Cultural Policy and Culture in Transformation: Central and Eastern Europe since 1989
Vol. 31 No. 2 (2021)
Ed. by Thomas Höpel and Torben Ibs
After 1989, cultural policy makers in Berlin faced the challenge of reorganizing the city’s dual cultural structure in the context of multi-level transformations. This article analyzes their strategies, using the example of the funding and reprofiling of the city’s theatre landscape. The integration of East German theatres into the federal German theatre landscape did not happen solely by adapting them to western structures. Instead, all of Berlin’s theatres were reviewed to determine whether they could still assume an important function for the reinvention of the city as the capital of unified Germany and as a cultural metropolis of international importance. At the same time, the funding of the capital city’s cultural infrastructure had to be renegotiated between the federal and state governments, shifting toward permanent and direct federal funding for the cultural sector. Moreover, cultural policy concepts underwent profound changes throughout the 1990s, as culture was gradually discovered as one of the city’s central economic resources.
The unification of the two German states in 1990 presented great challenges to cultural pro- fessionals in the former GDR. In order to maintain and modernize the existing theatres their organizational forms had to be adjusted and new economic models had to be implemented. Since the Länder were not willing to or able to meet the new challenges with their own resources, the Federal Government generated investments on its own according to article 35 of the Einigungsvertrag, thus shaping a new system of cultural politics.
Theatres were a field of experimentation to seek new and more autonomous models of admin- istration. This was especially proposed by the advocates of New Public Management that had not been applied to the cultural sector until the early 1990s. Mergers and regional cooperation created new formations of stakeholders. In this process, each of the Länder in East Germany followed its own path, especially focusing on the distribution of funding between the local authorities and the Länder. Finally, the transformations in East Germany cannot be seen as a singular process but as a blueprint to foster neo-liberal reformations of structures throughout the 1990s in West Germany as well.
Today, the visual arts play an important role in the presentation of companies (advertising), municipalities (location marketing), and nations (nation branding). Since its foundation, the GDR tried to improve its international reputation with the help of visual arts. Nevertheless, it was not until its recognition by the Western countries that the cultural exchange with the USA, Great Britain, and other Western European countries could develop without obstacles. At the same time, the dogma of Socialist Realism dissolved during the 1970s and a wider stylistic range in art was tolerated in the GDR. In the 1980s, it became possible for art from the GDR to be shown even in representative museums in Great Britain, France, and the USA. However, it was in the most successful period of its foreign cultural policy that the GDR collapsed. Its art and artists were touring abroad still in the fall and winter of 1989/90, and they were left behind like wreck- age and shipwreck victims of history: suddenly, they now were on their own; the state and the system they were supposed to represent did no longer exist. The article examines three trave- ling exhibitions of East German art that toured the United States between 1989 and 1991 and focuses on the then completely changed working conditions of East German artists.
This article analyses the transformation of cultural policies in East Germany and Poland after the end of state socialism by studying the developments in the two cities Krakow and Leipzig. As economic, infrastructural, and cultural centres, Krakow as well as Leipzig had a prominent position within the national urban system and they were representative of the principal evolution in big East German and Polish cities after 1989. The contribution studies first the personal and structural developments in the cultural realm after the radical social and political changes of 1989. Secondly it discusses the plans for the strategic reorientation of urban culture and their impact on the cities’ cultural institutions and landscape. The third part of the article focuses on the role of the state in the process of transforming urban cultural institutions.
The comparative analysis shows that the urban actors promoted culture as an economic factor in both cases and that the reorientation of urban cultural policy was linked to local traditions as well as to Western European models. Culture was seen as an instrument of integration that should bring together the society in the two cities. In addition, a new quality of transnational and international cooperation between cities in the field of culture emerged.
Culture in Poland after 1989 was managed with two different approaches. In the last decade of the twentieth century and in the beginning of the twenty-first century cultural policy was based on the dogma of self-financing culture. The second period was initiated by the right- wing government in 2005 and is still current politics. Here, cultural policy is based on the dogma of the self-sufficiency of national values. Both concepts result from the belief that the canon is empty but with different implications. In neoliberal practice, everyone has the right to have their own canon, while each canon matters only insofar as it leads to success in life. For a right-wing party, the canon should express national, not classical, values. In the first concept, culture is doomed to rapid commodification, in the second to nationalization. In the first period, culture was granted independence on the condition that artists earn their own living and, moreover, the bond-forming role of culture was neglected. In the second period, the state provides financial support to culture, but limits funding to nationalist initiatives, hence censoring expressions of independent art. The question to be asked: is there a third canon?
This article analyses the career path of young cultural producers in Hungary. We show how they navigate in the everyday life of the Orbán regime. We define the social and political formation emerging after 2010 as a form of semi-peripheral hegemony that supports certain factors of international capital and strengthens its allied local bourgeoisie. We investigate culture not merely as an ideological underpinning of this regime but also as a commodity that is integrated into its new economic mechanisms.
By utilizing primary and secondary quantitative data as well as qualitative methods of interview and policy-analysis, we focus on how the hegemonic process of the Orbán regime mingles incorporation and exclusion. We outline Janus-faced cultural politics and a policy that rules the heteronomous pole of cultural production by an “economic rationality”, while more direct forms of “ideological control” are employed on the autonomous pole. By showing how the previous decade was characterized by a precarization of cultural work, we argue that current artistic careers are highly reliant either on incomes from the creative industry or on the sphere of social reproduction. As we conclude, this vulnerability can open a path for a certain authoritarian deepening under the COVID-19 crisis.
The P.E.N. (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) Club was founded in 1921 to establish a literary network on a global scale. The interwar years, however, have been a debated period in regard to their global integration, and the P.E.N. Club has been portrayed as falling short of its ideal of globality. In analysing the association’s annual international congresses between 1923 and 1941, this paper proposes the factors of venue and representation to be most expedient in analyses of international institutions’ globality. I argue that the P.E.N. Club succeeded in overcoming economic and ideological backlashes to its globalising mission in the 1930s. Solely times of war proved to pose insurmountable hurdles to the interconnectedness of international cultural associations like the P.E.N. Club.
The present article is a discourse analysis of recent (since 2000) mainland Chinese historiography on the Sinocentric tributary system of East Asian interstate relations during China’s Ming (1368–1644 CE) and Qing (1644–1912 CE) dynasties. The article focuses on various strands of Chinese nationalism in the discourse, classified as “rigid”/exclusionist, “soft”/cultural, and liberal. The article discusses the various roles played by these strands of nationalism in the discourse, and the possible future influences of tributary system historiography on China’s evolving self-perception as a nation-state, as well as a regional and global actor. The article argues that “soft”/ cultural nationalism dominates the discourse with many authors emphasizing China’s supposed pre-modern culture of pacifist great power politics, implicitly or explicitly advocating the reference value of the topic for China’s present and future international relations.