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Accounting for Culture

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

Annex. Back to the Future

The Colloquium in Context: The Democratization of Culture and Cultural Democracy

Greg Baeker

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1E. M. Forster famously wrote that “unless we remember we cannot understand.” There is a worrisome amnesia confronting the cultural sector in Canada today, as though the collective “hard drive” of the sector has been wiped clean of past policy and research experience. Many explanations for this state of affairs are possible. One is the hollowing out of governments’ policy capacity after many years of spending cuts. Another is the loss of institutional memory in government agencies, in funding councils, in universities, in cultural organizations of all kinds. This memory loss is the result of ongoing staff turnover, retirements and, more broadly, a general weakening of historical consciousness in contemporary society. This weakened sense of history leads to the delusion that, unless policy or research has been produced or articulated recently, it cannot possibly offer answers to the pressing concerns of public policy or decision-making.

  • 1 Augustin Gérard, an official in the French Ministry of Culture, first articulated the principle in (...)

2As a result of all these factors, we have forgotten a great deal. “Truths” or core principles from the past are regularly reinvented from scratch, rather than remaining as solid foundations to current research. One small example suggests itself. Beginning in the early 1970s, Yuri Zuzanek, only recently retired from the Faculty of Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo, undertook and co-ordinated a tremendous body of important cultural research. One of Zuzanek’ s research interests during the 1970s was the ways in which Canadian cultural policy until that time had embraced and developed a core tenet of cultural policy—the distinction between the democratization of culture and cultural democracy1 Before I summarize Zuzanek’s analysis, it might be useful to offer two short definitions of these two principles (a fuller account of the differences between these two perspectives is provided in Figure 1).

  • 2 This is the core vision of the 1952 Royal Commission on the Arts, Letters and Sciences (the Massey (...)

3The democratization of culture involves broadening access to the products of one culture. In Canada, as in most modern Western liberal democracies, this has been interpreted and operationalized (through dominant policy frameworks and funding priorities) as the promotion and diffusion of European (mosdy high culture) forms of expression.2

4Cultural democracy is a more radical vision of cultural development. It not only seeks the broader dissemination of one culture, but acknowledges the value and legitimacy of many cultural traditions and forms of expression.

  • 3 Yuri Zuzanek, Democratization of Culture and Cultural Democracy in Canada (unpublished paper prepa (...)
  • 4 Ibid.

5In the decade and a half following the report of the Massey-Lévesque Commission, Zuzanek suggests, the focus in Canadian cultural policy was very much on the democratization of culture and, more specifically, on raising standards of artistic excellence in order to bring Canadian cultural expression “up to” internationally recognized standards.3 In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, amidst a more general embracing of democratic ideas, Zuzanek found evidence of a genuine effort on the part of the federal government to acknowledge the distinction between the two concepts, and to press for the more radical goal of cultural democracy.4

6This turn to a more expanded notion of democracy in the cultural sphere was short-lived, however. By the early 1980s, Zuzanek argues, cultural democracy had largely disappeared from policy discourse. The economic recession was one reason for this disappearance; so, too, was a rise in neo-conservative ideology. Zuzanek’s assessment of cultural policy-making in Canada during this and subsequent periods is not a kind one.

  • 5 Ibid., 13.

7The debate over the relative merits of the democratization of culture or cultural democracy, and over specific cultural programs themselves, was never resolved. Indeed, it might be argued, it was never pursued at a theoretical level. Rather, in typical Canadian fashion, it was abandoned, left forgotten and forlorn. The focus of cultural policy discussions has shifted from “participatory” activity to “managerial” strategies, from calls for the democratization of arts audiences to studies of economic impact; from personal and subcultural expression to “universal” cultural values and cultural heritage. This shift happened without any intellectual reflection. The turn away from issues of democratization stands as proof of the weaknesses of past efforts in this direction but it is a symptom, as well, of the more restricted vision to be found in the pragmatic and utilitarian approaches adopted by many governments today.5

8One question which needs to be asked, then, is this: how far has Canadian cultural policy come in the thirty years since Zuzanek began his work? To what extent have governments, the research community, cultural managers, and others interested in the health and vitality of cultural development in Canada truly engaged with the core questions of democracy and democratization which lie at the heart of cultural policy in all modern states?

