Cultural Democracy and Cultural Policy

By: Steven Hadley  

A democratic cultural policy must be articulated in ways that both demonstrate, and enact, how the public interest will be served. Successive European governments have sought to develop mechanisms by which to democratise the high arts – the democratisation of culture. The objective of cultural democratisation is generally framed around Enlightenment narratives of development of the populace, with dissemination a key concept in establishing equal opportunity for all citizens to participate in publicly subsidised culture (Duelund, 2001). Parallel to these policy developments was the emergence of debate on the idea of cultural democracy. The objective of cultural democracy is to provide for a more participatory (or populist) approach in the definition and provision of both cultural authority and value (Simpson, 1976; Arts Council England, 2019). Kelly, Lock, and Merkel’s (1986) ideas on the role of cultural production in political and social change presented a radical and deeply political vision of cultural democracy. The question arises as to both if, and how, cultural policy scholars, arts managers and practitioners should find ways to act upon both the historical base and the potential futures of cultural democracy. This requires a politics of recognition sensitive to issues of class as the necessary accompaniment to a politics of distribution in struggles for equality and fairness, given that “there can be no true exploration of cultural democracy without the acknowledgement that hierarchies of cultural value have always been, and always will be, imbricated in questions of power and authority” (Hadley and Belfiore, 2019: 222).

Cultural policy, Cultural Democracy, Engagement, Participation, Audience Development
2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Steven Hadley

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Moore Institute, Ireland

Steven Hadley is an academic, consultant and researcher working internationally in arts management, cultural policy and audience engagement. He is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at National University of Ireland, Galway, a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds and an Associate Lecturer at Leuphana University of Luneburg (Germany). An Associate Consultant with The Audience Agency, Steven also sits on the Steering Committee of the Cultural Research Network (USA) and the Editorial Boards of both Cultural Trends and the European Journal of Cultural Management and Policy.