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Accounting for Culture

 | 
Caroline Andrew
, 
Monica Gattinger
, 
M. Sharon Jeannotte
, 
et al.

Part IV. Governance, Indicators, and Engagement in the Cultural Sector

14. Governance of Culture

Words of Caution

Gilles Paquet

Texte intégral

The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.
– Thomas Aquinas

1There is a high degree of fuzziness surrounding the word “culture.” The use of the word “cultural” is even more licentious. If one adds that the notion of governance is itself less than limpid, one is led to conclude that, of necessity, the very notion of “governance of culture” is bound to be somewhat opaque. Yet there are many reasons to believe that unless one is able to elicit what one means by culture and by governance, there is a great danger that spurious indicators are going to blossom, and perverse policies are going to prevail.

2So some ground clearing is in order.

  • 1 Joseph Tussman, Government and the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), vii.

3Yet this débroussaillage needs to proceed with great care. This is due not only to the foundational nature of culture (as beliefs, values, mores, skills, practices) but also to the fact that extraordinary caution is required when it comes to intervening in the affairs of the mind. The forum (where these beliefs, practices, etc., are forged) needs governing as much as the market, and there is most certainly a role for government in “providing and protecting the forum, and intervening within it.”1 Indeed, there is nothing necessarily totalitarian implied by such a stance. But extreme prudence is required, because any such framework imposed on or intervention in the forum may readily be perceived as manipulative and in the nature of brain-washing, and indeed may easily degenerate into being so.

  • 2 David Throsby, Economics and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

4It has been argued that culture is a form of social capital, an enabling resource helping all members of a group to proceed with effective cognition and learning and to act well in concert—an empowering sociality; and that it is unlikely to emerge organically in its optimal form both because of its degree of publicness (and the consequent shirking it entails) and of its diffracted and distributed nature (and the consequent co-ordination problems it generates). On that basis, it has been further argued that a case can be made that “some governing” is required.2 In such governing, some role exists for government as a provider of varieties of infrastructure capital. But governance of culture cannot be reduced to government of culture: the latter is only a small segment of the former.

5In this chapter, I 1) provide a quick sketch of the complexity of the cultural world; 2) define governance both as a manière de voir and as effective co-ordination through social learning when power, resources, and information are widely distributed; 3) suggest that only a chaordic arrangement can provide the mix of regimes and modes of governance that is likely to provide effective cognition/coordination in the cultural world; and 4) identify subtle and delicate ways in which, on the basis of a few principles, one may ensure an effective polycentric governance in this game without a master by focusing on removing unfreedoms and taking advantage of tipping points.

The Cultural World

  • 3 Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores and Hubert L. Dreyfus, Disclosing New Worlds (Cambridge, MA: Mass (...)

6The world of culture, like the world of medicine or business or carpentry, is extraordinarily variegated. It is a totality of pieces of equipment (for example, nails) to carry out tasks. These tasks (hammering a nail) are undertaken to achieve some purposes (building a house), and performing such tasks leads one to develop identities (such as being a carpenter). Disclosing such a world means revealing how it deploys into practices, and is organized in styles, i.e., the ways that co-ordinate actions and underpin the manner in which practices are transferred from situation to situation.3

7Equipment, purposes, identities, practices, and styles (epips) are components of a socio-technical system that support a sort of culture première—an anthropological ensemble of manières de voir, manières de faire, et manières d’être (we may refer to these three manures as M3) that have evolved as a set of workable and useful social armistices between the geo-technical constraints imposed by the environment, and the values and plans of the meaningful actors.

8This culture première constitutes both an instrument for the agents, a decoder of the environment, and a constraining mindset that selects what is important and what is not, and shapes the agents’ actions. It is often taken as a somewhat subconscious but given reality—but one need not presume that culture is necessarily subconscious or fully given.

Culture as Discriminating and Evolving

  • 4 Bruno Lussato, Le défi culturel (Paris: Nathan, 1989).
  • 5 Emmanuel G. Mesthene, Technological Change (New York: Mentor Books, 1970).

9Any culturally-inspired act is based on a capacity to perceive differences, to gauge degrees of relevance and quality. But it also requires that diversity be apprehended as a coherent whole, and that this whole integrates hierarchies or scales of valuation.4 These capacities to differentiate, to integrate, and to provide an evaluative order, evolve. Environment and equipment change; more knowledge accrues, and tasks change; purposes evolve, identities sharpen, practices and styles crystallize differently. Different habituated choices translate into new beliefs, values, etc.—i.e., into a new culture.5

10These self-reinforcing mechanisms generate two forms of learning: behavioural learning, that builds on past experience to respond to new situations, and epistemic learning, through which environmental representations are reframed, and strategies consequently modified. This evolution is always unfinished: a culture as an ensemble of social armistices is always imperfectly adjusted to its context because actors have imperfect and incomplete information and limited rationality, and because adjustments take time.

  • 6 Michael A. Weinstein, Culture Critique: Fermand Dumont and New Québec Sociology (Montreal: New Wor (...)

