Today the arts—both high and popular—are as ubiquitous as ever. Interestingly, just as ubiquitous is a confusion about the nature and meaning of art. There is a long history that has led to this moment.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were those who looked to the arts with the highest expectations, regarding them as a source of deep personal meaning and public cohesion. From Romanticism to humanistic Marxism, the hope was held that the arts would reflect the highest ideals of humanity in such a way that they would be, in effect, an alternative expression of transcendence in a secular society.