Author to speak on transforming society

TJ Kimball

It’s no secret that the arts and humanities carry a stigma for being hard to scratch a living out of. Still, in spite of such stereotypes, there are many people navigating the academic spheres who give fuel to the waning light of our humanistic expressions.

“People are losing sight of the university as a place to explore life in new ways,” said Max Haiven, an author and professor of political economy and cultural studies at the Nova-Scotia College of Art and Design. “Honestly, I feel like I’m saying something that shouldn’t need to be said. I’m trying to open a door of discussion which to most people is already open.”

Haiven has been traveling the world in hopes of cultivating his ideas on art, labor and the framework of modern capitalism. In recent months he’s been to Japan, Germany, Greece and Turkey. Now he plans to visit Grand Rapids, with two talks currently scheduled.

“Generally I’ve found audiences to be extremely receptive,” Haiven said. “People want to know what it’ll take to transform society.”

The first talk, titled, “Crisis of Imagination, Crisis of Power: Capitalism, Creativity, and the Commons,“ will take place at Kendall College of Art and Design on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. The second talk, “Art, Money, and Labor in Practice: Culture Work in the Creative City,” will be held downtown at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts at 6:30 p.m. on the same day. Both appearances are sponsored by Grand Valley State University’s Office of Public Culture, which is located in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and works to create cultural productions that motivate public discourse.

Haiven’s research examines themes including the politics and economics of culture, critical art practices and social and cultural theory. His primary topics for the presentations focus on the connection between art and labor. He hopes to confront the depressing reality that those who feel drawn to the arts while in college inevitably face.

“My main goal is to investigate how capitalism both depends on and drains facets of the human imagination,” Haiven said. “I’m trying to deal with demoralizing topics in an optimistic way.”

Haiven is aiming to give a voice to many students’ woes. With crippling debt, a stumbling economy and a global atmosphere of ambiguity at the forefront of graduation, it’s hard not to feel the tension on the stage in April. Haiven’s most recent work, “Crisis of Imagination, Crisis of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons,” links an imagination crisis to a capitalistic power crisis.

“I want to understand where imagination and art overlap within the context of global capitalism,” Haiven said. “If my writing has been successful, I believe it’s because I’ve tried to be honest.”

Students who wish to gain a broader perspective on these issues might benefit by spending a few hours at one of Haiven’s talks, which are especially relevant for activists, artists, educators and entrepreneurs. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

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