Is Design Elitist?

I have maintained for some time that Design ( and Architecture) and all these practices are in the main elitist! I say in the main as there exist more inclusive projects and perspectives such as – Design for the other 90 percent and Architects without frontiers. Though I have got into arguments defending these projects/ enterprises. When asked – but dont these people live i the west and locate their projects in the developing world? and then even more troubling – dont they spend a big part their efforts (read budgets) putting up exhibitions and making glossy books to sell in the cities of the developed world? – I have to admit defeat. For it is true that there is a lot of the noble i these projects – well argued in Papanek’s Design for the Real World – yet at a philosophical level you cant but nod in agreement with Michael Maren. So leave it at that for a bit.

Elitism, Democracy and Design

Of course, one can still affirm as desirable one’s membership in who knows what kinds of rarefied subcultures, societies of weird enthusiasm, marginal headspaces, marvelously perverse lifeways, or incredibly arcane and difficult professions, and be therefore a kind of “elitist” in the pursuit of one’s private path of perfection. But it seems to me that these essentially aesthetic and moralist projects are only elitist in the troubling anti-democratizing way under discussion when they acquire public ambitions, when they seek to dictate or circumvent the interminable process of pluralist politics, the ongoing reconciliation of the diverse aspirations of stakeholders who share the world with us even if they are not members of our moral communities or sympathetic to our esthetic lifeways.


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