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an overview
French cultural policy enters pivotal era
French cultural policy enters pivotal era.

V. Dubois: La politique culturelle: Genèse d'une catégorie d'intervention publique Belin, 1999.
K. Eling: The Politics of Cultural Policy in France Macmillan Press, 1999.
D.L. Looseley: The Politics of Fun: Cultural Policy and Debate in Contemporary France Berg, 1995.
D. Wachtel: Cultural Policy and Socialist France Greenwood Press, 1987.
R. Wangermée & B. Gournay (Council of Europe report): Programme européen d'évalution: La politique culturelle de la France La documentation française, 1988.
Examining French cultural policy and programs
Concerning the question of whether or not progress has been made in achieving Lang’s aim of the “democratization of culture,” the answer is not yet clear. The birth of the left-leaning government led to a year-on-year budget increase of 1,440% in the budget category of “cultural development” which includes programs for the democratization of culture and arts education. But, this is merely proof of the fact that funding for the democratization of culture was nearly nonexistent at the time, and in fact the 1981 budget for cultural development programs was a mere 41 million francs. Furthermore, due to the subsequent influence of the Grand Project, the budget in this category would decrease in ensuing years. In contrast, as the budget for cultural activities doubled with the birth of the socialist government, the percentage of that budget going to the main cultural sectors like theater and music remained at their previous high levels. In short, while the previously ignored sectors like art and visual works like film and video received increases of 123% and 220% respectively, the traditionally strong sectors of theater and music also got significant raises of 75% and 50% respectively. In other words, there was little change in the distribution of funds in terms of percentages.
When viewed in light of these facts, it seems that actual effect of Lang’s aim of securing and promoting cultural diversity was limited. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, there has been various types of support for attention-getting mass culture, but most of this support has been in the form of one-time programs and not really large in terms budget. In short, what has happened with French cultural policy since the eighties is that more chances for support were offered by bringing out a bigger pie, but the result has been that the priority of traditional arts organizations has been maintained, thus creating a situation that can hardly be called revolutionary.
In answer to the question of why the result has turned out this way, Eling came to the conclusion based on numerous interviews that it was caused by the intervention of powerful special interest groups in the fields of the organized arts to influence policy. In other words, there are enough influential special interest groups in the fields of the traditional arts that have lobbied effectively against the bureaus in charge of policy-making to protect their interests and influence. This can be considered a situation that stands in opposition to the traditional image of French culture programs as being led by the national government. And in such a situation, the decision-making power of the policy deciding bureaus becomes especially strong in budget categories like “cultural development” where special interest lobbies cannot exist in the first place and in areas lacking organization like mass culture or still immature areas like the new creative field, both of which do not have access to the negotiating strength of interest lobbies. In such areas the budget allocations would thus be subject to the trends of the times, concludes Eling.
This leads to the idea that the actual effect of the culture policy since 1982 has been to divide the recipients of funding into something similar to sects. Seen from another perspective, we might say that there has been almost no efforts directed at achieving the kind of balance between the different sects that should be one of the essentials of a true support of a diversification of culture. In other words, it can be said that since Lang the cultural policy has recognized diversification of culture on a symbolic level but, at the same time, it has contributed to the preservation of traditional value systems and patterns of power and influence.

Lessons from the French example
Based on what we have seen, it appears that French cultural policy has not achieved the level of regional division of power that it is reputed to have, nor does the Ministry of Culture have a complete hold on decision-making power. In the end, systems are nothing more than tools for people to use, and their effect depends on how they are used. Thus, we should not assume that we can understand a nation’s cultural policy and programs based simply on a comparison of systems. French cultural policy is clearly a complex mix of the types of issues we have looked at here and, as the standards of cultural values continue to diversify in today’s society, the French example, in which the Ministry of Culture and its subsidiary organizations are attempting to be the major agents in the active support of cultural programs, is surely worthy of continued study. If indeed the previously mentioned tendency to recognize the value judgments of the Ministry of Culture and DRAC as guarantees of the “quality” of cultural programs, (while of course value judgments like the actual decisions of what programs and artists will receive funding are made by independent committees with specialization in the various fields) it is because the bureaus involved have sought to developed their abilities to make competent and refined judgments in the cultural fields and that the offices involved take appropriate responsibility with regard to the judgments and decisions they make. This is why the bureaus involved in French cultural policy and programs make a point of promoting transparency regarding the concepts and aims behind their policies, and are indeed following this policy of transparency and openness.

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