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Towards a Cultural Democracy

Author(s): Ciarn Benson

Source: Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 81, No. 321 (Spring, 1992), pp. 23-33
Published by: Irish Province of the Society of Jesus
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Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review.

Ciarln Benson

Ciaron Benson, a philosopher and
psychologistof art, is a lecturerin the Educa
tion Department,UniversityCollege,Dublin

Ideologiesand Irish Arts Policies, 1921-1991
In this essay, I want to surveyIrisharts policy at some distancefrom its
detailsin orderto discernthe formof its armatures.WhatI have in mind
are its ideologicalfoundations,andthe ways in whichthesehavechanged
over the last seventy years. Although I presentthem sequentially,they
should not be understoodsimply in terms of one ideology replacinga
predecessor.The processes of social and cultural change are more
kaleidoscopicthan that.
I use the termideologyin both the generalsenseof an underlyingworld
view and, more particularly,in the sense of the formaland consciously
held beliefs of a social group.' Such beliefs have historiesand powers.
Theyinvadeeach other'sterritoriesand fight for recognition,ac300tance
and, very often, for the suppressionof theirrivals.It is in this sense that
ideologies can be understoodas contrastingand often as contending
powers.Culturalpolicieshave theirown ideologicalbaseswith quitedif
ferentcon300tionsof the usesto whichculturaland artisticpracticescan
be put. To openup a perspectiveon the underlyingideologiesof Irisharts
policy overits last seventyyears,it maybe helpfulto beginby contrasting
Irelandwith anotheryoung state of similarpopulationsize, Israel.
A strikingfeatureof somemajorIsraelimuseums,suchas the Museum
of the Diaspora,is the way in whichthey are explicitlyaimedat the lives
of contemporaryIsraelicitizens. The history of Jewishlife and lives is
presentedso that IsraeliJews can stitch that historyinto their own per
sonal lives as active citizensof Israel.The museum'sfunctionis clear in
the minds of its policymakersand consequentlyits power is effectively
mobilized for the purposes of contemporary Israeli history. The
autobiographicalactivitiesof Jews are harnessedto the technologiesof
modernmuseumsto servethe purposeof forginga new politicalidentity
for Jews from all corners of the world. A strong sense of com600
genealogyand solidarityis the likely outcomefor Jews peeringinto this
particularmirror,with all the consequencesfor 'us them'relationships
which such strong and exclusiveidentificationsbring in their wake.
I choose this examplebecauseit strikinglyillustrateshow a new state
in the processof establishingitself can use and transformthe idea of, in


this case, the museumas culturalmausoleuminto the idea of museumas

mirror presenting to its Jewish visitors, Lacan-like, an imaginary
apprehensionand masteryof themselvesas a unifiednationalbody. The
point of the exampleis the clearway in whichan aspectof culturalpolicy
can be subservientto the wider policy of national identity formation.
How the nation chooses to conversewith itself reveals,as with any con
versation,more than what is actuallysaid. Its ideologicalbasis, in other
words, is clear.
Irelandas an independentstate is twenty-sixyears older than Israel,
and of course began in radicallydifferentcircumstancesand with quite
different problems. The world was a qualitatively different place
post-1945than it was post-1922.But a contrastis nonethelessinstructive
for highlightingsome elementsin the foundationof Irishartspolicymak
ing. The nationsare comparablein populationsize;both harkenback to
a distanthistoricaltimeas the spiritualsourceof theirbeingas a national
entity; and, with sharplydifferingdegreesof success, both looked to a
com600 nationallanguageas the bondingagent of the new nation. But
whereasIsrael began by a radicalopenness to the world outside from
everypart of whichit drewits citizens,Irelandin its initialdecadescame
to close itself off, both economicallyand culturally,from the world out
sidewhilesimultaneouslyexportingits citizensto everypartof the world;
and whereasIsraelfaced the problemof a radicalculturalheterogeneity
seekingto be nationallyhomogeneous,Ireland'sproblemcameto be that
of an internallystagnant homogeneityslowly and tentativelyopening
itself to cultural difference and to the possibilities of pluralismand
modernism.Inevitablythis made for huge differencesin the ideational
basesfromwhich,in the firstplace,the idea of needingto havea national
cultural policy evolved, and then to differencesin the purposes and
natureof the elementsof that policy. The generalpoint, however,is that
wider national policies tend to govern arts policies.
Roughly speaking,one can distinguishthree broad ideologies in the
history of Irish arts policymaking. These would be Catholic Irish
nationalism(therewas also a Protestantone), liberalmodernistelitism,
and culturaldemocracy.Their interrelationshipsare complex, but the
generalpoint of whatfollows is thattheirimpacton Irishculturallife and
policy-makingwas successive,if overlapping.
CatholicIrish Nationalism
Catholic Irish nationalismwas financiallyand politicallyconservative,
and intellectuallyreliantupon its erstwhilerulerfor certainof its notions
of Government.As Joe Lee makes clear in his Ireland1912-1985the
managementof the new Irishstate was modelledon and heavilyassisted
by the Britishcivil service.Irishpoliticiansand civil servantswere,in the
area of fiscal policy, followersof the Treasuryin London. If we were to

