Culture should mainstream all policy

One of the more interesting suggestions in the new report on Swedish Cultural Policy put forward by the Committee of Inquiry on Cultural Policy is what is called cultural policy as aspect policy. With this it’s stated that cultural policy should interact with societal issues like education, business, regional development, health and environment.

”We understand cultural policy as an aspect of all policy areas”. The intention is that ”perspective, creative talent, knowledge and insights that the authorities, institutions and practitioners within the cultural field hold can be important for societal development”. Quite rightly, it’s pointed out that this is not new, but the Committee believes that the development needs to ”accelerate and accentuate”.

To the extent it has been noticed, the suggestion has been met with positive response. Hopes have been put forward that the issues within the cultural field will be treated as issues within the environmental field. Today all public activities and all political decisions should be saturated with environmental awareness.

It sounds fantastic, but is it realistic? From what position does culture invite for interaction? And what sort of societal development is addressed?

A better comparison is perhaps done with the aid policy? It’s an area of policy that has been equally questioned and debated as cultural policy. It’s an area as exposed to cyclical changes and ideologies.

In 2003 the Parliament adopted Sweden’s new Policy for Global Development (PGU). The new development policy should include ”both an effective aid of high quality and coherence that includes all policy areas”. Hopes were high. But what happened? During the governance of the Allians parties, the results have had a reverse PGU, where all other policy areas impoverish aid and its budget: Refugee camps, dept depreciation, depreciation of costs for Swedish embassies.

1998, the same year as the Region Västra Götaland was formed; Göteborg formulated its Strategy for Cultural Policy, the so-called version 1.0. One of the main tracks was that culture should ”permeate all policy areas”. Now, around eleven years later we can ask: Is this what happened? Or did culture become an aid-assistant for health, regional development, and integration?

There are many good reasons for the aspect policy that the Committee is looking at. Culture can and should contribute to societal development. But if small policy areas like culture will be able to play such a central role, its integrity as to be ensured. Then you have to make sure that cultural policy is neither invaded, nor dissolved in other policy areas.

Written by Karin Dalborg, Manager of Kulturverkstan, Education in Project Management within culture, run by Nätverkstan. The article was published at the Internet Journal Alba on March 9, 2009. For the Swedish original, have a look at here.

4 Responses to “Culture should mainstream all policy”

  1. [...] Read the article written by Swedish cultural journalist Ingrid Elam in Dagens Nyheter of Valfrid Palmgren (in Swedish), published in June 2007 as a reflection concerning the then newly formed the Committee of Inquiry of Cultural Policy, with the task of revising Swedish cultural policy. Read posts the Swedish Cultural Policy this here, here and here. [...]

  2. [...] of Inquiry of Cultural Policy and their report presented earlier this year (read more here and here). Some suggestions were expected as the transition of responsibility from the state to the regions, [...]

  3. [...] the topic of Cultural policy. Look under Swedish Cultural Policy, “Time for Culture”, Culture should mainstream all policy, Art and creative industries, The Creative Industries: Ten years after, and many [...]

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