. The book is a profound theoretical work with serious academic implications and analysis."  -- Gao Xian, Professor, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 

"As one ages, it becomes plain that only a few books are truly 'life changing.' The Secrets of Culture is one of these books. The book shifts one’s values, behaviour, and ways of seeing and understanding the world.  It demands a veritable realization that everything in a lifetime of experience should be re-examined and re-assessed.

"Paul Schafer has been a major force on the global and Canadian cultural scene for decades.  His preparation in the arts in his childhood placed him in an ideal position to understand why culture is so essential to people and countries in all parts of the world and the world as a whole, as well as how it transformed his own life and soul.

"We travel with Schafer as he leaves economics and march with him as he seeks an articulation of culture that will convince his readers -- especially those involved in the arts -- that they have a responsibility to move beyond the notion that culture is entertainment and address the full potential of culture as it relates to the very survival of the human species.

"Schafer reveals his belief that we live in a dangerous world inhabited by millions of people of different faiths and beliefs who have access to enormous weaponry in a planetary environment that is in such disarray and disruption that it could ultimately destroy life on earth as we know it.

"In contrast, Schafer presents a future conceived and delivered in cultural terms -- a cultural age -- that gives hope for a level of mutual understanding and peace-filled initiatives that will transform the world and lead to new levels of spirituality, sustainability, and creativity."
-- Walter Pitman, former MP, MPP, and President of Ryerson University

"In The Secrets of Culture, Paul Schafer argues strongly that we must shift from an economic age to a cultural age.  All of his research and writings are imbued with his belief that the future age should be a cultural age, as powerfully analyzed and stated in this book’s final chapters on Entering a Cultural Age, Flourishing of a Cultural Age, and Living a Cultural Life.

"His view that culture is, by definition, holistic -- and that this is one of culture's most valuable assets -- permeates every page of The Secrets of Culture.  According to Schafer, placing culture at the center of global development and human affairs does not mean that the strengths of the economic age would disappear; on the contrary, a cultural age would incorporate these strengths in a broader and deeper way of looking at life, living, reality, the human condition, and world system.  The book is a vivid, dynamic journey into the realm of culture as the key to the future."
-- Biserka Cvjetičanin, Director, Culturelink, Institute for Development and International Relations, Zagreb, Croatia.

"In his wholehearted and unique way, Paul Schafer moves us steadily towards a cultural age and living in a cultural life in The Secrets of Culture.  Not only does this book move beyond the current economic age, but also it draws its inspiration from Schafer’s own amazing life story as a person who has threaded art, anthropology, and economics together with his own personal and professional experiences with culture in a distinctive and original way.  There is no other work I have come across that accomplishes this much-needed task, especially in our day and age when conventional approaches to economics, whether capitalist or socialist, have passed the “sell by” date.  Schafer’s book is absolutely not to be missed."
-- Professor Ronnie Lessem, Co-Founder, Trans4m Centre for Integral Development, Geneva, Switzerland

"The Secrets of Culture is a very personal insight into the life and work of the author as he shares his journey and his quest to look for and 'unlock all of culture’s secrets and ensure that culture plays a central rather than marginal role in the world.'  A must read for anyone concerned with current economic models of governance, people who care about what is happening to our planet, and those who want arguments to advocate for the arts and culture.

"Schafer was originally trained as an economist who became concerned that the economic age was too preoccupied with the production, distribution, and consumption of good and services, thereby resulting in a limited sense of satisfaction with a life based solely on power, money, and materialism. ... He shares the concerns of many who see production and consumption exhausting our planet and forcing an unequal distribution of wealth.  He fears that we are reverting back to the old two-tier class system with the extremely wealthy getting wealthier and the poor getting ever poorer.  His book is timely as many people are now waking up to the environmental crisis and questioning the economic model that has led to this crisis. ...

"Fortunately for us, D. Paul Schafer was exposed to the arts at an early age and therefore has had a critical approach to economic models since his childhood.  He also realized early in his life that the 'arts epitomize culture and provide a gateway to the cultural world and the understanding of culture.' ...  He envisages a world where 'development' would no longer be understood only in economic terms but from a cultural perspective – including knowledge, beliefs, morals, law, customs, and, in fact, whole ways of life."
-- Dr. Diane Dodd, Director, International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism, Barcelona, Spain

"D. Paul Schafer presents us with a deeply personal and extensively researched perspective on culture and what a cultural age would look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like.  In doing so, he challenges us to liberate our sensibilities and embrace the change that is necessary – change that we know is destined, yet, for the most part, we struggle with this from the comfort and security of the known.

"The inclusive nature of how Schafer presents culture resonates as much with our future entry into a cultural age as it does with our past and the synergies and insights that Indigenous peoples share in how they live and breath in unison with the natural environment and maintain a spirituality that defines and enriches themselves, their families, and indeed our planet.

"In embracing the differences Schafer proposes, we connect with an essential humanity that gives courage and determination to our struggle to create a legacy for generations to come -- a better world and a better way of living.  Schafer introduces and presents a scope of experiences, ideas, options, and opportunities that, if considered in totality and acted upon, can and indeed will impact on the sustainability and well-being of all people and our mother the earth.