11One must distinguish sharply this variegated culture première from cultures secondes that stand vis-à-vis culture première very much like theology vis-à-vis religion.6 They correspond to “representations” of culture as seen and stylized by key opinion-molders, and the like. These cultures secondes are the result of ratiocinations and reconstructions by elites of what the culture premiere is, of what is important and significant in it, and of what needs to be done to nudge it in the “right direction.”

12These “constructions” are shaped by ideology and false consciousness and trigger cultural interventions designed to bring culture in line with some “desired” or “preferred” form.

Culture as Diffracted Relational/Cognitive Capital

  • 7 Throsby, Economics and Culture, 159.

13In a world where a large variety of geo-technical circumstances interact with a wide variety of values and plans, Canada’s cultures premieres are variegated and plural. It takes a quite different shape in Alberta and in Quebec for instance. To put it may be a bit starkly, in the former case, the importance of negative freedom is such that the State as monopolist of public coercion is regarded as a potential threat; in the latter case, the priority to positive freedom calls for a strong State presence as a lever of empowerment. Culture has “no common unit of account.”7 The ensemble of epips en acte, underpinning the array of “Canadian cultures,” varies considerably from place to place in Canada.

14This ensemble of social armistices may cohere in some manner or be made to appear coherent by all sorts of ratiocinations. These are, however, quite different forms of coalescence. In the first case, an air de famille may evolve, or a match may be noted or may evolve among the diverse cultures premières, and reveal that relatively similar values and environments have generated similar cognitive and relational guideposts. In the second case, a culture seconde may be stylized, and represented by some observers as the only meaningful order, and be used to interpret, assess, or even orthopedically constrain the cultures premieres. In the first case, there is true convergence. In this second case, one representation is used to impose order on the hurly-burly of real-life cultures.

  • 8 Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).

15The coinage of “cultural citizenship” connotes the obsessive search for one such “representation” that would bind all this ebullience together. It is, like all representations, a sort of stylization that is theater-inspired: theory and theater have the same Greek root.8 This is why “cultural citizenship” generates much malaise. It suggests that a basic genotype must exist, that indeed this être de raison should be regarded as more important than the “real thing.” In such a scheme, la culture seconde takes over, and ideology looms large. This fixation on such a “monoculture” is often state-centred and eliteinspired, and underpins ominous cultural policies tainted by a tinge of brain-washing: when Goddess Reason appears on the scene to impose her dominium, Terror is often not far behind—as citizens were reminded during the French Revolution. Whether any officialized “culture seconde” can ever avoid smothering the “cultures premières” is a moot question. How could it!

16But can there be some core ensemble of values or M3 that might be regarded as infrastructure to culture premiere that could be regarded as the common denominator on which the sociality of a group is built? “Cultural citizenship” might connote such a common denominator, shared by all Canadians, for instance. Our view is that this is most unlikely because of the very variegated nature of this relational/cognitive capital, and the extraordinary importance of the local milieu in the way it crystallizes.

17What then of the idea of a “multicultural citizenship” that would focus on second-order phenomena (i.e., a common tool box with which the various relational/cognitive capitals might be constructed and loosely cobbled together)? This would appear to be a rather futile effort to fabricate some elusive commonality. Why not go to third-order phenomena (the arsenal of tools used to modify the tool box)? First-order reality is not so reducible, and is more in the nature of an ecology of cultural arrangements that would seem to reek of incommensurability.

Governance: The Central Challenge

18Since there is no culture premiere unique (unless an artificial one is fabricated), and since these diffracted cultures translate into different instruments, different purposes, different identities, different practices, and different styles, is a coherent and yet loosely coupled set of governance arrangements possible? The answer is yes, but such a scheme cannot be imposed top-down.

19Yet, the danger of some overarching theology being imposed on this effervescent reality is at all times immense. The only way to avoid such a mutilation is to recognize explicitly ex ante drat cultures premieres are bottom-up crowd phenomena, and that there is a need to invent a modus vivendi that would allow the cultures premieres to thrive, without chaos ensuing—i.e., while providing a modicum of relational/cognitive common currency that would prevent the country or the broader set of communities from falling apart. This is the challenge of creating some coherence in the face of deep diversity.

The Ground is in Motion

  • 9 Walter B. Wriston, The Twilight of Sovereignty (New York: Scribner’s, 1992), 119.

20Technological change, economic growth, and socio-cultural effervescence have generated a genuine dispersive revolution. The need for a heightened capacity for speed, flexibility, and innovation, has led to the development of not only new structures and tools but to a whole new way of thinking. Private, public, and social concerns are no longer drivers of people, but have become “drivers of learning.”9

21Learning organizations are the new forms of alliances and partnerships, rooted in more horizontal relationships and moral contracts, that are now necessary to succeed. So this dispersive revolution has crystallized into new network business organizations, into more subsidiary-focused governments, and into increasingly virtual, elective, and malleable communities. The major governance challenge is how to acquire speed, flexibility, and innovativeness in learning while maintaining a modicum of co-ordination and coherence.

