Productivity of Culture

Volker Hassemer

Volker Hassemer Spokesperson of the initiative “A Soul for Europe”. LL D.


presentation: Branding of Culture
category: The Role of Culture


It is a key priority – and the most fundamental task – of cultural policy and all those responsible for culture to help promote cultural life and sustain the presence and future of culture in Europe. We know this, we act accordingly, and we are well experienced here.

But that is not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is the fact that, today more than ever, cultural responsibility also involves directly and actively supporting the “cultivation” of society as a whole, the cultivation of policy-making as a whole. This means that it is our job, as those responsible for culture, to directly promote the “cultivation” of foreign policy, of economic policy, of regional policy, etc.

The Commission’s paper – highly acclaimed at this conference, and quite rightly so – on the benefits of culture in terms of creativity, and thus in terms of our societies’ economic productivity as well, focuses on only one aspect. Those here present have long known that culture has been, and continues to be, an indispensable foundation for the power and performance of Europe’s economy. That culture “pays off”, so to speak.

And that applies not only to the economy. In the rest of the world’s view, Europe’s cultural potential is one of the things that really set this continent apart. Continuously evolving over a period of centuries, European culture makes us Europeans key partners, principal “suppliers” in terms of current topics of global importance.

A peaceful “dialogue of cultures”, for example, is inconceivable without cultural maturity. In other words: Europe’s cultural experience means that it is predestined to act as the principal service-provider with respect to this pressing current topic. Again, stable regional development is difficult to achieve without a cultural dimension. And it is a characteristic feature of Europe that we have developed our societies from a culture of democracy, a culture of human rights, a culture of the individual’s significance.

Under the motto “A Soul for Europe”, our Berlin initiative has successfully called for efforts to exploit the benefits of culture in all areas of European policy-making and to give foreign, economic and regional policy a cultural dimension, not only vis-à-vis the European Commission, in particular Commission President Barroso, but also vis-à-vis the European Parliament. And we are calling on all of you here to join us in taking up this great new challenge of cultural policy.

This is much more than a question of checking cultural compatibility, of simply asking whether the implementation of specific measures results in cultural aspects being disregarded or violated. The aim of “A Soul for Europe” is to treat culture as a basis, as a motor; to view it not as something in opposition to, but as a productive factor benefiting, other political and social disciplines, the non-political social and political disciplines.

We are not, then, lobbying for culture. We are lobbying for the use of culture to benefit society and policy-making as a whole. Culture is not the supplicant here; it is the driving force behind policy-making and society.

This does not mean that we are “instrumentalizing” culture for political and economic purposes. To be powerful, culture and the arts must be able to evolve freely and without external constraints. Culture that is able to develop in this way – and it is this alone that we insist on – not only benefits cultural players and those interested in culture, it benefits the whole of society. And we as cultural players must recognize this fact and see to it that proper use is made of the benefits that culture brings. That is our job; that is our obligation.

Website: Mission Statement of the Initiative “A Soul for Europe” (Berlin Conference, 17-19 November 2006)



Volker Hassemer Spokesperson of the initiative “A Soul for Europe”. LL D.

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