have museums,galleries,and librariesthen we would have them as the

Britishhad them, which was largelyas a result of privatephilanthropy
ratherthan as a serviceof the Stateto its citizens.The idea that the State
shouldhave an arts or culturalpolicy fundedby taxes had still to evolve
to the level of political practice.This is not to say that Irelandhad no
officialview on the arts and culturein its early decades.It did, but that
view was generallynegativein that the national self-con300tas a pure
self-sufficientgaelic Catholic island race in a swelling sea of secular
unbeliefand cosmopolitanismdemandedmechanismswhich would pro
tect this national mind rather than develop it. The emblematic
mechanismsfor self-protectionwere the 1923 Censorshipof Films Act 25
and the 1929 Censorshipof PublicationsAct. 'The censorshiplegisla
tion', as Joe Lee puts it, 'servedthe materialisticvaluesof the propertied
classes by fosteringthe illusion that Irelandwas a haven of virtue sur
roundedby a sea of vice. . . It helpedto rivet the remunerativeimpres
sion that immoralitystopped with sex.'2 Censorshipwas the symptom
ratherthan the cause of the intellectualpovertyto which it contributed.
The mind of the nation was in the complacenthands of what Joe Lee
refersto as 'the risen bourgeoisie,touting for respectability'.
If the state had a responsibilityfor the arts and culture, then apart
from pursuingits languagepolicy through education and civil service
employmentpractices, some theatre grants, Radio Eireann, and the
establishment of military cere600ial bands, its self-understanding
requiredthat it defenditself againstwhat it understoodto be the dangers
of the arts ratherthan incorporatethem as ways in which national self
understandingmightdevelop.The Truthwas alreadyknown,as Thomas
Bodkinwas remindedby Dr John CharlesMcQuaidwhen he had failed
to deflectSean O'Faolain'sappointmentas Directorof the Arts Council
in 1956;'Weshallstumbleon, in the semi-gloomof mindsthathave never
beendisciplinedfromyouth and that havenot maturedin the tranquillity
of assuredknowledge'.3The modernistidea of 'Truth'as a livingevolving
social process was an idea waitingfor its time in Ireland.The aesthetic
was emphaticallysubordinateto the prevailingethic, and that ethic was
For nineteen weeks, Ireland did have a Minister of Fine Arts (26
August 1921 to 9 January1922),but this non-cabinetpost did not sur
vive. It was mergedwith the Departmentof Educationfrom which, as
BrianKennedyobservesin his historyof the Arts Council,'It did not re
emergefor anothersixtyyears'. The artswere,in the tight book-keeping
of the young state, 'an avoidabledeficit'. Sean Keating was of course
employedto paint the progressof the ShannonHydro-ElectricScheme
andhis heroicnarrativesof the Irishand especiallyof the Westerncoun
trymanand womanfunctionedto createa particularIrishnationaliden
tityin a similarway to the functioningof the Israelimuseumswith which


we began.Keatingalso held to the Romanticnotion of the artistas seer.

