Democratization of culture vs sustainable development

Géraldine Dallaire  and François Colbert:

“…the shift that occurred from ‘protecting the culture of developing countries in the context of the economic development of wealthy countries’ to support for high culture through cultural policies.
This goal of democratizing culture was subsequently adopted by the majority of industrialized countries. Underlying this commitment to democratization is the idea that a culture of high “quality,” or the so-called “high arts,” should be shared by all. This “legitimate” culture stands in contrast to cultural products intended for mass consumption (popular art).
When the strategy of democratization of high culture failed to produce the expected results, stakeholders in the cultural sector sought to find other vocations for art.
‘It is hypocritical, detrimental and useless to evoke democratization to justify support for arts institutions and professions’ Can we, today, replace the term ‘democratization’ with the term ‘sustainable development’? The question is an interesting one and worth debating. Is it not dangerous to ‘cry wolf’ too often? By seizing every opportunity and evoking every argument in the book to demand more support from governments, doesn’t the cultural community risk undermining its credibility? Should we perhaps consider a return to the notion of ‘art for art’s sake’? Should we not insist on the intrinsic benefits of art rather than instrumentalizing it by embracing all causes? And, especially, should we not feel a certain malaise at placing the protection of the cultures of poor countries on the same level as support for professional artistic activities in wealthy countries? For only a rich country can really afford to support a diversity of artistic activities carried out by citizens devoted to art on a full-time basis. Should we not simply redefine the notion of ‘cultural  democratization’ to encompass all forms of art, whether high or popular?”


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