Monday, September 10, 2012

"Culture is the Hard Disk of Politics"

The minister of culture, Aurélie Filipetti, has delivered herself of an oracular pronouncement. Her actual words were: "Encore une fois, je défends l'idée que le patrimoine et la création sont le disque dur d'une politique générale." This is surely the most inelegant remark about culture ever made by a person in this position, and I'm sure that André Malraux is spinning in his grave faster than the 10,000 RPM of a first-rate hard disk.

I have no idea what Filipetti means by these words, and I'm not sure she does either. No doubt they emerged from her lips because le numérique is much on her mind. But it gets worse:

Quand on numérise les archives départementales du Tarn, c'est 65 millions de pages vues dans l'année. La culture est le ciment du pays.
I'm sure that digitizing the 65 million pages in the AD Tarn will be of great use to future historians, but is this really the "culture" that hardens into "the cement of the country?"

Ah, well, never mind. There are other priorities, such as shutting down certain costly pet projects of Sarkozy's, such as the history museum and the museum of Lascaux cave painting and the photo museum and a new theater for the Comédie Française. Austerity hits home. But exactly how were these priorities determined?


Anonymous said...

Actually, the term is very common (i.e., overused) in French.
disque dur means internal hard drive or "core dynamic center".
Listen to any elected official and you're bound to hear it, along with "changer de logiciel" to signify "think outside the box" or somesuch.

I'm not sure why you think "it gets worse" with the renewed emphasis on local projects that emphasize popular access to culture (as in "history and heritage", including oral history projects, objects, etc.)
My impression is that local preservation projects also stimulate local economies. Hence, culture as a driving force.

the "French history museum" was considered a waste by most historians who heavily protested it and I visited the museum in Lascaux two years ago so I'm not sure what is going to be cut?
The photo museum though would have been great. Darn.

Louis said...

Sarkozy's "Maison de l'Histoire de France" had been criticized by most as a politically and culturally dubious, scientifically useless project:
No tears will be shed here.

As to the scanning and exposing of departemental archives, anybody who has been sitting in the reading room of any local archives, for any reasons, should cheer up. Not only Historians, but also people with an interest in family history and the like. One can discuss the priorities set and the allocation of funds to this project, but amongst the possible uses of the Ministry's budget, it is on the clever side. Making "culture" accessible also means giving people the possibility to access the traces of their local history.
It seems odd in times of crisis that the Ministry should turn to this kind of projects, but it is not as dumb as one might believe. The success of the BNF's website ( stands as proof that there is a demand for that.
Disclaimer: as a Historian, my view on this is, of course, screwed up.