  • 10 Don Tapscottt and David Agnew, “Governance in the Digital Economy,” Finance & Development (Decembe (...)

22Inter-networked technologies have made new linkages possible; but businesses, governments, and communities have concomitantly been confronted with an ever increasing demand for participation by citizens regarding themselves as partners in the governance process. This has redefined the public space, and founded distributed governance regimes based on a wider variety of more fluid and always evolving communities.10

Looser Forms of Co-ordination

  • 11 George Agamben, Means Without End: Notes on Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, (...)

23The old trinity of state-nation-territory has been put in question. The space does not correspond to homogeneous national territories, nor to their topographical sum, but with communities that have articulated a series of “reciprocal extraterritorialities in which the guiding concept would no longer be the ius (right) of the citizen, but the refugium (refuge) of the singular.”11

  • 12 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), 14.

24The new “lightness and fluidity of the increasingly mobile, slippery, shifty, evasive and fugitive power”12 is not completely a-territorial: it is characterized, however, by new forms of belonging that escape the control and regulation of the nation-state to a much higher degree than before, by virtual agoras, liquid networks, variegated and overlapping terrains where citizens may “land” temporarily.

25The fabric of these new “worlds” welds together assets, skills, and capabilities into complex temporary communities that are as much territories of the mind as anything that can be represented by a grid map, and it does so on the basis of a bottom-up logic that assigns to higher order institutions only what cannot be accomplished effectively at the local level.

Bottom-up Dynamics

26In earlier times, when the context was placid, it may have been possible for leaders to govern the cultural game top-down by simply electing to hypostasize some version of culture seconde, and ignore culture première altogether. Such cultural imperialism may even succeed temporarily in contexts where governments or potentates are regarded as the only legitimate source of authority, as the only legitimate master of the game. But as the context becomes more turbulent, and deference to authority disappears, one is faced with a game without a master. Governance in such a context has to emerge bottom-up.

  • 13 James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (New York: Doubleday, 2004).

27But there is no assurance that “wise” or “smart” results will ensue unless certain conditions are met: diversity of inputs, independence from coercion, decentralization of decision-making, and some adequate way of aggregating the diverse opinions of the different groups in the crowd. This last requirement explains the popularity of market-based methods in recent years.13

  • 14 Cass R. Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • 15 Steven Johnson, Emergence (New York: Scribner, 2001).
  • 16 Ruth Hubbard and Gilles Paquet, “Ecologies of Governance and Institutional Métissage,” optimumonli (...)

28There may be differences of opinion about the necessary conditions for this new philosophy of governing to succeed or about the basic forces on which one has to rely as a matter of priority. Some have underlined the centrality of dissent14 while others have been celebrating the powers of self-organization and emergence, and the capacity of these forces to generate bottom-up co-ordination that works.15 The core message of the literature on emergence has been that there is much more to self-organization than is usually believed, and that much of it is observed in nature that is based on simple local rules and effective feedback. But the possibility exists of system failures, and consequently that there is a need to have fail-safe mechanisms in place that kick in when the system is in danger.16

Co-ordination Failures

29There is no assurance of perfect co-ordination, perfect marksmanship, and zero learning lags in a complex world. Co-ordination failures abound. Some failures may self-correct, but others may require external corrective interventions to avoid systemic failure.

  • 17 Michael Storper, “Institutions of the Knowledge-Based Economy,” Employment and Growth in the Knowl (...)

30In the shorter run, co-ordination failures may be eliminated through process redesign, i.e., a change in the social technologies to eliminate obstacles to the collaboration of the different stakeholders within the learning cycle and developing the relationships, conventions, or relational transactions required to define mutually coherent expectations and common guideposts. These conventions differ from sector to sector: they provide the requisite coherence for a common context of interpretation, and for some “cognitive routinization of relations between firms, their environments, and employees,” for instance.17

  • 18 Mark Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology 78, no. 6 (1973): 136 (...)

31Such coherence must, however, remain somewhat loose: the ligatures should not be too strong or too routinized. A certain degree of heterogeneity, and therefore social distance, might foster a higher potentiality of innovation, because the different parties bring to the “conversation” a more complementary body of knowledge.18

32In the intermediate run, co-ordination failures may be eliminated more radically through organizational architecture work, i.e., structural repairs, the transformation of the structural capital (networks and regimes) defining the capabilities of the learning socio-economy.

33Coherence and pluralism are crucial in the organizational architecture of a learning concern. And such an architecture must be based on principles that allow organizations to have maximum flexibility to fully embrace diversity and change.

  • 19 Dee Hock, The Birth of the Chaordic Age (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1999), 137-39; (...)
  • 20 Hock, “The Chaordic Organization,” 4.

