Sweden/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.2 National definition of culture

At the formulation of the first cultural policy objectives in 1974, cultural policy included measures within the areas of "language, the stage, images, sound, and in the areas of media and communication, [...] certain measures within the areas of adult education and organisational activities, as well as measures to preserve and bring to life the cultural heritage." (Government Bill 1974:28, p. 287). Similarly, the Cultural Policy Commission of 1995 identified culture with matters concerning (1) the arts, (2) the media, (3) popular cultural creativity and education (“bildningssträvanden”) and (4) the cultural heritage (Kulturpolitikens inriktning SOU 1995: 84, p. 40). The most recent Government Bill on Culture, that of 2009 (2009/10:3) included no explicit definition of culture or cultural policy. The Minister of Culture is presently responsible for matters concerning the arts, cultural heritage, media, national minorities, civil society, human rights, and democracy, as well as for policies against discrimination and racism. On the local level, many cities and larger municipalities maintain museums and are co-owners of regional theatres, but the core responsibilities for local cultural policy tends to be public libraries, culture and music schools, and popular adult education.

When a national cultural policy was established as a part of the emerging welfare state, the central aim became granting access to culture to all citizens in all parts of the country, thus creating a focus on equal access to what can be described as high culture, but also to encourage active participation in cultural activities. In the last ten to twenty years, this concept has been questioned in efforts to create a broader and even more inclusive view of culture. The established views based on the concepts of bildning (from the German Bildung) and folkbildning (Bildung for the people, or popular education), however, remain central to the understanding of Swedish cultural policy, although they are now often amended to recognise differences in individual choice, taste, socio-economic status and background, aiming to create a more pluralistic concept of culture.

Chapter published: 12-05-2017