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Humanities and Liberal Arts in Challenging Times


The study of humanities and liberal arts takes on enormous significance in the fast changing world dominated by neoliberal ideals.


  • GS Paper 1 – Society – Relation between art and society
  • GS Paper 2 – Various Aspects of Liberty

Mains Question

Talk about the role that literature, music, and the arts have played in fostering political resistance and thwarting authoritarianism. Use concrete examples, such as 1968’s Prague Spring, to highlight how artistic expressions can influence a society. (250 words)

Songs as a potent tool –

Songs have a special power to cross boundaries, enter even the tightest spaces, and spark significant historical events. Pete Seeger’s lyrics capture the value of the humanities and liberal arts by showcasing the strength of art and the human spirit. The study of these topics is still crucial in a time of neoliberalism to advance different viewpoints, encourage discussion, and fight ignorance and hostility in a genuine democracy.

Humanities’ Importance in Neoliberalism

The validity and relevance of the humanities are questioned in the perplexing neoliberal era. The cultivation of life-enriching beliefs and concepts articulated by artists and philosophers, however, is impossible without them. We tackle the difficulties of diversity, exile, and the inevitable need for debate in a healthy democracy by interacting with the humanities. Embracing the humanities gives us the ability to fight against ignorance, hostility, and amnesia, paving the way for a society that is more enlightened.

A Tool for Emancipatory Politics: Art

Art has a huge influence on how people think and act, and it may be a potent tool for political liberation during periods of significant change. By engaging with aesthetics, people can speak for the majority, challenging the status quo and calling for radical social inquiry. The contributions of artists like Václav Havel, John Steinbeck, and Stan Swamy to the cause of justice, freedom, and human rights are exemplified in their works.

Political opposition and liberal arts

Peter Weiss’ book “The Aesthetics of Resistance” explores the symbiotic relationship between political opposition and the liberal arts. It is possible to oppose dictatorship and change every facet of social existence by combining political activism and creative expression. This blending of art and politics serves as a barrier against the limitations of fixed identities, such as those based on religion or ethnicity, and it encourages critical thinking to build a more accepting society.

The principles of humanism and liberty

The philosophy of Stephen Dedalus, which is portrayed in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” which advocates freedom from nationality, language, and religion, serves as the foundation for the justification for majoring in liberal arts. This search of freedom encourages a dedication to knowledge without boundaries, which is at contrast with the growing coercive forces of neoliberalism that jeopardise the democratic fabric of universities. To correct the errors made in accepting neoliberal principles and to safeguard the values of liberalism and humanism, a return to philosophy is essential.

Keeping the Liberal Arts Spirit Alive

The status of liberal arts inside universities has to be reevaluated because it appears that state-centric programmes and financing have pushed liberal arts to the periphery. The influence of right-wing forces poses a threat to institutions like Visva Bharati and Sabarmati Ashram, which risk losing their core values. The essay examines Germany’s experience under the Third Reich using historical lessons, highlighting the importance of liberal arts as a defence against irrational thought and as a means of fostering a thriving cultural and political landscape.

The Influence of Art and Music

Historical dissident movements and political change have been greatly influenced by music, art, and literature. The reference to artists like Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Leonard Cohen, and Joan Baez as well as historical moments like the Prague Spring emphasises the tremendous influence of art in challenging the state’s anti-humanistic policies. Culture, philosophy, and art education can help create a more sophisticated humanist society by combating nationalism, the triviality of technology, commercial ugliness, and media-induced ignorance.

The Function of Scholarly Research in Contesting Assumptions

Academic research should question the power of corporate media and government propaganda. A reinvigorated emphasis on the humanities can provide students the skills they need to appreciate the arts, promote harmony across societal divides, and resist absolutism. This strategy promotes critical thinking, allowing for the creation of a new language that questions presumptions and confronts current political issues. Future generations will be motivated to carry on the campaign for social justice and academic freedom by recalling the fights of the 1960s.


To sum up, the humanities and liberal arts are still crucial for addressing the problems of the neoliberal era. We may combat the repressive forces of ignorance and intolerance by valuing aesthetics, promoting liberty and humanism, and preserving the essential qualities of liberal arts. The ability of literature, music, and the arts to evoke dramatic change emphasises how important it is to support academic research and develop enlightened societies that appreciate different viewpoints and critical thought. We pave the path for a brighter future built on social justice, equality, and freedom of expression by honouring the sacrifices of the past.

February 2024