Looking Back: Priorities in 1998

  • 6 Professor Catherine Murray was the second rapporteur and subsequently edited the colloquium procee (...)

9In his report at the conclusion of the 1998 colloquium of the Canadian Cultural Research Network (ccrn), Professor John Meisel identified the following emerging policy and research needs in the cultural sector:6

  • A new public interest discourse for cultural policy;
  • The need to broaden the definition of culture (to address such factors as sustainability, social cohesion, democracy);
  • More research at the sub and supra-national levels;
  • Better conceptual base for thinking about social cohesion;
  • More research on the so-called third sector;
  • More research on internet access;
  • More research on the role of culture within civic identity;
  • More research on concepts of cultural citizenship in a post-modern era;
  • Resolution of the data gap in the analysis of cultural consumption and participation;
  • The development of quality of life indicators which would include culture; and
  • Advanced theoretical work on multiple identities, cultural diversity, and the relationship of both to social cohesion.

10Most of these issues continue to resonate within cultural policy and cultural research, in Canada and elsewhere.

A Fractured Discourse

11In January 2002 the Second International Conference on Cultural Policy Research took place in Wellington, New Zealand. A major conclusion of the event was that a “fracturing” of traditional cultural policy research and policy development frameworks was taking place. In several cases, presenters stated quite bluntly that cultural policy had lost its way and had ceased to be a significant player in either culture or policy, at least at the national level. The following factors were put forward to explain this fracturing of traditional cultural policy narratives and assumptions.

  1. Cultural policy, for the most part, is based on a world-view we might label modern— one grounded in the nation-state, and fulfilling the nation state’s primary goal of creating citizens whose identity is rooted in the territory bounded by the state. This view of things is being challenged by postmodern imperatives, those of creating citizens and consumers whose identities are not defined primarily by national boundaries.
  2. Cultural policy at the national level (the principal “unit” of analysis) focuses on cultural products as the results and outputs of that policy. However, cultural policy at the global and sub-national (local and regional) levels focuses on processes or flows—the continuous exchange of images, sounds, and ideas. At the global level, the computer has become “the new icon” through which virtual cultural flows are channeled. At the sub-national level, the city has become the “iconic space of consumption” for these flows.

12Cultural policy must now operate on three levels, further fracturing its discourse. These levels are as follows:

  • Civil society, which is becoming more diverse;
  • The nation-state, which is subject to pressures both from above (globalization) and below (localization); and
  • The global environment, which is increasingly dominated by multinational media firms.
  • 7 Sharon Jeannotte, Fractured Discourse: A Report from the Second International Conference on Cultur (...)

13The fracturing of cultural policy is the result of other factors, as well. Cultural policy has become more fragmented and diverse as it has become a component of other areas of public policy, such as those having to do more broadly with industrial innovation, technological development, urban planning, and economic development. Unfortunately, the linkages of cultural policy “outward” to these other areas are not clearly understood. Several speakers at the Wellington conference feared that the traditional institutional centres of cultural policy (such as research and government institutions) might lose control or influence as better established fields (such as those concerned with economic development) move to apply their own bodies of thought and practice to cultural matters.7

International Perspectives

14An invaluable reference point for the analysis of cultural policy was provided by the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies for Development in Stockholm in 1998. The resulting Stockholm Action Plan identified strengthening the knowledge base for cultural development as one of its central planks. Indeed, the plan states clearly that no progress can be made in cultural policy unless the knowledge base supporting it can first be strengthened.

  • 8 Colin Mercer and Tony Bennett, “Improving Research and International Cooperation for Cultural Poli (...)

15An influential background paper for the Stockholm Conference was prepared by Colin Mercer and Tony Bennett.8 This paper offered an invaluable map of issues central to cultural research and knowledge mobilization challenges in the cultural development field. Mercer and Bennett noted that those in the cultural policy field needed to pay much greater attention to networks and to strengthening relationships between researchers and decision-makers. In order to strengthen the role of cultural research within decision-making, they suggest, it is just as important to cultivate and sustain new research relations as to develop new research findings or content.

