Cultural Forces, Business and Peace: An Overview

By Timothy L. Fort, PhD, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

This article introduces the second half of our special series on the relationship between music, business and peace. Providing an overview of working papers which explore the ways in which various cultural forces can lead toward peace. What can music do to enhance peace? Or other cultural forces such as sports, business, religion, law, and film?

It is true that governments sign treaties with one another or with groups within their jurisdiction to stop violence.  A signal feature of government is control over weapons just as a responsibility of government is the security of its people. Determining when to use those weapons and when to stop and for what reasons is one of the essences of national sovereignty.

At the same time, bonds that exist among peoples – within a country and across borders – can lessen the likelihood of conflict.  Shared languages, history, religion, legal and political systems, for example, may lessen the likelihood of war.  Absent the birth pangs of the New World, there has not been a great deal of violence between the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Australia for two hundred years.  Some studies show that democratic countries do not war with each other, while others suggest that economic interdependence makes peaceful resolution of disputes a smart strategy.  These examples suggest that there are additional cultural foundations for peace that may be drawn upon in order to make the peacemaking work of governments easier.

Such an assertion is loaded with ambiguities in at least two ways.  One ambiguity lies in exactly how different nations might characterize a cultural artifact as being a shared heritage or something divisive.  Any cultural artifact could be used for ill or for good. Music can be peaceful or violent.  Sports can be welding or divisive. Religion can reach the most humanitarian aspects of love and justify the torture of an infidel.  Business can bring people together to peacefully exchange good and it can be exploitative.  The difference between these kinds of uses lies in the normative aims.  Indeed, it lies in the extent to which these artifacts lead toward peacefulness rather than toward violence.  It is with this normative dimension in mind that this special issue features the ways in which various cultural artifacts can lead toward peace.  Without neglecting the ambivalence noted, what can music do to enhance peace?  Or sports, business, religion, law, and film?

The first half of the special issues is specifically devoted to the relationship among music, business and peace.  This conversation has been the aim of two conferences at Indiana University led by scholars at the Jacobs School of Music, the Kelley School of Business, and the College of Arts & Sciences.  Three articles provide theoretical groundwork for the themes of the special issue generally and the connection among music, business and peace specifically. 

In Timothy Fort and Todd Haugh’s. Music, Business, Peace & Ethics: Sketching the Terrain, the authors set out a number of ways these three areas can interact.  Included in this interaction are an understanding of the cognitive processes that are stimulated by both music and by ethical business conduct, which may be similar and may reinforce each other.  Because the authors argue that ethical conduct is related to peace itself, this reinforcement provides potential for the music and business to constructively build on each other with results for peacebuilding itself.  This intersection draws upon the ways in which both music and business depend on relationships in order to exist, the place of emotions in decision-making and musiking.  They are also linked in their ubiquity and their ambivalence.  This Fort & Haugh article sets a foundation for the special issue and, in particular for those articles specifically related to music and business, such as those written by Cindy Schipani and Scott Shackelford and the transcript of the presentation of Jerry White, who shared in the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.

Cindy Schipani, one of the pioneers of the business and peace scholarship, co-authors an article with Kate Peterson; Recording Artists, Music, Social Change, and the Business World.  provides an analysis both in terms of how the lyrics associated with music can enhance cognitive awareness and movements toward peace as well as the business of music and the models for it to be constructively governed.  More specifically, they remind us of the ways in which music has been used in social movements in the United States, ranging from the songs black slaves to Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.  They also note its importance globally, including use of jazz as an international tool of cultural diplomacy, concerts such as Live Aid and on behalf of the fight against AIDS.  With this as background, they then address the business ways in which music is used, for example to obtain charitable donations for a cause, for example FarmAid, that in turn can have impact on legislations.  The other side of the coin of music having an impact on government is the question of the censorship of musical expression either from government itself, for example with respect to lewd or violent lyrics to within the music industry.

Scott Shackelford is an expert in cybersecurity, which may initially seem far afield from the topic of the special issue.  Yet Shackelford sketches a connection in two, very different and important respect.  He points to research that demonstrates that musicians are often the preferred employees of cybersecurity firms, in part because of musicians’ training to recognize patterns.  Given that Shackelford’s interest is not simply in constructing cybersecurity walls, but also what he calls “cyberpeace,” he sees the potential of music to contribute to the voluntary engagement of firms and individuals – beyond government – to establish safe places for today’s Internet.   Shackelford also introduces a methodology called polycentric governance.  Shackeford’s model sketches a way to conceive of different layers of responsibility with respect to a given problem.  Thus, some issues must be addressed at a high, governmental level whereas others are better attacked at a smaller, local level.

Jerry White, whose work on landmine removal won him recognition for the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, provides a commentary on how social movements are launched, grow, and become successful.  Drawing on his own experiences in such movements, he weaves music themes throughout his message of how one might make music and business (and one could add other cultural artifacts such as film or sports) into agents of peacebuilding.  Among his interesting insights is his view that in order to be successful, leaders must “come in from the right.” That is, peace-related movements often find their homes and energy in left-leaning organizations and individuals. Yet, if one can find a way for more conservative individuals and organizations to see how a movement resonates with them, then one can be in a position to weld a non (or bi) partisan movement that transcends contemporary politics. 