"Schafer has a masterful depth to his experiences and knowledge as a former economist, educator, social commentator, cultural raconteur, and visionary.  The Secrets of Culture maps a journey - a very personal journey that we all can share."
-- Tony Duke, International Cultural Advocate and Advisor

"Paul Schafer has devoted much of his life to forming and articulating his belief that instead of a marginal role, culture should have a central role in global development and human affairs.

"In his latest book The Secrets of Culture, he takes us on a deeply personal journey of discovery that has led him to develop his strongly persuasive arguments about the importance of seeing culture as not only the arts (as the word culture is often interpreted) but in a much more holistic way.  His views were shaped by the fact that at an early age he developed an abiding passion for the arts while subsequently pursuing a professional career as an economist.

"As a teacher of economics, Schafer gradually began to see the shortcomings of the 'economic age' as first described by Adam Smith, [an age] which has been the dominant force in the development of the world for several centuries.  While fully acknowledging the enormous benefits to humankind through the development of products and services, Schafer became disillusioned with the focus on materialism as the sole measurement of growth and progress.  This propelled him towards the creation of powerful arguments on behalf of the qualitative side of life.  His early work attracted the interest of UNESCO and he undertook a number of missions to for this organization to different parts of the world.

"After teaching economics at two Canadian universities, Schafer changed careers. He worked for the Ontario Arts Council and subsequently launched pioneering programs in Arts Administration at York University and the University of Toronto. The slowly emerging profession of managing the arts proved to be an insightful bridge as it combines the dual roles played by arts administrators in advancing the art form, while at the same time effectively managing the challenging the economic side of arts organizations.

"In 1998, interest in his groundbreaking book Culture: Beacon for the Future encouraged him to devote his full attention to defining culture as a total way of life.  In subsequent publications, he has further refined his arguments and has not shied away from drawing attention to issues that have a negative impact on humans around the globe, especially the degradation of the natural environment.

"Through all of his writing, Schafer has continued to stress the vital importance of international cultural relations.  One senses that he is both baffled and dismayed that the present Canadian government has failed to grasp that sharing our unique Canadian cultural contributions and achievements and interacting in a positive way with other cultures and countries not only leads to better understanding but greater opportunities for trade.

"In so many ways, the positive messages in Paul Schafer’s The Secrets of Culture lead the reader to think about a different and better future if it was based on the creation of a 'cultural age.'
-- John Hobday, C. M. Former Director, Canada Council for the Arts, Present Vice-Chair, Canadian Network of Arts and Learning

"Paul Schafer brings characteristic passion and thoughtfulness to his latest book, The Secrets of Culture.  Shining a powerful light on how humanity has largely marginalized the arts, heritage, and culture, Schafer contends that we should use a holistic concept of culture -- a 'culturescape' -- to bring about fundamental changes capable of meeting the evolving needs of people and the planet alike.
-- Douglas Worts, Culture and Sustainability Specialist

"What appears to be an autobiography of Paul Schafer at first glance turns out to be a comprehensive merging of economic and cultural value systems towards an integrative plan for a future civilization.  For Schafer, the process of cultural evolution is necessary in order to improve human welfare, environmental well-being, and global harmony.  Searching for the essence of economics and society ends up in an attempt to understand the secrets of culture as the context for life.

"For Schafer, culture is, by definition, holistic. It is rooted in nature and therefore should be in the mainstream of global development and at the center of human life. ... Humanity should 'capitalize fully on culture’s profuse and profound secrets' as they are the real key to creating 'a more equitable, sustainable, and harmonious world.' 

"During his trips to Europe, the 'Mecca of arts and culture,' as well as to places and cultures in other parts of the world, Schafer learned that culture is inevitably and intimately linked to landscapes and nature, and that economic diversity is rooted in natural and cultural systems, dynamics, and diversity as well. ... 

The Secrets of Culture ... is an opportunity to undertake an in-depth study of the entire culture of life."
-- Dr. Engelbert Ruoss, Founder and Head of Global Regions Initiative, Treviso, Italy


ISBN-13: 9780988129351

$19.95 Canada and USA

282 pages

June 2015

the SECRETS of culture

D. Paul Schafer

Humanity’s future depends on the adoption of culture as the central organizing principle of society.             

Decades of investigation, reflection and research have led cultural scholar Paul Schafer to this conclusion. Originally trained as an economist, Schafer came to realize that, despite all its benefits, the current “economic age” must soon give way to a new “age of culture” that places the highest priority on people and the natural environment, rather than materialism and the marketplace.

The Secrets of Culture describes Schafer’s personal and professional journey toward this crucial conclusion. Beginning with a lively account of his education in the arts as a child, Schafer discusses his academic training as an economist and how he came to realize that economics, however important and influential it might be, was in itself insufficient to serve as the sole framework for society.

Schafer argues that culture as a concept, as well as individual cultures, must now become the centrepiece of human development if the substantial gains of the current economic age are not to be lost in environmental and civilizational collapse. Only if the focus is on the development of the potential of all the world’s cultures and peoples does humanity stand a chance of moving beyond its present Time of Troubles to a more fulfilling future.

The past several decades have seen the concept of culture achieve ever greater prominence throughout the world, culminating in “culture” being named Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year” in 2014 because of its importance in both public and private discourse. The Secrets of Culture paints a compelling portrait of the new world that awaits us, while also providing revealing insights into Canadian and global cultural policy and development as Schafer recounts his many and varied experiences as a teacher, writer, policymaker, and futurist. The result is a book that is not only enlightening but also entertaining and intriguing.