34This is true in all sectors. Dee Hock has described in great detail the saga that led to the creation of visa—the credit card empire.19 visa is presented as the result of a process through which deliberation about purpose and principles led to the creation of new organizational structure that Hock calls chaord. Chaord is a combination of chaos and order. It is defined by Hock as “any self-organizing, adaptive, non-linear, complex system, whether physical, biological or social, the behavior of which exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos or, loosely translated to business terminology, cooperation and competition.”20

  • 21 Charles Handy, Beyond Certainty (London: Hutchinson, 1995).

35The same features make federal structures attractive from a learning point of view: they provide co-ordination in a world where the “centre… is more a network than a place.”21 This is also the reason that federal-type organizational structures have emerged in so many sectors in most continents.

  • 22 Hubert Saint Onge, “Tacit Knowledge: The Key to the Strategic Alignment of Intellectual Capital,” (...)

36Potentially, federalism represents a sort of fit or effective alignment between the different components of structural capital, in the sense of Saint-Onge—i.e., the systems (processes), structures (accountabilities and responsibilities), strategies, and culture (shared mindset, values and norms).22 But since there is always a significant probability of misalignment between these components, there is often a need to intervene directly to modify the organizational architecture in order to ensure effective learning.

  • 23 Donald Schon and M. Rein, Frame Analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1994); D. Schon, Beyond the Stabl (...)

37In the longer run, co-ordination failures may have to be dealt with through some reframing of the purposes pursued by the community. Often, the reconciling of technology, structures, and theory may be achieved by tinkering with the plumbing or the architecture of the system: technology and structures. But often, the theory must be revisited: the assumptions on which the system and actions within the system are based—assumptions that one may or may not be aware one is making—must be questioned and the very enterprise one is involved in (philosophy, broad directions, etc.) refounded.23

38This entails nothing less than a re-invention of the business the community is in to ensure an effective alignment. Values, norms, objectives, assumptions may have to be recast, and a new game altogether put in place.

  • 24 Julian Le Grand, Motivation, Agency and Public Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2003).

39The shift in the vision of the State over the last twenty years—from the old Welfare State to the new Welfare State—as described by Julian Le Grand24 (with its change in the perception of the way the public sector works and its change in the way in which recipients of welfare should be considered) provides an interesting example of such a refoundation process: the move from a world of public sector professionals regarded as knights at work for the benefit of passive citizen-pawns, to a world of self-interested public sector workers (à la public choice) regarded as knaves facing citizens requesting to be treated like queens.

  • 25 Gilles Paquet, “The Strategic State,” part 1, Ciencia Ergo Sum 3, no. 3 (1996): 257-61; “The Strat (...)

40A new public philosophy and outillage mental then become necessary to serve as a gyroscope as motivation, agency, and the whole learning process are completely transformed when the worlds change in this way.25

Ecologies of Governance

41The practical imperative in the world of culture calls for a governance that will succeed in squaring the circle, i.e., in finding effective ways to have most of the advantages of a coherent system while also obtaining all the advantages of a decentralized system.

42This entails avoiding two pitfalls: the illusion of control (because, in the real world, one is rarely faced with a complex socio-technical system that has a fixed shape and predictable behaviour, and therefore that one can fully control), and the delusion of Candide (because it is equally naïve to believe that the appropriate retooling, restructuring, and reframing will always emerge organically in the best way, and in a timely fashion, as Candide optimistically believed that we are always faced with the best of all worlds).

  • 26 Walter T. Anderson, All Connected Now (Cambridge, MA: Westview Press, 2001), 252.

43The best one may hope for is a new fluid form of governance—something called “ecology of governance” by Walt Anderson. He describes it as “many different systems and different kinds of systems interacting with one another, like the multiple organisms in an ecosystem.”26 Such arrangements are not necessarily “neat, peaceful, stable or efficient… but in a continual process of learning and changing and responding to feedback.” Their main objective is to ensure resilience, i.e., the capacity for the system to spring back on its feet undamaged.

  • 27 Hubbard and Paquet, “Ecologies of Governance.”

44An ecology of governance amounts to a group of loosely integrated “uncentralized networks,” each focused on an issue-domain. Two examples might help flesh out what is meant by such an arrangement—one that yields most of the benefits of centralized and decentralized organizations: VISA and regime-based federalism.27

VISA as Chaord

45Hock has shown that in attempting to govern something as complex as the financial empire of visa, for instance, the design problem was so extraordinary that a new form of uncentralized organization had to be created. This was seen as the only way to ensure durability and resilience in such a complex organization, having to adjust constantly to a vast array of turbulent contextual circumstances, but also having to face the immense co-ordination challenge involved in orchestrating the work of over 20,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries, and trying to serve hundreds of millions of users.

46In such circumstances, neither a fully centralized system nor a completely decentralized one would appear to be capable of providing the sort of arrangement likely to ensure the requisite resilience. Consequently, a new form of organization had to be designed that would serve the “main purpose,” but would also provide the mix of norms and mechanisms likely to underpin its realization through bottom-up effervescence within the context of some loose framework of guiding principles agreed to by all.