16While this and various other reports offered many reasons for optimism, the challenges associated with advancing what might be called a “knowledge management” agenda in the cultural sector remain substantial. In 1998 Carl-Johan Kleberg drew attention to the following obstacles, all of which remain pertinent today:

  • The relative immaturity of cultural policy and its lack of conceptual clarity as an interdisciplinary area of study and research;
  • The low priority traditionally accorded to research funding by established cultural policy agencies;
  • The lack of research on cultural policy and development by local governments, who remain overly influenced by the national focus of cultural policy and policy-related research;
  • The lack of resources for systematic research by the agencies of civil society, including non-governmental organizations;
  • Weak linkages between universities and the broader cultural sectors in the development and resourcing of research agendas;
  • Inequalities in international research capacities;
  • A tradition in cultural research to define issues in discipline-specific terms (separating the visual arts, performing arts, heritage and cultural industries from each other). While discipline-based policy and program traditions carry with them certain strengths, they undermine cross-cutting or overarching research and knowledge building needs; and
  • The cuts to research and policy capacity in many countries as a result of budget cuts and government downsizing over the past decade.9

Reconstructing Policy Rationales and Tools

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

17Toward Cultural Citizenship: Tools for Cultural Policy and Development10 takes up many of the challenges outlined above. This report is the result of a three-year international research project aimed at “mapping and systematizing the tools needed for analysing, planning, reporting and assessing cultural policies for development.” Its genesis was the 1998 unesco Conference and Stockholm Action Plan that established, as one of its key priorities, an enhanced knowledge base for culture and human development. The focus of the report was on the empirical tools and instruments needed to support more informed and rigorous planning, assessment, evaluation, etc., in the area of cultural development. Mercer’s report had an “applied” focus that could appeal to policy-makers and other decision-makers in the sector. At the same time, it used this more pragmatic focus to “back into” a larger set of issues and questions. These included the following:

  1. The weak conceptual and knowledge base for cultural planning and decision-making. As they examine tools and instruments (including impact indicators), Mercer maintains, policy makers and stakeholders in the cultural sector are forced to ask themselves fundamental questions about the “what and why” of cultural development. These questions reveal the weak theoretical and normative foundations for most existing policy.
  2. Weak and inadequate governance models. The rigorous examination of tools and indicators raises questions about how public planning and decision-making in the cultural field are conducted. As the New Zealand conference noted, many are faced with an increasingly irrelevant set of existing cultural policy methods and processes. Mercer draws particular attention to the need for developing new cultural planning systems and methods at the local level.11
  3. The need for systems to support continuous knowledge building. There is a widely acknowledged need for better methods of generating and applying research to decision-making on cultural matters.

Accounting for Culture: Background to the 2003 Colloquium

18The interventions described above formed part of the context within which the Canadian Cultural Research Network conceived the 2003 colloquium “Accounting for Culture: Examining the Building Blocks of Cultural Citizenship.” In 2002, ccrn undertook a strategic planning exercise so as to develop a renewed and focused vision for the future of the organization. The planning process clarified the network’s mission, mandate, and goals. Its mission is to “support better-informed and more insightful decision-making in Canada’s cultural sector, thereby enhancing cultural opportunities for all Canadians.” More specifically, ccrns mandate is “to nurture a national, bilingual network devoted to the generation and improved use of cultural research.” Its goals are numerous, but include the following:

  • Advancing multidisciplinary approaches to cultural policy research;
  • Supporting networking among cultural researchers; and
  • Strengthening knowledge exchange between researchers and decision-makers in the cultural sector.
  • 12 sra has been a generous and consistent supporter of ccrn since its inception.

19One immediate outcome of the planning process was the recommendation that the 2003 colloquium be used to mark the fifth anniversary of ccrn’s founding, and that it serve to mobilize energies and resources towards the fulfillment of the strategic plan. Over the course of the year leading up to the colloquium, the board of ccrn explored this idea, in close collaboration with the Strategic Research and Analysis (sra) Directorate of the Department of Canadian Heritage (pch).12 The year 2003 was also the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the year in which the Canadian Cultural Observatory was launched. As such, 2003 presented an opportunity to “take stock”—to examine progress on priority policy research issues explored at the first colloquium, and to identify, assess, and define future research needs in Canada.

