chapter  1
25 Pages

Cultural policy studies

How does cultural studies relate to policy-oriented theorising and research? As an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, cultural studies has shown consider­ able interest in cultural politics, in the sense of aesthetic practices that challenge the mainstream. Practical engagement with a politics of culture, including policy analysis and policy formulation, however, has been restrained by comparison, due perhaps to an excessive critical purity and a suspicion of becoming involved with regulatory processes.1 The hybrid of ‘cultural policy studies’, proposed by a school of thought inspired by Michel Foucault, is a bid to forge a much stronger relationship between critical analysis and policy orientation in cultural studies. This prospective agenda requires a careful consideration of the actual and potential meanings of cultural policy from the perspectives of social and cultural theory, two leading strands of which are discussed in this chapter. There is, on the one hand, Foucauldian theory, with its close connections to ‘the epistemic shift’ associated with post-structuralism and postmodernism; and there is, on the other hand, Habermasian theory, with its persistent commitment to ‘the unfinished project of modernity’, a perspective which has been influential in the critical analysis of communications policy. These rather different yet not necessarily incommensurate theoretical frameworks may be seen to illuminate urgent matters of culture and politics. Such theory also offers a means of clarifying how those most directly involved with formulating, implementing and contesting cultural policies understand what they are doing. Cultural policy studies, then, in both of the contrasting theorisations under discussion, presents new possibilities, not only to theorists and analysts of culture but also to agents of cultural policy.