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What's the problem again? The problematisation of cultural participation in Scottish cultural policy

Taylor & Francis
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  • Political Science


Increasing cultural engagement is one of the Scottish Government's 50 national indicators, and "non-participation" is seen as a problem that should be addressed. However, what is not questioned is the extent to which this "problem" is an endogenous one that has taken shape within the policies that have been developed to tackle it. Utilising Bacchi's [(2009). Analysing policy: What's the problem represented to be?Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson] interpretive method for analysing and critiquing policy, this paper considers a range of Scottish cultural policy documents and the research that informed them in order to consider how the "problem" of non-participation is represented. It is argued that although the "problem" is represented in policy documents as the existence of barriers that create unequal access to culture, nested within this is a further, but less explicit difficulty, namely that the "problem" is the failure to engage with those cultural activities that receive state support. If the "problem" was understood as a need to provide equality of access to culture rather than state funded culture, then those who implement policy would be free to focus less on maximising access to those organisations and activities which, for other valid reasons, the Government funds, but that the majority of the public are not interested in attending. They would be able to think creatively, instead, about how to facilitate the deepening of an already present cultural democracy. The creation of Creative Scotland offers the potential to disrupt the extant problem representation, but only if it can transition from being the funder of "legitimate" culture to becoming the facilitators of an environment in which participants contribute to the legitimation of culture through their choices and opinions. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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