Mapping Colloquium Themes

20Out of the initial brainstorming meetings emerged the theme Accounting for Culture: Examining the Building Blocks of Cultural Citizenship. “Accounting for Culture” represented an effort to connect the colloquium to the substantial national and international work on more rigorous tools and indicators to support planning and decision-making in the cultural sector. “Examining the Building Blocks of Cultural Citizenship” was an effort to signal clearly that the focus would not be on “accounting” in the narrow sense of economic value, but would embrace a much broader vision of the importance of cultural production and participation.

  • 13 Catherine Murray, Cultural Policies and Cultural Practices: Exploring The Links Between Culture an (...)
  • 14 Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman, eds., Citizenship in Diverse Societies (Oxford: Oxford University (...)

21“Cultural citizenship” was an appropriate central theme of the colloquium for other reasons, as well. The 1998 ccrn proceedings had identified it as a key element in the development of a “new public interest discourse for cultural policy.”13 Traditional public interest arguments for cultural policy, rooted in notions of a homogenous nation state and inviolable national borders, are undermined in an era marked by the transnational movement of people, capital, images, etc. There is a clear need for new formulations of citizenship that take greater account of its cultural dimension. This recognition of the importance of the cultural within discussions of citizenship is evident in the policy and research agendas of many countries today.14

22At the same time, “cultural citizenship” served to link the “two halves” of pch’s mandate—cultural policy (in all its dimensions) and citizenship (multiculturalism, official languages, human rights, etc.). Ten years after its founding, the extent to which the department has successfully integrated these two policy domains remains unclear.

23Out of the initial meetings of ccrn and pch emerged an initial conceptual map for capturing some of the issues that could be taken up by the colloquium. The five “territories” that comprise the map may be summarized as follows:

  1. The new context for cultural policy. The colloquium sought to take stock of the transformed context for cultural policy. Four issues were highlighted as having a potential impact on policy tools and assumptions: demographic change, technological change, the changing (shrinking?) role of the state; and new relations between the local and the global nexus.
  2. The system of cultural production, consumption, and participation. There is a need to examine the adequacy of existing tools and indicators for capturing and analyzing the cultural system upon which cultural policy and planning act.
  3. Social and cultural capital. Tools and indicators are needed so as to capture the social and civic outcomes or impacts of cultural policy decisions.
  4. Innovation and creativity. There is a need for tools and indicators which capture the more economically-focused outcomes or impacts of cultural policy decisions.
  5. Cultural citizenship. All of these issues must be evaluated in terms of their usefulness in a reformulation of the idea of cultural citizenship. At the same time, we must develop tools and indicators with usefulness for those looking to apply these new ways of thinking about cultural citizenship.

24This “conceptual map” for the colloquium is reflected in the chapters featured in this volume. Hopefully, this book will serve, as well, as a useful vehicle for the transfer of knowledge between cultural policy researchers and decision-makers in the cultural policy field, thus fulfilling another one of the colloquium’s priorities.

Figure A: Democratization of Culture versus Cultural Democracy

Democratization of Culture

Cultural Democracy

The focus is on making the works of one culture more widely available by financing creation, production, access, and infrastructure

Acknowledges a diversity of cultures in the society that must be supported and better known; greater focus on distribution and access

The foundation of culture, heritage, and the arts policies in the post-war years in most Western countries

Little acknowledged in meaningful terms until the early 1990s in most countries

Assumes largely Western-European forms of expression and posits (explicitly or implicitly) the “supremacy of the Western canon”
Artistic, cultural and heritage value and meaning are prescribed by cultural producers and cultural institutions and/or authorities

Embraces a wider range of forms of creative and cultural expression and a larger and more comprehensive definition of culture
Cultural values and cultural meaning are more negotiated between creators, cultural organizations, and audiences or communities