Arlen Langvardt and Josh Perry conclude the first part of this issue by looking at a unique issue of the use of music and other cultural artifacts in political campaigns when such use is directly at odds with the issues of the artist.  They introduce the topic by reciting some common appropriations of music in campaigns likely to resonate with the reader: Donald Trump’s use of the works of Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Adele and Queen as well as other disputes between Michelle Bachman and Tom Petty, Barack Obama and Sam & Dave, and John McCain and Jackson Brown.  Drawing from legal (copyright and tort) law as well as from ethical analysis, the authors assess the controversies associated with the appropriation of music that is contrary to the wishes and intents of the artist.

The second part of the special issue expands the discussion beyond music to consider other cultural artifacts.  One example of this concerns film and part of the discussion herein comes from a four-part film series co-sponsored by the Indiana University Cinema, the Kelley School of Business, and the Institute of Korean Studies.  The first film in that series was the iconic classic: Gandhi, shown the week of the 70th anniversary of Gandhi’s death.   It was followed by a Korean film, As One, which tells the story of North and South Korea forming a joint table tennis team in the early 1990s.  This film was, also ironically, shown days after the announcement that the two Koreas would enter the 2018 Olympics together and days before they actually did so.  A third film, Sweet Dreams, is the launching point for one of the issues in this special issue.

Joylon Ford, a prominent Australian scholar in the business and peace field, provides an in-depth assessment of issues associated with pop culture pertaining to business, peace and human rights.  Ford examines how contemporary film builds upon and reinforces popular norms, often in not-so-peaceful ways.  He looks at how some films feature social impact and corporate responsibility themes as well as look at the ways in which moral messaging might work in pop culture with an emphasis on the relationship between psychology, behavior and emotions.    He also examines five films that raise ethical and legal issues in different ways.  Such a narrative provides challenges for utilizing film (and other cultural artifacts) to build peace, but also presents opportunities as well. 

Abbey Stemler and Karen Woody’s article begins with an overview of the documentary film, Sweet Dreams.  Set in post-genocide Rwanda, the film examines the efforts of women from Hutu and Tutsi tribes to find a way to overcome the fatal animosities of the 1994 genocide.  These women first form a drumming troupe, the first women to play drums, in fact, in Rwanda.  This musical endeavor proves successful and welds the group together to the extent that the women continue to work together in forming an ice cream shop, the first of its kind in the country. Stemler and Woody use the film as a lens within which to examine the background of these struggles and reactions and propose that entrepreneurship and gender empowerment provide avenues for peace building. 

David Hess and Norman Bishara conclude the special issue with a reflection on how another cultural artifact, sports, could be used to promote peace.  Hess and Bishara look at some of the problems the business of major sports, including issues related to violating human rights, land acquisition and displacement, construction of facilities, free speech and discrimination issues, and corruption.  They also apply the UN Guiding Principles to issues pertaining to sports and what next steps might be taken.

Taken as a whole, this special issue broadens the opportunities for citizens to make contributions to peace in a variety of ways.  To the extent that peoples of different countries and societies can find ways in which they can find peaceful relations with each other, it seems that it may provide foundations for governments to find ways to do the same.  Rather than being paralyzed waiting governments to act, any individual can contribute to peace through their music, their participation in sports, their selection and engagement with film, through their business and work activities as well as noting the ways in which the law, respect of gender equality, and human rights can provide the cultural foundations for sustainable peace.  This original inquiry, then, not only attempts to articulate extant and theoretically possible ways to foster peace.  It is also a call for anyone and all of us to become an instrument of peace.

1 Eveleigh Professor of Business Ethics & Professor of Business Law & Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University.  PhD, JD Northwestern University, MA, BA, University of Notre Dame

2 Charles A. Kupchan, How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace (2010).

3 Spencer R. Weart, Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another (1998).

4 See, F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (1988); Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011).

5 R. Scott Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence & Reconciliation (1999).

6 Timothy L. Fort, Business, Integrity & Peace: Beyond Geopolitical and Disciplinary Boundaries (2007).

7 Id.

8 Timothy L. Fort & Todd Haugh, Music, Business, Peace & Ethics: Sketching the Terrain

9 Christopher G. Small, Musicking (1998)(defining the term as any activity associated with the interaction with music).

10 Cindy A. Schipani & Kate Peterson, Recording Artists, Music, Social Change, and the Business,

11 Scott J. Shackelford, Should Cybersecurity Be a Human Right?” Exploring the Shared Responsibility” of Cyberpeace

12 Interview with Gerald White.

13 Joshua E. Perry & Arlen W. Langvardt, Political Figures and the Appropriation of Others’ Music: Legal and Ethical Perspectives

14 Joylon Ford, Business, Peace and Human Rights: The Regulatory Significance of Pop-Culture Products

15 Karen E. Woody, & Abbey R. Stemler, Sweet Dreams: Women as Entrepreneurs of Peace

16 David Hess & Norman D. Bishara, Business, Sports, and Peace: Respecting Human Rights and Combating Corruption in Mega-Sporting Events

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