Spain/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.3 Cultural policy objectives

The Constitution of 1978 entrusts the public authorities with specific tasks in the field of culture, noting that these duties are "essential attributes", before listing a number of areas which come closest to a definition of the objectives of cultural policy (see chapter 5).

To judge from the political statements of central and regional governments over recent years, together with the accounts of public spending on cultural activities, the main objectives of Spanish cultural policy are conservation and promotion of cultural heritage and, in second place, cultural creativity understood as cultural heritage in development.

If we analyse recent cultural policies in terms of the cultural policy principles defined by the Council of Europe, we see that promotion of national identity, the main vehicle for articulating cultural policy in the regions, particularly in those having separate language environments, has been exacerbated in the last years. This has happened especially in Catalonia, partially in response to a centralising offensive by the conservative state government. Thus, the promotion of a "shared" Spanish identity, which was implicit in some aspects of educational and cultural policies, particularly in terms of the dissemination of Spanish cultural policy abroad, has resulted in a fervent defence of Spanish identity in the last years. This has occurred, for example, through the protection of the Castilian language, as well as of those manifestations more linked in the collective imaginary to the Spanish identity, such as bullfighting.

In terms of recognising diversity, the very way the Spanish state is organised territorially has been an admission of the cultural diversity of the country. Linguistic and cultural plurality is expressly protected by the Constitution of 1978, both in the preamble and in its articles. It is equally guaranteed in the charters of the Autonomous Regions. Protection of diversity has therefore, so far, been interpreted by looking internally at the individual traits of the various cultures comprising modern-day Spain. Only since 2000, as a result of the dramatic increase in immigration, has recognition of another form of cultural diversity beyond national borders been included in the cultural policy agendas at regional and, especially, municipal levels, as another part of the social integration of immigrant groups. The rise to power of the Popular Party in November 2011 introduced some changes in policy discourses that, despite recognising the cultural diversity of Spain, put special emphasis on the defence of its unity, in particular, through the defence of the Castilian language.

Support for cultural creativity has been traditionally articulated as an aim of cultural policy along three main axes: statutory protection of intellectual property and copyright; the teaching of creative arts; and specific measures to promote the work of creative artists themselves. In general terms, support for creativity appears with less emphasis in cultural policies compared, for example, to the preservation of heritage (see also  chapter 8).

Access to culture and participation in cultural life are among the prime objectives of recent Spanish cultural policy (see Articles9 and 44 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution). Indeed, it is the main motive for public involvement in cultural affairs. However, generating demand, outside the sphere of mass culture turned out to be somewhat more complex than initial enthusiasts would have had us believe. Equally, the democratisation of culture, understood as the citizens' right to have their say on how the cultural life of their communities is defined, leaves considerable room for development in the search for a fully rounded Spanish cultural policy.

Chapter published: 24-06-2015