Meg Pier's interview with Paul on the People Are Culture website

The World As Culture

Cultivation of the Soul to the Cosmic Whole

D. Paul Schafer

In this thought-provoking book, noted cultural scholar D. Paul Schafer makes the case for what he calls the world as culture --- a world in which culture is the central organizing principle of human civilization.

For the past two and a half centuries, we have lived in a world in which economics and economic principles reign supreme. Although the world of economics is likely humanity's greatest achievement, Schafer argues that economics and its associated modes of thought are incapable of coming to grips with the enormous problems we face today. Humanity must move toward the world as culture, a world in which cultural modes of knowing and doing play a central role.

Schafer considers the various manifestations of culture that have evolved over the centuries, painting a fascinating panorama unique to this book. Those manifestations include culture as cultivation of the soul, which originated with Roman statesman and scholar Marcus Cicero; culture as the arts, the humanities, and the heritage of history; culture in the context of personality development; the anthropological and sociological manifestations of culture; and, most recently, ecological, biological, and cosmological conceptions of culture.

Culture's embrace of holism, its attention to the total pattern of human life, and its incorporation of artistic and humanistic modes of thought make it the ideal organizing principle for a brighter and more sustainable future. The author concludes by considering how the world as culture might be brought into existence in the years ahead.



6 X 9, 314 pp.

ISBN-13: 978-1-77244-247-2


Don't miss any of Paul Schafer's books published by Rock's Mills Press:

The Age of Culture

The Secrets of Culture

Celebrating Canadian Creativity

Will This Be Canada's Century?

True North: How Canadian Creativity Changed the World

The Cultural Personality

The Arts

The World as Culture


(Canada/US/Western Europe only --- email us about shipments elsewhere)

As I read The World As Culture I found myself filled with hope. There is a rightness, a coming back to what is authentically human in this beautifully written and potent book. In a world where there is so much wrong, Paul Schafer offers a path forward, perhaps reminding us of our birthright and revealing what we already know deep down in our hearts - to live in our true nature is to create a culture where we all can thrive. ---Susan Magsamen, Executive Director, International Arts+Mind Lab, Johns Hopkins University

This impressive book offers an exciting vision for the world. Schafer suggests we shed ourselves from our dependence on seeing the world through an economic lens and shift to foregrounding culture as the holistic lens through which to understand the world. Building on his decades of championing culture, this book is a remarkable culmination of his work. ---Sascha Priewe, Associate Vice President, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada

The world is bigger than you think! This book provides the evidence. It opens our eyes to the riches of human creativity beyond restrictive social boundaries and economics. Paul Schafer reminds us that we plant, harvest, and nourish our lives from the garden of culture, not in marketplace haggling. We are culture, and we make culture as we seek to sustain ourselves and each other. ---Dr. George F. Simons, Interculturalist, Creator of diversophy

Emphasizing culture as a whole or total way of life, Schafer warns that no subject is more important at present and going forward into the future than learning about culture and all the many diverse cultures in the world. This is because cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue as a development resource, as a strengthening of the awareness of common values, are the main challenge of our time. The demand for making the world as culture a reality proves this perfectly. ---Biserka Cvjetičanin, Senior Scientific Researcher at the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), Croatia

Paul Schafer's The World As Culture is about the benefits of seeing the world from a cultural perspective. If you appreciate visionary writing about the resolution of our current cultural and economic dilemmas, this book is for you. ---Frank Pasquill, Canadian eco-culturalist

An enlightening, convincing, and extensively documented invitation to cultivate the soul and harness the potential of culture to support the systemic change needed in the 21st century ... written by an expert in this field, who has dedicated much of his life to this subject. It is time to approach our civilizational crisis in a holistic manner through seeing the "world as culture". A must read! ---Thomas Legrand, author of Politics of Being and advisor to UN agencies, governments, and non-governmental organizations on sustainability

Paul Schafer explains why humanity needs to transform its current focus on economics to culture. He guides the reader through a 2,000-year history of ideas that emphasizes culture as a total way of life rather than a set of products to consume, and shows that this holistic approach to culture can help humanity resolve the world's current crises. Schafer explains that culture envelops all areas of life, including material and spiritual, and his expertise in both economics and culture provides solid guidance for leveraging our cultural resources to finally reach our full potential for well-being. ---Brian Holihan, author of Thinking in a New Light: How to Boost Your Creativity and Live More Fully by Exploring World Cultures

About the Author

D. Paul Schafer has worked in the cultural field for more than five decades as an educator, advisor, administrator, and researcher. He was Assistant Director of the Ontario Arts Council from 1967 to 1970, a founder and Director of York University's Programme in Arts and Media Administration from 1970 to 1974, and Coordinator of the Cooperative Programme in Arts Administration and the Cooperative Programme in International Development at the University of Toronto from 1984 to 1990. He has taught arts administration and cultural policy at York University and the University of Toronto, executed a number of projects for Canada's Department of External Affairs, and undertaken several advisory missions for UNESCO to different parts of the world. He was originally trained as an economist, and taught economics at Dalhousie University and Acadia University before entering the cultural field, specializing in international development, principles of economics, and the history of economic thought..Paul is the author of many books and articles on culture and the arts in general and Canadian culture and the arts in Canada in particular, including Culture: Beacon of the Future (1998), Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age (2008), The Age of Culture (2014), The Secrets of Culture (2015), Celebrating Canadian Creativity (2016), Will This Be Canada's Century? (2017), The Cultural Personality (2018), The True North: How Canadian Creativity Changed the World (2019), and The Arts: Gateway to a Fulfilling Life and Cultural Age (2020). Revolution or Renaissance was translated into Chinese and published by the Social Sciences Academic Press in China in 2006; the Press also translated and published his earlier work Culture: Beacon of the Future in 2008.



I have been fascinated with economics and culture all my life. The earlier part of my life was taken up with studying and teaching economics. I was captivated with this discipline because I wanted to know how economics came to dominate the world and everything in it. It was so powerful that I now call this “the economic age.”

While I believe this age is the greatest human achievement in history because it has raised living standards and the quality of life substantially for billions of people in the world, I became increasingly concerned about the fact that this economic age ignored the natural environment and reduced everything to economics. I concluded that this would eventually be disastrous for humanity and the world because demands would be made on the natural environment that were impossible to sustain.

So I began to search for an alternative way of looking at the world more than half a century ago. This eventually gave rise to the publication of my earlier book, Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age, in 2008.  The major conclusion of this book is that if we continue to live in the economic age, the result will be a very painful revolution; however, if we enter a cultural age, the result could be a stimulating and exciting renaissance.  

Many years later, this has led to the publication of the present book, The World As Culture: Cultivation of the Soul to the Cosmic Whole, which traces the evolution of culture as an idea and a reality from ancient times to the present day. I believe that if we make the shift to a cultural age and take the necessary precautions, this will make it possible to come to grips with such life-threatening and complex problems as the environmental crisis, colossal inequalities in income and wealth, conflicts between different races, groups, and countries, and many others.

Just as the Renaissance changed the world in positive and peaceful rather than violent and negative ways, so I am convinced that if we can clarify the nature and meaning of culture and capitalize on the thoughts, insights, and ideals of countless cultural scholars, historians, and practitioners over the centuries, we can create a much more harmonious, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world.  

The book ends on an optimistic note by arguing that commitment to the centrality of culture and cultures can make it possible for all people, countries, and species to enjoy decent standards of living and a reasonable quality of life without straining the world’s precious natural resources and fragile ecosystems to the breaking point.