Sunday, June 11, 2006

Comments on Social Action Through Music and Cultural Policy, Part 1 (From my Masters Essay)

In the last 10 years, several performing arts projects with a social development component have appeared throughout the world. Arts administrators should be aware of these trends and pay close attention to how international organizations that provide financial support to social development programs are interacting with arts organizations in the Third World, and giving shape to a new cultural policy paradigm.
It has been almost two decades since Nestor Garcia Canclini offered the first broad critical analysis of cultural policies in Latin America (García Canclini, N. (1987). Políticas culturales en América Latina [Cultural Policy in Latin America] (1a. ed.). México: Grijalbo). In his analysis, he outlines six paradigms for the origins, agents, organizational structures and goals of cultural policies in Latin countries. Although it is not Garcia Canclini’s intention, it is easy to trace a certain historical evolution in those paradigms by examining the first –mecenazgo liberal (liberal patronage)– and the last –democracia participativa (Participative Democracy). The liberal patronage paradigm can be traced back to the Middle Ages, although it still survives in the United States and other countries where the state is not the main funder of the arts. It evolved toward the participative democracy paradigm, which “aims towards action instead of the resulting goods, and towards participation in the process instead of consuming its products” (J. Vidal-Beneyto, cited in García Canclini, 1987, p. 50). This notion of evolution in paradigms is strengthened by later discourses on the role of culture and the arts in social development and poverty reduction.
These discourses started to appear in the 1990s in the agendas and diplomacy papers of several international organizations. In 1992 Enrique Iglesias, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, created the “IDB Cultural Center” with the aim of “advancing the concept of culture as a component of development”. Since the appointment of James D. Wolfensohn as president of the World Bank in 1995, the bank has put great emphasis on the role of culture and the arts in social development and in the reduction of poverty. In a study commissioned by the Organization of American States, Claudia Ulloa asserts that “[t]aking appropriate heed of the link between culture and development will be pivotal to the success of future cultural policies, as will the capacity of policy shapers to accomplish results through multi-sectorial intervention”. In the same manner, UNESCO “defends the case of indivisibility of culture and development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means of achieving a satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence”.

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