Friday, May 24, 2013

"Culture Is No Longer a State Priority"

One thing we learn from this morning's Le Monde is that "culture is no longer a state priority" in France. Another is that François Hollande does not read novels. A third is that his culture minister, Aurélie Filippetti, has cut the cultural budget by 30 2%. "What would people have said if the Right had done that," mused former right-wing culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres.

That said, does it matter? I've often been critical of the way the cultural ministry has spent its money over the years. Too much was squandered on pseudo-prestigious eyewash and subsidization of the ephemeral. Still, le patrimoine culturel is immense, and it needs to be tended carefully. Cheese-paring will eventually lead to rot.

But preservation is not the sexy part of the culture minister's mission. "Innovation" is what always gets the attention. Filippetti has shown little interest in this. Yet surely there are projects that an ambitious, left-leaning miner's daughter, even serving a president who eschews literature, would find worthwhile, even in an age of austerity.

The promotion of French scholarship abroad comes to mind. Yet the budget reductions in Paris are all too obvious in the reduced subsidies available on this side of the Atlantic for scholarly travel, conferences, and publishing. In high Parisian precincts it is apparently now believed that the market can be left to its own devices in this regard. Ironically, at the same moment, the "cultural exception" has been asserted in trade negotiations, precisely because, it is averred, the market does not know best.

It is a strange schizophrenia that afflicts France these days. Culture--in its old and venerated sense as a jewel in the crown of the State--is defended these days by the ministry of foreign trade but relegated to an orphanage by the ministry of culture.

1 comment:

Boris said...

2% cut, not 30% !!!