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The End of Cultural Policy?


The article discusses whether we are approaching the end of public cultural policy in Western democracies, because contemporary cultural policy is not adapted to major transformation processes in contemporary societies. I discuss seven different challenges/scenarios that public cultural policy has to confront today:

(1) It appears to be very difficult to democratise culture.

(2) Public authorities consistently continue to support cultural institutions that may be obsolete.

(3) Professional artists are still poor, despite public support schemes.

(4) Public cultural policy is still predominantly national, despite the globalisation of cultural production and distribution.

(5) Public authorities increasingly justify subsidies to culture with reference to the beneficial effects that art and culture could have outside the cultural field. Therefore, one might argue that other public bodies could take better care of cultural affairs.

(6) A specific public cultural sector may appear to ‘imprison’ culture in a bureaucratic ‘iron cage’.

(7) Finally, one might argue that a public cultural policy has no sense in a period of stagnating public finances.

In addition, I discuss several counterarguments to these challenges, without coming to a definite conclusion. I have based the analysis on available comparative research about the public cultural policies of Western democracies, predominantly Norwegian cultural policy.