In Flanders (Belgium) there has been much recent debate about cultural governance. The central issues are about the best models for distribution of public funds but, of course, the discussion occurs against background of pressure on public spending.
Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at Antwerp University for the launch of a new code of practice on corporate governance. The text of my lecture, which explored some of the complexities inherent in public funding and the arm’s length principle, is now published in Dutch and the English version can be accessed here. (This paper addresses some of the same themes as once given more recently in Cyprus.)
Approximate projections: Policy, governance and mapping culture’s complexity
Culture has never been more important to democratic states, as an area of conscious policy, than it is today. Its importance grew throughout the 20th century as the evolving mass media pushed governments to control or restrain its influence. In the past, patronage and repression had been sufficient, if crude, mechanisms for rulers to extend cultural influence. But in large, democratic, industrial societies, the complexity of cultural activity demanded more sophisticated responses. In Western Europe, where the ideological force of both politics and religion has declined greatly, culture has filled the vacuum, responding to people’s continuing need to find meaning and transcendence in their lives. Cultural policy now touches, in different ways and degrees, not just the obvious domains of art and heritage but also the economy, education, social cohesion and even health care. Indeed, so pervasive is culture in modern life and so complex is the operation of modern nation states, that important parts of cultural policy may not be recognised as such at all.