47Hock has given some examples of these principles, defining the sort of organization used to cope with these challenges in the construction and design of organizations of this sort:

  • The organization must be equitably owned by all participants; no member should have an intrinsic advantage; all advantages should result from ability and initiative;
  • Power and function must be distributive to the maximum; no function and no power should be vested with any part that might be reasonably exercised by any lesser part;
  • Governance must be distributive; no individual or group of individuals should be able to dominate deliberations or control decisions;
  • To the maximum degree possible, everything should be voluntary;
  • It must be infinitely malleable, yet extremely durable; it should be capable of constant, self-generated modification without sacrificing its essential nature; and
  • It must embrace diversity and change; it must attract people comfortable with such an environment, and provide an environment in which they can thrive.28

48There is an “essential nature” in visa as an organization, but there are also many dimensions and categories in the architecture and operations of this socio-technical system that do not necessarily fall into a centralization or decentralization box, because they correspond to both.

Regime-based Federalism

  • 29 Stephen L. Carter, The Dissent of the Governed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).
  • 30 Charles Handy, “Balancing Corporate Power: a New Federalist Paper,” Harvard Business Review 70, no (...)

49The traditional concept of federalism is territorial. It partitions the responsibilities of the organization (private, public, or civic) among different layers of the organization, more or less firmly based in certain geographical areas. This is the case for American federalism29 and also for some firms that have adopted a federal structure, such as Shell, Unilever, etc.30

  • 31 Ibid.

50But, as Handy puts it, federalism is much more than a territorial management grid: it is “a well-recognized way to deal with paradoxes of power and control: the need to make things big by keeping them small; to encourage autonomy, but within bounds; to combine variety and shared purpose, individuality and partnership, local and global.”31 One can easily see the possibilities of federalism as an agency of reconciliation of various sets of purposes: a social architecture providing for multiple logics to cohabit.

51Subsidiarity is one of the key principles underpinning federalism. It establishes that no higher order body should take unto itself responsibilities that can be dispatched properly by a lower order body. In territorial terms, this means that only if the local or state levels cannot effectively shoulder some responsibilities should they be taken over by the federal government. The same logic would lead the head office of a company to provide subsidiaries with as much autonomy as they can properly exercise.

52In the cultural world, the subsidiarity principle would lead to the recognition that much more is happening and should be happening at the local level.

53In the absence of a higher order authority (as in the case of the trans-national scene, because of the void at the level of world government), networks very often emerge that are focused on issues like weather, environment, racism, etc. Such networks correspond roughly to both issue-domains and “communities of meaning.” Such specific forums are created to handle critical issues (management of oceans, for instance), and accords or agreements of all sorts (the Kyoto protocol, for instance) are arrived at in such agoras.

54The arrangements that they embody are referred to as “regimes.”

  • 32 Stephen D. Krasner, International Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 2.
  • 33 Andreas Hasenclever, Peter Mayer, and Volker Rittberger, Theories of International Regimes (New Yo (...)

55Stephen Krasner has defined regimes in the international context as “sets of implicit and explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures, around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations.”32 This definition has been refined and expanded by Hasenclever, et al., who have made more explicit the different conceptual elements of the definition: “Principles are beliefs of fact, causation and rectitude. Norms are standards of behavior defined in terms of rights and obligation. Rules are specific prescriptions or proscriptions for action. Decision-making procedures are prevailing practices for making and implementing collective choice.”33

56One can argue that any private, public, or civic entity adopting a chaordic or a federal structure (and these are not incompatible) is choosing to match the complexity of the environment with the complexity of the organizational form.

What This Means for the Cultural World

57Governance of culture through a chaordic approach is a matter of consequence. It challenges the simplistic association of culture and identity. The world of culture is a world of epips. Overemphasizing the identity dimension opens the door to much ideological framing, and much planning of the cultural field in line with such an ideological frame.

58The major flaws of any univocal approach to culture are holism and reification. Instead of appraising culture as an ensemble of social technologies, structures and frames, and recognizing that they play a wide diversity of roles, it is referred to as a totality with a singular mission. This illusion of totality is cleverly hidden behind some lip-service references to sub-cultures, but it generates a global and reified view of culture. Indeed, once the “cultural field” is labeled as such, there is a great temptation to map it and to plan it: i.e., to “flatten” the cultural world onto a two-dimensional managerial surface.

  • 34 Colin Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship: Tools for Cultural Policy and Development (Hedemora, S (...)

59A chaordic approach recognizes that the cultural world cannot be mapped and planned. As an ecology of sub-systems, it does not lend itself to value chain analysis, whatever specialists of national social accounts might suggest.34 Indeed, there is a danger in allowing a useful statistical metaphor to become a substitute for a complex elusive reality. It is not surprising that such tools are in good currency in Cuba.

