Denmark/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.3 Cultural policy objectives

The idea of Danish cultural policies goes back to the European Enlightenment (and to the system of patronage in early modern Europe). With the advent of the welfare state post WWII, the political and cultural education of the people was raised to a matter of national interest. Funding the arts and similar cultural activities was seen as an instrument in the hands of politicians to pursue this goal. The people not only needed to be educated, but should be culturally informed. At the same time, the idea of a state funded cultural policy might appear illegitimate if the overall direction of cultural activities were not also linked to the interests of peoples and nations.

In a related, if slightly different phraseology, the same idea was expressed as the indispensability of cultural activities in the national fight against "the damaging consequences of the commercial cultural industries" - a fight for people's souls. Indeed, a fight for the soul of the nation. Politicians and cultural experts feared that cultural industries like television, records, video etc. would catch the imagination of the public, causing a general disregard for high quality products and reduce the country's potential for cultural diversity to entertainment and crude consumption (Duelund 2003, p. 489).  The people should be saved from themselves’

The institutional thinking behind the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 1961 was pragmatic and administrative. The official explanation was that the Ministry of Education, which previously had the main administrative responsibility for funding culture, was becoming too big an unmanageable from a cultural perspective. As a result, "it was considered appropriate to assemble the administration of all matters concerning culture under the auspices of a special ministry." (Centraladministrationen 1960, White Paper 301, 39). The Ministry was also supposed to be responsible for, in conjunction with the universities, research, art and culture – an interesting starting point in light of the contemporary debate, in which calls have been made for a closer symbiosis between art, science and teaching.

However, no explicit objectives were defined as a starting point for the setting up of the Ministry of Culture. As suggested by the original name - the Ministry of Cultural Affairs – it was, and should be, merely a political and administrative framework designed to improve the societal conditions for culture, but not interfere with the content.

The overall objectives, therefore, must be sought in the history of ideas outside the Danish Ministry of Culture, in the laws of culture implemented since then (see chapter 5.2 and chapter 5.3) and in the public cultural debate - The Danish Minister of Culture, Julius Bomholt, on the occasion of the opening debate of the Danish Parliament, in October 1963, set out to formulate the "arm's length" principle as a motto for cultural policy, in order to allay suspicions among members of Parliament and others, who feared state control and political interference in the arts and cultural life generally:

A true cultural policy must be extremely liberal. If one wants to cultivate democracy, one must first democratise the structural conditions determining cultural activities based on the motto: "Funding yes, control no!" (Julius Bomholt, October 1963).

Although there have been several amendments in the legislation and regulation concerning Danish Cultural Policy since 1963, this overall objective has remained intact under the different governments since then.

From the middle of the 1990s, cultural policies were reinvested with new goals:

  • to promote and tighten the link between arts and businesses;
  • to reduce state regulation of the cultural industries;
  • to encourage private patrons and companies to act as sponsors and purchase art and support art institutions;
  • to increase the political regulation of arts and cultural institutions by means of performance contracts, via administrative centralisation and by transforming the "unspecified means" allocated on the basis of expert evaluation to "earmarked" pools for specified and politically defined purposes; and
  • to revitalise the national dimension in cultural policy in order to strengthen the national identity of the people and promote social cohesion in response to globalisation, migration and individualisation.

Especially, cultural policy defined in terms of national identity policy has been vital in the periods 2001-2011 under the cultural policy of the different VKO- governments (see chapter 1).

But the economic instrumentalisation, as well as the new public managements regulation of the cultural field in Danish cultural policy, was initiated by the Social Democratic / Social Liberal Government in the 1990s, before the VKO took over in 2001. A new orientation in the policy of promoting artistic creativity was introduced by the report entitled Denmark's Creative Potential 2000 (Danmarks kreative potentiale 2000) launched by the Danish Ministry of Culture together with the Ministry of Business and Economic Affairs, with the purpose "to draft a new joint agenda for cultural policy and trade and industrial policy" (see chapter 1 and chapter 4.1)..

With the new governmental programme, and especially the visions of the new cultural Minister Uffe Elbæk, the primordial orientation of Danish cultural policy in the VKO- period 2001- 2011 seems to has been transformed to an more open and cosmopolitan direction, dominated by a modern conception of cultural diversity, citizenship and cultural policy (see chapter 4.1). On 6 December 2012 Marianne Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture.


Chapter published: 12-02-2013


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