In his Night'sCandlesare BurntOutof 1928-9,only the artistand his wife
are depicted as looking towards the future, in the form of the hydro
electricdam, and pointingit out to their young children,the oncoming
generation.None of the other six depicted adult figures looks to the
future;the priestreadshis breviaryby candle-light,the gunmanbendsto
speak to a pompous self-preoccupiedmanager, one worker dozes,
anotherdrinksand the last observesthe hangingskeletonof a soldier.5
Yet, at the same time that Keatingwas paintingthese imagesinto the
national self-consciousness,the agriculturalclass to which his subjects
generallybelongedwas beingeconomicallyannihilated.6The storybeing
told by such artists was, at its kindest, history, and at its worst self
delusiondespitethe visionaryself-con300tionof the artist.The relation
ship of art and societywas to the ultimatebenefitof neither.This osten
sibly 'realistic'art owed more to wish-fulfilmentthan to experiencesof
the sort which their subjectswould have been likely to have. Yet con
trasts like these between aspirational representations and actual
presences,betweenisland self-sufficiencyand nativetraditionsas against
internationalinterdependenceand modernism,betweencon300tionsof
local and national democracy, between Church and State, between
authority and freedom, and between the aesthetic and the ethical,
reverberatethroughthe history of culturalpolicymakingin Ireland.
The ideology of Catholic Irish nationalismtended to sacramentalize
art. For example,our first and only Minister of Fine Arts, Count
Plunkett, founded The Academy of Christian Art (to which only
Catholicscould belong in 1929on the understandingthat art was 'an aid
to spiritualknowledgeand spiritualthought' and that 'ChristianArt is
a faint reflectionof God's Beauty'.7This ideology favouredthe notions
of representationheld and defendedby the Royal HibernianAcademyas
against the subversiveinroads of modernismwhich artists like Keating
viewedin termsof 'sacrilege'.At the same time, and in contradiction,it
favouredthe Irish languageand 'true' native art as exemplifiedby the
600astic GoldenAge, while simultaneouslynurturinga suspicionof and
resentmenttowards Anglo-Irishartistic achievements.In this it had a
clearidea of the politicalfunctionof art in that it wantedartiststo pro
duce a distinctiveCatholic Irish art, and the social role of that art was
understoodto be emphaticallysubservientto the political structuresof
Catholicnationalism.The contradictionsinherentin this ideology, how
ever, soon beganto be exposed and startedto give way to changein the
1940sand 1950s.
The State, Art and The Arts Council
Historianswill point to a numberof key events in the story of Irisharts
policy. One is certainlythe foundationof the first Arts Councilin 1951.

Apartfrom the significanceof this for Irish art and artists,and despite
its often sickly growth,it is the establishmentof the Arts Council as an
agency of potentially systematic State patronage of the arts that is
especiallyinteresting.John MaynardKeynesnoted this in 1945when the
Arts Council of Great Britainwas established:'I do not believeit is yet
realizedwhat an importantthing has happened.State patronageof the
arts has crept j'8 Ireland'sfollowing suit in 1951 was similarlysignifi
cant because once it is acknowledgedthat the State should support an
aspectof culturallife, such as mass educationor the arts and heritage,
it quicklybecomesac300tedthat it is doing what oughtto be done by a
State of such a kind. If that support is financial then it is tax-payer's 27
600ey that is beingdeployedand questionsof the rightsof all taxpayers
to the goods involvedwill not be long in comingforward.And once that
happens,issues of differentialsocial class access and equalityof oppor
tunitybecomevery importantin the ensuingdiscourse,asdo such ques
tions as the standingof popularculture vis-z-vis'high culture'and the
relatedquestionof an Arts Council'sresponsibilityfor 'standards'.This,
of course,is part of what happenedin the 1960sand since, and it results
in the developmentof trendslike those which later came to be grouped
underthe headingof culturaldemocracy'.
A cursorylist of significanteventsfor the culturallife of 1960sIreland
marksit as a watersheddecade.9A rising economic tide, the arrivalof
nationaltelevisionin 1961,televisionviewingaccessto Britishchannelsfor
largesections of Ireland,VaticanII, the Investmentin Educationreport,
and the introductionof free educationin 1966/67were highly significant
developments.The curtailmentof emigrationand the rise in the birthrate
also had majorconsequencesin that it madethe Irelandof the 1970sand
1980sa predominantlyyoungIrelandparticipatingin a rapidlydeveloping
internationalyouth culture. World events impinged dramaticallyon
questionsabout Ireland'srelationshipwith the United States,and about
the whole vexed questionof communismversuscapitalism,of the expe
dienciesof greatpowersand the rightsof little ones. Especiallysignificant
forIrelandas a wholewas the CivilRightsMovementin NorthernIreland,
and later on in the south the move for civil rightsin mattersof personal
moralityand the employmentof women. There was in the late 1960s
a600gst the young a hungerfor differenceand for change.
This of course reflected itself in the arts world. With government
assistancethe new Abbey Theatreopened in 1966;the censorshiplaws
wererelaxedin 1967;the first'artscentre',the ProjectArts Centre,began
in Dublin in 1966; the first major exhibition of contemporaryinter
nationalart, ROSC '67, was mounted in Dublin; and the Ministerfor
Finance,Mr Haughey,introducedtax exemptionfor artisticearningsin
the 1969budget.Art and artistswereon the agendafor conversationand