60A more pragmatic strategy recognizes both 1) the process-oriented and enabling character of cultural capital (which means that it cannot easily be measured through elusive and ill-defined outcomes) and 2) the inherent complexity and non-linearity of the emergent self-reinforcing processes that define the world of culture. As a result, it is even more difficult to define the value of cultural capital than to define the value of physical capital (and yet we know how difficult the problems of measurement and valuation are in the latter case). Consequently, the use of national accounts approaches may not hold as much promise as has been suggested. One should most certainly not use such quantophrenic tactics (however useful they may appear at the rhetorical level, in dealing with competing demands on public sector budgets, by making culture more tangible and more visible) as a guide to broad-brushed interventions.

61A more modest and more effective approach would be more in the nature of bricolage. The most one can hope for in the world of culture is the highest and best use of certain basic principles à la Hock, and of certain tipping points likely to generate discontinuities or at least to make good use of self-reinforcing mechanisms. And this must be regarded as rather fortunate. This is at least the case for those who fear confusion somewhat, but fear totalitarianism more.

Polycentric Governance: Guiding Principles and Tipping Point Leadership

62The drift from a monoculture, state-centric, elite-driven “government of culture” to a multicultural, pluralist, private-public-civic sectors shared, and diversity-driven “governance of culture” is less a conjecture than a fact. Consequently, most advanced countries already have a form of polycentric governance of culture. It emerges from an image of governance as a wide array of concurrent games, plagued with multiple authorities and overlapping jurisdictions, and linked into complex networks of interactions. Indeed, the cultural game is structured to avoid anyone being able to become a master of the game, and appropriately so.

63Yet this fact is neither fully acknowledged nor fully understood. This is because acknowledging it entails some recognition that culture is a game without a master—a proposition that denies any potentate or “cultural czar,” the possibility or even the “right to think” of deliberately shaping culture; and because of the fact that most observers still fail to get a good sense of what complexity entails, and fear immensely any process where there is no master of the game.

64As a result, there is a constant effort to “represent” the cultural world as a simple extension of the input-output production process of industrial goods. And a corollary of this stance is that there is still much pretense in government circles that State cultural policy (especially at the federal and provincial levels) is not only entided to but must, as a matter of duty, “govern” culture. This argument is based on the presumption that through its corrections of market failures, its production of social capital, and its promotion of some aspects of culture as a merit good, the State will be truly “steering the cultural ship.”

65As any ethnographic probing would indicate, culture (in its various forms) is not a State artefact, but emerges mostly unplanned through the marketplace and civil society. Hundreds of groups and small firms contribute to cultural development in each city in Canada. While this process is messy and often takes forms that the elites would not condone (pace subsidiarity Céline Dion and Shania Twain), it rules the roost.

66A more useful approach builds on a better understanding of what polycentric governance means, on a better appreciation of the guiding principles likely to be of use, and on the central focus on the tipping point mechanisms likely to eliminate blockages and unfreedoms.

Polycentric Self-governance

67One of the main reasons why cultural indicators are in good currency is that they help to make cultural issues more visible. Yet those indicators tend to focus on averages, and therefore misrepresent greatly the essential diversity of the cultural field. Like the fixation on GDP measurements, the focus on macro cultural indicators lionizes aggregate measures of “output” and correlates them with other aggregate measures of “inputs” without any meaningful appreciation of the complex systems to which those measurements refer. This leaves the whole process of cultural creation in a sort of “black box,” and tends to lend credence to the meaningfulness of the correlations among these aggregates, when in fact they are often meaningless.

68Unless one has a much better appreciation of what generates creativity, innovation, effective social learning, etc., and how—i.e., of the dynamics of the self-governing nexus of culture—one cannot propose meaningful measurements and argue for meaningful interventions.

  • 35 Michael Dean McGinnis, ed., Polycentric Games and Institutions: Readings from the Workshop in Poli (...)

69A systematic deconstruction of culture suggests that the cultural ecosystem is not governable top-down, that its main features emerge bottom-up and therefore originate in local milieus, and that it is largely self-governed.35

70Yet this does not mean that everything happens in an indistinct governance soup, or that there is not a certain division of labour among the different families of stakeholders. There is a prima facie case for the State’s being charged with providing infrastructure, and not intervening in purposes and practices.

  • 36 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999).

71The role of the public sector in the cultural world is twofold: first and foremost, to provide the public space and the basic equipment for an effective forum, and then to work at eliminating the blockages constituting unfreedoms that emanate from deprivation of political liberties, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security.36

72In the following table, we provide a plausible view of what might be a well-balanced overall picture of the world of culture. In this pattern, the public sector would focus on providing the public equipments and on removing the blockages mentioned above, while allowing the private sector to shape the purposes and practices (the preserve of private citizens and groups) and delegating to the civil society the responsibility for shaping identities and styles (not ever to become shaped by officialdom). This is not the only nor necessarily the most desirable pattern but it might serve as a useful reference.

73The politics of cognition and social capitalization should not shy away from the task of raising awareness, and should accept the duty of enlightening, so as to urge citizens to attend to the necessary agenda. But it should be quite focused on extending the realm of choices, on playing a role of facilitator, on helping a robust sociality to emerge, rather than trying to influence choices and shape sociality. This will always be imperfectly done because government cannot be entirely neutral: besides informing, exposing, balancing, developing critical senses, chaperoning, etc., government also often enters the forum as an authoritative voice. This is why government has an important “devoir de réserve.”

