Cultural Policy in France Since 1959

Nordic Cultural Institute,
01 January 2001, France

In his paper for this Tribunal, Kevin Mulcahy evokes the French State’s ‘strong sense of cultural mission’ (Tribunal Reader, 1999, 255), while a French writer on the subject, Jean-Michel Djian, starts from the fearlessly unequivocal view that ‘cultural policy is a French invention’ (Djian, 1996, 11). Given this importance, my research particularly emphasizes discourses and debates, how central government and other interested parties have constructed and argued about culture’s place in the national community. In this paper, I want to address these questions of discourse and debate by paying particular attention, in keeping with the Tribunal’s concerns, to the absence of the arm’s length principle in France, using this absence as a guide through the history of the Ministry of Culture since its creation in 1959. However, I also want to argue, throughout the paper but in the second part especially, that this absence needs to be qualified, at least to a degree.