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Cultural Value and the Crisis of LegitimacyWhy culture needs a democratic mandate
Cultural policy is aclosed conversationamong experts.What culture needsis a democraticmandate from thepublic . . .
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First published in 2006
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Cultural Valueand the Crisis of LegitimacyWhy culture needs a democratic mandate
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1. Summary 9
2. Introduction 11
3. Cultural value 14
4. Cultural context 20
5. The mismatch of value concerns 31
6. The role of the media 42
7. Research, evidence and advocacy 46
8. Developing a new legitimacy 52
9. Conclusion 56
This publication would not have been possible without the support ofthe United Kingdom branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,and I am most grateful to everyone at the Gulbenkian for theirsupport.
I am also greatly indebted to the many people, too numerous tomention individually, with whom I have discussed the ideascontained in this pamphlet.
My colleagues at Demos have been a constant source of stimula-tion. Tom Bentley, Paul Skidmore, Charlie Tims and Shelagh Wrightdeserve special mention, but Sam Jones has been of immense help,both intellectually and in assisting with the production. Thanks forthe production and dissemination of this pamphlet to Eddie Gibb,Sam Hinton-Smith, Abi Hewitt, Julia Huber and the Demos interns.In addition I have received help and assistance from Justine Simons ofthe Mayors Office and Professor Sara Selwood of City University; butmy largest debt is owed to my frequent collaborator and friendRobert Hewison for his editing skills, insights and unfailingencouragement.
John HoldenMarch 2006
The cultural system faces a crisis of legitimacy. At local governmentlevel culture is suffering extreme funding cuts,1 the recent ArtsCouncil England (ACE) Peer Review uncovers a rift between ACE andits Whitehall department,2 and individual organisations continue tostagger from one damning headline to the next.3 These are thecurrent symptoms of a deeper problem that has dogged culture forthe last 30 years.
Politics has struggled to understand culture and failed to engagewith it effectively. Cultural professionals have focused on satisfyingthe policy demands of their funders in an attempt to gain the sameunquestioning support for culture that exists for health or education;but the truth is that politicians will never be able to give that supportuntil there exists a more broadly based and better articulateddemocratic consensus.
The diagnosis is worrying, but the prognosis is optimistic.Cultural value has provided politicians with an understanding ofwhy culture is important, and is helping institutions to explainthemselves, and to talk to each other.
The language and conceptual framework provided by culturalvalue tell us that publicly funded culture generates three types ofvalue: intrinsic value, instrumental value and institutional value. Itexplains that these values play out are created and consumed
within a triangular relationship between cultural professionals,politicians, policy-makers and the public.
But the analysis illuminates a problem: politicians and policy-makers appear to care most about instrumental economic and socialoutcomes, but the public and most professionals have a completelydifferent set of concerns.
As a result the relationships between the public, politicians andprofessionals have become dysfunctional. The cultural system hasbecome a closed and ill-tempered conversation between professionalsand politicians, while the news pages of the media play a destructiverole between politics and the public.
The problems are clearly systemic but the solutions must start withcultural professionals. Their opportunity is that the value of cultureto the public is unlimited and infinitely expandable. The challenge,which is already being taken up in some places, is to create a differentalignment between culture, politics and the public. In practice thiswill require courage, confidence and radicalism on the part ofprofessionals in finding new ways to build greater legitimacy directlywith citizens. The evidence so far suggests that such an approachwould be successful and would serve the aims of all concerned politicians, the professionals themselves, and above all the public.
Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy
What is culture?No one would suggest that defining culture is easy. RaymondWilliams in Keywords says that culture is one of the two or three mostcomplicated words in the English Language,4 and governmentcertainly struggles. The Department for Culture, Media and Sports(DCMSs) website admits There is no official government definitionof culture.5 Efforts have begun at various levels from UNESCO, tothe European Union, to DCMS itself to tackle this issue of languageand definition, and progress is being made, but as the DCMSsEvidence Toolkit insists, when it comes to culture, There are no shareddefinitions, systems and methodologies.6 Yet in practice definitionsare used by policy-makers at national, regional and local levels. Thedefinitions flow from administrative convenience, and do not matchpeoples everyday understanding and experience of culture. Who onthe high street would think that sport or tourism came under theheading culture, or that antique dealing was a creative industry?This in itself illustrates the gap that exists between the public andpolitics when it comes to culture.
In this paper I will use a narrow characterisation of culture tomean the arts, museums, libraries and heritage th