74For example, there is nothing contentious in suggesting that the provision of public space or the promotion of literacy constitutes a basic facilitation role that would appear to fall clearly within the bailiwick of the public sector. But through bans on certain use of airwaves and selective granting activities, the State allows vocal minorities to influence dramatically the contours of “official culture,” and to inflict their views on the citizenry. This is the world of minority preferences at public expenses. One can only fathom, with much unease, the prospect of such preferences being transmuted into “cultural rights” and becoming the “official culture.”

75Such concerns underpin our sense that there should be limits to the scope of cultural regulation by the State. It is most certainly difficult to defend the interventions that reek of censorship or that hide massive inter-group redistribution behind the cloak of defending some form of “high culture.” In matters of the mind, the provision of the relational/cognitive capital should not in any way limit choices. It should indeed be clear that State actions must ensure that private citizens and groups are enabled to develop “their purposes and practices.”

Table 1: A Radiography of the World of Culture

Table 1: A Radiography of the World of Culture

76As for identities and styles, they should be left to the forces of emergence in civil society. Attempting to control them would inevitably lead government to become explicitly manipulative and therefore objectionable.

  • 37 Tussman, Government and the Mind, 110.

77This is why much attention must be given to scrutinizing the principles that should guide government in intervening beyond the uncontroversial act of providing opportunities through infrastructure, i.e., when it becomes regulator of “time, place and manner.”37

Guiding Principles

  • 38 Pierre Jacquet, Jean Pisani-Ferry and Laurence Tubiana, “De quelques principes pour une gouvernanc (...)

78These principles are quite general and must be balanced: efficiency (avoiding waste), legitimacy, transparency, a recognition that some competition helps, that greater participation also helps, that price-cost relations must not be obfuscated, etc.38

79Identifying these guiding principles and calibrating their valence is probably the most difficult task facing stakeholders. In gauging their guideposts, they must recognize the need to mix these principles in a meaningful way. Any governance entirely dedicated to the maximization of one single particular objective is likely to be unduly reductive.

80This is where the reliance on self-governance plays its most important balancing role. It is the dynamics of the forum that should inflect the mix in one direction or another, not the State. The subtle if necessary action of the State should focus on providing the relational/cognitive capital that underpins M3 in ways that promote inclusiveness and transparency as much as possible.

Tipping Point Leadership

81The sort of prudence required from the State does not prevent it from intervening lightly but effectively by removing blockages that may prevent mechanisms of self-correction, self-re-enforcing, self-steering, and self-transformation to play themselves out.

82Such blockages prevent agents and groups from taking full advantage of all the available opportunities and facilities. They are often detected by economic, social and political entrepreneurs, and taken advantage of. But they may require collective action.

  • 39 Joseph L. Badaracco, Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing (Boston: Harvar (...)

83Among the mechanisms to eliminate unfreedoms, one should focus in particular on tipping points where a small action is likely to have a significant effect.39

  • 40 W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne, “Tipping Point Leadership,” Harvard Business Review 81, no. 2 (...)

84In the language of Kim and Mauborgne,40 this approach focuses on breaking through awareness, resources, motivation, and political hurdles: 1) by putting the practitioners face-to-face with operational problems (Commissioner William Bratton requesting that all police transit officials in New York ride the subway to work, to meetings, and at night); 2) by focusing on areas most in need where intervention is likely to have maximal impact, instead of indulging in scattered interventions and “arrosage generalisé;” 3) by getting through to key influencers and counting on contagion (who would have thought that schoolyard violence might be eradicated by the use of “vous”?); and 4) by identifying and confronting naysayers early on.

85In all such cases, the State is not entirely neutral: such dealing with bottlenecks is bound to be selective and therefore to have uneven impacts on the different groups. But the requirement for a light-touch-approach at the very least prevents intrusive and destructive interventions of an orthopaedic nature.

86Tipping point leadership is what is required in the cultural world.

Conclusion

87Culture, cultural value, and heritage are all weasel words and connote multidimensional, shifting, and elusive realities.

88The deconstruction of these concepts and of these realities with the scalpel of a national accountant is likely to generate precise but meaningless numbers unless one first clarifies a few notions:

  • The complexity of the notion of culture;
  • The reductionist nature of the focus on cultural goods and industries;
  • The inherent self-governing nature of cultural ecosystems;
  • The limited possibility of cultural bricolage;
  • The centrality of this modest work for both economic and political development;
  • The dynamics of polycentric governance; and
  • The meaning of tipping point leadership.

89While some arithmetic and some quantitative indicators may be useful for more effectively arguing the case for culture in political fora, they will mostly tend to legitimize additional State interventions that may have important negative impacts on the very health of culture.

