Speech in Lisbon, 2007


Tactical or Essential Conversion of Cultural Policies?

Condensed variant of the Péter Inkei's intervention at the seminar entitled Cultural and Creative Sectors at the Lisbon Agenda, Lisbon, 31 October - 1 November, 2007. (Based on an even more condensed presentation used on the spot.)


The notions of creativity, acccompanied by originality and innovativeness are trendy concepts today. We, Europeans hope to believe that these properties have distinguished us from the rest of the world. In a more modest register, we pronounce that these properties are the key to keeping competitive with other world regions. Creativity is the salt and pepper of the Lisbon Agenda, isn't it?

We, attached to the culture sector, keep saying that the essence of creativity, and also the core of the creative industries, is culture. This conviction has found its way into cultural policies. First into the vocabulary, then - in fortunate cases - into action.


Three dimensions of re-formulated paradigm, re-positioned cultural policies

1. As a first stage on the road toward encompassing the concept of creative sector, the focus of attention is broadened from the nucleus to the peripheries. Next to the "artistic core" (as Wiesand and Söndermann define the nucleus in their classic study), and to heritage issues, the cultural industries get increased attention. Those areas which in addition to cultural values, have considerable economic components like production, sales, marketing, exporting: publishing, recorded music, etc.

2. Discovering and conquering new dependencies is the next phase. Fashion design, advertisement, architecture, etc., following the pioneering of the British. Mapping of both the cultural industries, and the broader circle of creative or copyright based branches, is a symptom of re-positioned cultural policies.

3. A third degree is when cultural policy-makers concentrate on the catalytic radiation of culture into the economy - which in this seminar was evoked by Xavier, the man from the Commission.


Three manifestations of re-formulated paradigm

1. The application of the extended demarcation of creative sector lends cultural protagonists a new status. Culture is less prone to be treated as the decorative annex to governmental (regional, municipal) policies; the chapter in charge of leisure, entertainment and identity. Calling the sector "creative" instead of "cultural" makes one associate you to the quickest growing segment of the economy.

2. The symbolical and psychological re-positioning can turn into factual increases, not only of political weight, but also in public resources earmarked for the sector.

3. An even more spectacular manifestation of the increased weight of cultural policies is when indeed, new fields are attached to the culture portfolio in the administrative structures.


Three strategies

1. If we conceive strategies as the medium and long-term action plans of achieving the goals contained in cultural policies, the first stage of updated strategies translates the broadened scope of cultural policies into operative measures. What to do for the progress of those areas of culture that communicate directly with the economy? And for the new acquisitions?

2. A more ambitious kind of strategy goes beyond the juxtaposition of strategies of various subsectors, or the listing of related projects. This more sophisticated level of strategy screens the various segments of culture for potentials of the catalytic radiation for increased creativity in the economy. Or, more broader, in the society. Going even further, fields of the economy are screened in search of areas where cultural injection can effectively boost creativity and economic success.

By browsing, for example, the country profiles contained in the Compendium collection, one can see examples of related strategies in a number of countries. The best of the upgraded, re-formulated cultural strategies have been made in conjunction with ministries in charge of the economy. One must establish with melancholy, that these good practices on governmental level have taken place in countries that are anyway on top of the competitive ladder. Little was accomplished in the eastern regions of Europe.

3. Differently from the previous two triads, this last one does not represent a hierarchical sequence. The third kind of strategy does not stand for the third stage in a progress tree. This stratagem is that of lip service. The tactical use of the concepts of creative sector, or even the term of cultural industries.  Often, however, transformations are not substantial enough: referring to creative industries tend to serve for tactical purposes to justify increased funding, which is not accompanied by new strategies.

This is what one encounters much more frequently (also in EU-circles), than essential conversion of cultural policies.