At a time when a pile of bricks is displayed in a museum, when music is composed for performance underwater, and the boundaries between popular and fine art are fluid, conventional understandings of art are strained in describing what art is, what it includes or excludes, whether and how it should be evaluated, and what importance should be assigned the arts in society. In this book, Vera Zolberg examines diverse theoretical approaches to the study of the arts. Ranging over humanistic and social scientific views representing a variety of scholarly traditions, American and European, she then develops a sociological approach that evaluates the institutional, ecomic, and political influences on the creation of art, while also affirming the importance of the question of artistic quality. The author examines the arts in the social contexts in which people become artists, the institutions in which their careers develop, the supports and pressures they face, the publics they need to please, and the political forces with which they must contend. Particular subjects covered include the process by which works are created and 're-created' at different times, with changed meanings, and for new social uses; the role of the audience in the realization of artistic experiences; the social consequences of taste preferences; the reasons for change in artistic styles and for the coexistence of many art forms and styles.