The Centre for Cultural Policy, founded in 2013 at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the current role and potential of cultural policy.
The centre brings together researchers, decision makers and professionals from the cultural sector and aims to shift the debate on the subject to the future: which approaches are viable in times of financial austerity and in a globalising world, especially in when we look at new business models, new funding opportunities, and new partnerships with the public cultural sector?
By offering executive education, conducting research and participating in policy discourse, the centre seeks to pave the way for a revived cultural policy in the 21st century.
Facets of cultural policy
The centre seeks to explore cultural policy in contemporary society. In particular, it examines the role of cultural policy in terms of vitality and diversity, change and sustainability, identity and inclusiveness – both as independent categories as well as in relation to the local economy, polity and society. The centre likewise addresses the issues and challenges involved, and explores them in an international, comparative context. Areas of focus include:
The centre examines the debates that flare up from time to time in German, European or American society about the pros and cons of cultural policy, and the ‘usefulness’ of culture and the arts, as demonstrated by questions like “culture for what, and for whom?”. It critically analyses public support for cultural activities, as well as what end this serves. Furthermore, it considers the different assumptions and visions that implicitly and explicitly underlie these statements and policies.
Commerce and the muse
In contemporary society there is, of course, an increasing fusion between the economic and cultural spheres. Dramatic illustrations of this interpenetration are presented by the media, design and architecture, and more generally by ‘symbolic products,’ i.e. commercially-produced cultural artefacts. How should we evaluate this rapidly accelerating commodification of culture, and what, if anything needs to be done? (This contrasts with established forms of high culture that are seemingly shielded from market forces). In this arena, we also face very difficult questions and dilemmas that range from intellectual property rights to censorship, from freedom of choice to control, and from market-logics to policy-driven objectives, and accusations of either elite capture or populism. Public support of performing arts and the governance of Internet content are cases in point.
At the same time, culture has come to be seen in many quarters as an instrument of economic development and urban revitalisation. This particular view is encapsulated in local economic development prescriptions invoking the ‘creative class’ and ‘creative cities’. Equally, many major metropolitan areas around the world have initiated far-reaching programmes of cultural development in the interest of economic growth and in an attempt to assert their status as cultural flagships of the new global order.
Globalisation and cultural positioning
Culture, then, is intimately bound up with globalisation processes, leading in turn to a further set of puzzling predicaments and policy debates. The centre looks into the international dimension of the subject and the deeply-rooted clashes with national cultural interests that have been set in motion as globalisation has advanced. Is the world moving, as some would claim, toward cultural uniformity? Or are there signs of an alternative set of outcomes rooted in a more polycentric system of global cultural production? What is the meaning and validity of the ‘American cultural imperialism’ thesis, the idea of the ‘cultural decline of Europe’ or the rise of cultural centres in Asia or the Middle East? Depending on the answers we give to these questions, what should policymakers do and not do? And how should city mayors, as well as national and international cultural agencies, adjust their programmes of advice and action? How should the representatives of cultural policy position themselves relative to each other in what seems to have become a ‘competitive market’ of identity, even multiple identities?
With the current re-emergence of soft power approaches in international relations comes a greater interest in the potential of cultural diplomacy, understood, in the words of Joseph S. Nye, as the “ability to persuade through culture, values and ideas”. Unlike hard power approaches, cultural diplomacy is more comprehensive as it includes, next to the agencies of nation states, international governmental organisations and treaties, a broad cross section of private actors such as transnational corporations, foundations and civil society organisations more generally. What is the role and potential of Berlin (Germany, the EU) in and for cultural diplomacy? What past experiences can we draw on, and what options are available for the future?
Culture and the Internet society
Finally, culture is closely linked to developments in communication and information technologies, in particular the rise of the Internet society, which changes patterns of cultural productions and access, including notions of audiences, participation, producer and consumer, among others. Complex issues ranging from freedom of information and protection of property rights to new business models and forms of cooperation across space come into play.
The centre is directed by Helmut K. Anheier, Dean and President of the Hertie School, and guided by an advisory committee. It has a very light organisational structure with interested faculty, PhD students, post-doc researchers and fellows at its core.