Cultural Policies: Agendas of Impact

Cultural Policies: Agendas of Impact is the vol. 37 of Kunstlicht magazine edited by Cristina Marques Moran and myself. When Kunstlicht suggest us to collaborate with them, it was telling that despite the uneasiness that the announcement of the fund The Art of Impact created within the cultural sector in the Netherlands no proper public discussion was taking place. Concerned thus with the lack of debate, we took the opportunity and the freedom to use Kunstlicht as a platform to open such a discussion. Our main objective curating these pages had been to create the ground for a discussion that, in our opinion, needed to be addressed and yet it seemed to not find the adequate space.

The theoretical basis of this publication is sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s differentiation of two developing hands within the state. As Bourdieu puts it, the right hand firmly liberalizes the market in the name of efficiency, increasing social class differences and the precarization of labour and social conditions. The left hand demands that the public sector repairs the inequalities generated by the economic sector, while simultaneously imposing budgetary restrictions under the guise of notions such as ‘the participation society’(Bourdieu, 1998:1-9). Crucial for the configuration of this issue has also been the forms of instrumentalization to which social practices have been subjected historically, both by the state and by the market. The Italian Neo-Marxist theorist and political activist Antonio Gramsci used the theory of ‘cultural hegemony’ to show how the ruling class is able to manipulate society’s values, opinions, or beliefs through the use of culture. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is based on the success of the dominant classes in presenting their definition of reality and in the acceptance of that reality by other social classes as ‘common sense’. The will for social ‘consensus’ within ‘common sense’ emphasizes the use of social unanimity and harmony as a form of mental anesthetizing by the ruling class. Nonetheless, far from having a single dominant class, Gramsci describes our society as a shifting and unstable system in which different social classes are involved in a permanent ‘war of positions’ (Gramsci 1971:12). As political philosopher Andrew Heywood suggests, Gramsci defends struggle as a necessary condition for pluralistic democratic politics and rejects the idea of a single ‘common sense’, in order to create meaningful participation in social, cultural, political, and economic decision-making. From this standpoint, artistic practices have a necessary relation to politics because they either contribute to the reproduction of the ‘common sense’ that secures a consensus for a given hegemony, or, to the contrary, they challenge it.

The contributors of this issue are: Bram Ieven, Steven Ten Thije, Josephine Berry, Sven Lütticken, Rock the Wok, Market for Immaterial Value, Jeanne Van Heeswijk, Pascal Gielen and Andy Hewitt.