Signs for the Times: the humanities, government and democracy to-come is a reflection on an unsuccessful attempt beginning in the early 1990s to establish a national organisation to represent the humanities in Aotearoa New Zealand. It provides a narrative of that attempt and then explores issues raised by it, notably the invisibility of the humanities to government and how thinking, in both the humanities and government, needs to change for the humanities to become once again recognised as knowledge of fundamental value to society.
This attempt was begun in a period when digital and networked information and communications technologies were becoming dominant, and there was great emphasis in public policy on the role of knowledge in social and economic development. Seeking to engage the humanities in these developments brought to the surface complex questions about the nature of humanities knowledge, how it is distinctive in relation to the techno-sciences, what is its social and cultural role in democratic societies, and what is its relation to he creative arts.
Signs for the Times develops a discussion of all these matters, proposing that a new conception of the humanities and a new conception of the state’s role in education and cultural policy are needed for the humanities to be able to make their proper contribution to the further development of democratic knowledge societies.