90The celebration of polycentric self-governance and words of caution about quantophrenia and intrusive government interventions should not be interpreted as a plea for eliminating the government’s role in the affairs of the mind and in the cultural world. They should be interpreted as nothing more or less than what they are: words of caution.

91The celebration of bricolage and tipping point leadership should not be interpreted either as a form of reprehensible resignation in the face of the many crises that the cultural world is going through. It is only a plea for extraordinary prudence, but also much creativity, imagination, and a reasonable dose of patience—all virtues that are most important when one deals with affairs of the mind.

Notes

1 Joseph Tussman, Government and the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), vii.

2 David Throsby, Economics and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

3 Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores and Hubert L. Dreyfus, Disclosing New Worlds (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1997), 17.

4 Bruno Lussato, Le défi culturel (Paris: Nathan, 1989).

5 Emmanuel G. Mesthene, Technological Change (New York: Mentor Books, 1970).

6 Michael A. Weinstein, Culture Critique: Fermand Dumont and New Québec Sociology (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1985).

7 Throsby, Economics and Culture, 159.

8 Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).

9 Walter B. Wriston, The Twilight of Sovereignty (New York: Scribner’s, 1992), 119.

10 Don Tapscottt and David Agnew, “Governance in the Digital Economy,” Finance & Development (December 1999): 34–37.

11 George Agamben, Means Without End: Notes on Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 24.

12 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), 14.

13 James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (New York: Doubleday, 2004).

14 Cass R. Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).

15 Steven Johnson, Emergence (New York: Scribner, 2001).

16 Ruth Hubbard and Gilles Paquet, “Ecologies of Governance and Institutional Métissage,” optimumonline 32, no. 4 (2002): 25-34.

17 Michael Storper, “Institutions of the Knowledge-Based Economy,” Employment and Growth in the Knowledge-Based Economy (Paris: Organization for Economic and Cultural Development, 1996), 259.

18 Mark Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology 78, no. 6 (1973): 1360-80.

19 Dee Hock, The Birth of the Chaordic Age (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1999), 137-39; Dee Hock, “The Chaordic Organization: Out of Control and Into Order,” World Business Academy Perspectives 9, no. 1 (1995), 4.

20 Hock, “The Chaordic Organization,” 4.

21 Charles Handy, Beyond Certainty (London: Hutchinson, 1995).

22 Hubert Saint Onge, “Tacit Knowledge: The Key to the Strategic Alignment of Intellectual Capital,” Strategy and Leadership (March-April 1996): 10-14.

23 Donald Schon and M. Rein, Frame Analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1994); D. Schon, Beyond the Stable State (New York: Norton, 1971).

24 Julian Le Grand, Motivation, Agency and Public Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2003).

25 Gilles Paquet, “The Strategic State,” part 1, Ciencia Ergo Sum 3, no. 3 (1996): 257-61; “The Strategic State,” part 2, Ciencia Ergo Sum 4, no. 1 (1997): 28-34; “The Strategic State,” part 3, Ciencia Ergo Sum 4, no. 2 (1997): 148-54.

26 Walter T. Anderson, All Connected Now (Cambridge, MA: Westview Press, 2001), 252.

27 Hubbard and Paquet, “Ecologies of Governance.”

28 Hock, The Birth of the Chaordic Age; Hock, “The Chaordic Organization.”

29 Stephen L. Carter, The Dissent of the Governed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

30 Charles Handy, “Balancing Corporate Power: a New Federalist Paper,” Harvard Business Review 70, no. 6 (1992): 59-72.

31 Ibid.

32 Stephen D. Krasner, International Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 2.

33 Andreas Hasenclever, Peter Mayer, and Volker Rittberger, Theories of International Regimes (New York: Cambridge Press, 1997), 9.

34 Colin Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship: Tools for Cultural Policy and Development (Hedemora, Sweden: Bank of Sweden Tercentary Foundation and Gidlunds Forlag, 2002).

35 Michael Dean McGinnis, ed., Polycentric Games and Institutions: Readings from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000); Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

36 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999).

37 Tussman, Government and the Mind, 110.

38 Pierre Jacquet, Jean Pisani-Ferry and Laurence Tubiana, “De quelques principes pour une gouvernance hybride,” Problèmes économiques, no. 2755 (3 avril, 1-6, no. 2767 (26 June 2002), 1-4; Gerhard Banner, “La gouvernance communautaire au coeur du processus de décentralisation,” Problèmes économiques, no. 2783 (6 November 2002), 14-21.

39 Joseph L. Badaracco, Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002); Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy, Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra (New York: Henry Holt, 2001); Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000).

40 W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne, “Tipping Point Leadership,” Harvard Business Review 81, no. 2 (2003), 60-69.

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Titre Table 1: A Radiography of the World of Culture
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Auteur

Professor emeritus and senior research fellow at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. He has authored and edited a number of books and published a large number of papers on economics, economic history, public management, and governance issues. He is the president of the Royal Society of Canada and the editor-in-chief of http://www.optimumonline.ca. For additional information, see his Web site, http://www.gouvernance.ca

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