Vincent DUBOIS, cultural policies and the genesis of public intervention, Belin, 1999

In this work, regarded today as a "classic" of socio-historical approach to culture, Vincent Dubois analyzes the genesis cultural policies in France. He shows that the definition of what is called "cultural", far from being obvious, varies according to countries and their own history. In France, cultural policies developed by practising what Dubois calls " the institutionalization of fuzziness ". This can explain the diversity and the heterogeneousness of the activities that belong to this sector of public policies.

In France, the empowerment of the cultural arena actually began at the end of the XIXth century, when the artists mobilized to denounce both the power of money and the power of the State. Two principles underlie this empowerment: "freedom of art " and "encountering the people ". Theater plays a major role in this process, especially through the voice of those who plead for an "art theatre" -following the example of Jacques Copeau- and those who stand up for a " theater of the people " -as Romain Rolland.


Despite their differences, these two currents meet and reject state intervention. Most of the artists of this time despise the Ministry for the Arts employees, who they call the " pawns of beauty ". Their distrust towards public finance echos the opinion of numerous elected representatives, who refuse " prejudice everyone just for a few people's sake " (p. 79).

Culture became a full-fledged part of public action no earlier than at the end of the 1950s. The ministry, which was nominated in 1959 and headed by André Malraux, was in charge of a double mission. It had to promote creation and democratize culture. Again, Theatre was the process cornerstone. At that point, the conflict between the defenders of the artists freedom and the defenders of cultural action reached a climax.

To sum up, Vincent Dubois draws up a rather pessimistic assessment. He observes that cultural policy puts Flaubert's programme into practice: " cultivate bourgeoisie ". Despite the efforts granted by public authorities, the democratization cultural practices remained limited. The institutionalization of culture strengthened the gap between professionals and amateurs, by depreciating the latter.