Government support and intervention is largely centralized, relying on linear top-down approaches and strategies

Here more emphasis is placed on integration with local and regional interests and development
Cultural development strategies are more decentralized, relying on more organic and community-based approaches

The focus is on building “hard infrastructure” of institutions and facilities

This focus is complemented by greater attention to building “soft infrastructure” of networks, relationships and, more recently, new distribution strategies using new media

Key partners and stakeholders are communities of professional artists, managers of culture, heritage and arts organizations, policy makers and planners

Partners and stakeholders include all those previously mentioned, but are expanded to include citizens and local community organizations

Notes

1 Augustin Gérard, an official in the French Ministry of Culture, first articulated the principle in the 1960s.

2 This is the core vision of the 1952 Royal Commission on the Arts, Letters and Sciences (the Massey-Lévesque Commission) that many argue continues to dominate thinking and practice in the cultural sector in Canada. As such Massey-Lévesque denies, distorts, and falsifies an earlier, more inclusive and more community based vision of culture well documented by scholars over many years. In short, there was “life before Massey-Lévesque.”

3 Yuri Zuzanek, Democratization of Culture and Cultural Democracy in Canada (unpublished paper prepared for the Faculty of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, 1987).

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 13.

6 Professor Catherine Murray was the second rapporteur and subsequently edited the colloquium proceedings, available at http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/ccm/ccrn/ccrn_colloq98a.html.

7 Sharon Jeannotte, Fractured Discourse: A Report from the Second International Conference on Cultural Policy Research: Cultural Sites, Cultural Theory, Cultural Policy” (paper presented in Wellington, New Zealand, January 23-26, 2002, SRA Reference Number: SRA-663).

8 Colin Mercer and Tony Bennett, “Improving Research and International Cooperation for Cultural Policy” (preparatory paper VI, prepared for unesco’s Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development, Stockholm, 1998).

9 Carl-Johan Kleberg, ed., Promoting Cultural Research for Human Development (Stockholm: The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, 1998).

10 Colin Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship: Tools for Cultural Policy and Development (Hedemora, Sweden: Bank of Sweden Tercentary Foundation and Gidlunds Forlag, 2002). This report was commissioned by The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (sida) with the participation of the Swedish Ministry of Culture, the Swedish National Commission for unesco and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.

11 Canadian Cultural Research Network, Cultural Development in Canada’s Cities: Linking Research, Planning and Practice (Ottawa: CCRN, 2002); available athttp://www.culturescope.ca/ev_en.php?ID=1988_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC.

12 sra has been a generous and consistent supporter of ccrn since its inception.

13 Catherine Murray, Cultural Policies and Cultural Practices: Exploring The Links Between Culture and Social Change (Ottawa: ccrn, 2002); available at http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/ccm/ccrn/ccrn_colloq98a.html.

14 Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman, eds., Citizenship in Diverse Societies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Nick Stevenson, ed., Culture and Citizenship (Cambridge: Theory, Culture and Society Centre, 2000). See also Greg Baeker, Cultural Planning, Cultural Diversity, and Cultural Citizenship: A View from Canada (Cultural Policy Note No. 8, prepared for the Council of Europe, 2003).

Auteur

Greg Baeker has a Ph.D. and is the managing director of euclid Canada. Prior to founding euclid Canada in 1998, he worked in senior leadership positions in the cultural sector for twenty-five years, as executive director of the Ontario Museums Association; executive coordinator of the Ontario Heritage Policy Review for the Government of Ontario, senior policy analyst for the Ontario Ministry of Culture, and lecturer in Arts Management, University of Toronto. He completed a doctorate in Urban Cultural Planning at the University of Waterloo in 1999. Recent euclid projects include A Think Tank on Culture in the City for the Governments of Quebec and Ontario (2003); the Municipal Cultural Planning Project, a research and networking strategy linking twenty five Canadian municipalities (2001-02); the Arts Leadership Network, leadership development strategies for senior arts managers in Canada (2002); the Council of Europe Study on Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity (2001); and Municipal Cultural Forums, four leadership forums for cultural leaders in Ontario (2004)

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2005

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