action in a way that had never before happenedin Ireland.This was

becauseIrelandhad openedthe doors to the outsideworld and begunto
prepareitself to use what it found there.
Of its nature, the clash of cultural values and ideologies involves
struggleand tension.In a curiousway, the Arts Councilof the 1960sand
early 1970s exemplifiedsome of the more general clashes in cultural
thinkingand policymaking.One could argue that the intentionsof P.J.
Little, for instance, in establishingthe Arts Council were shaped by a
mixture of ideologies. Strands of cultural democracy were certainly
evidentin that the primaryfunctionof the Arts Councilwas to 'stimulate
publicinterestin the arts'.10But this functionwas not primaryin the first
decadesof the Arts Council.A600gst other reasonsfor this, one could
cite the prevalencea600gst earlyArts Councilsof what might be called
a liberalelitist ideology.
The belief that the Irish art world was largelycomprisedof a small
groupfromthe 'comfortable'classes,and that the Arts Councilunderthe
direction of Fr Donal O'Sullivan, S.J. (1960-73 reflected this, was
widespreadat that time." There was nothing uniquelyIrish about this
association of art, social class and the judgementof 'elitism'.But the
interestingpoint is that it is at the crossroadsformedby these associa
tions and judgementsthat one of the crucialunderlyingbattles in Irish
arts policymakinghas been quietly fought for nearlytwentyyears now.
This is a struggle between what may be broadly characterizedas the
'culturaldemocraticviewpoint'and those looselyalliedto fightwhatthey
see as an inevitableloweringof artisticstandardsand a debasementof
'Art'.The brtenoireof the lattergroupis what is called'communityarts',
and less overtly, 'arts in education'.In times of financialexigencysuch
as the present, these are the 'avoidable deficits' for this alliance of
interests.At the time of writingthis in late 1991,for the firsttime in over
ten years the Arts Council has no full-timeEducationOfficer.It never
had a communityarts officer,and in controversialcircumstancestangen
tially related to these concernsit has just lost its Regions Officer.The
shiftingsense of its own prioritiescan be seen in the three revisionsof
its principalstandingorder,as noted by BrianKennedy.12In 1957with
Sean O'Faolainas Directorit read:'Futurepolicy, while not failing to
encouragelocal enterprise,would insist on high standards'.This was
revisedin 1960by Fr O'Sullivan'sCouncilto read:'The Council'smain
functionis to maintainand encouragehigh standardsin the arts'.In 1987
it was changed back by Adrian Munnelly's Council to this: 'While
recognizinglocal enterpriseand communityactivity,the Council'smain
functionis to maintainand encouragehigh standardsin the arts'. In the
innocuouslanguageof this changingstandingorder,an ongoing struggle
between 'elitist' and 'culturaldemocratic'ideologies can be discerned,
and with it conflictingideas about the Art Council'srole.

Conflictingideas aboutthe Art Council'srole: the liberalelitist position,

Fr O'Sullivan'sArt Councilchampionedmodernism,mostlyin the visual
arts. In this it differed fundamentallyfrom the previously dominant
ideology. It bought extensivelya600g younger modernistIrish artists
andgenerallycontributedto the developmentof a 'taste'for modernart.
Thiswas its achievement.But its style of operationand con300tionof its
relationshipto the political order reveal definite contradictions.While
wantingto open up the sensibilityof the Irish public to modernart, as
through its support for ROSC 67, it studiously and embarrassingly
avoidedall conflictwith the Governmentand othergovernmentagencies. 29
Its con300tionof arts policy was far from that of social policy,just as its
con300tionof art seemedto play down its contentiouspolitical aspects.
Its patricianimage, togetherwith its non-democraticstyle of decision
making,indicateda view of art as somehowabove the fray of ordinary
life.The distinctionbetweenhigh and popularcultureseemedto be taken
as given.
Questions of significancefor Sean O'Faolain, such as the need for
independencefor the Arts Council, were not of significancefor his suc
cessoras Directorof the Arts Council.Nor was it part of the Arts Coun
cil's self-con300tthat it should fight for the developmentof the arts even
if this meantcriticizingthe failureof other governmentalagenciesor of
the government itself. In this regard, the underlying spirit of Fr
O'Sullivan'sArts Council as a tastefulgentleman'sclub (Overthe three
appointedCouncils from 1961 through 1966 to 1971, not one single
woman was appointed to or co-opted by any of the three successive
Councils, nor was there anybody from the lower middle or working
classes inevitably exuded a message of art for the select few and
simultaneouslyprecludedthe taking of any policy decision in favour of
art for the many. This, despite the fact that the primaryfunction of the
ArtsCouncilunderthe 1951Arts Act was to 'stimulatepublicinterestin
the arts'. An underlyingcon300tionof 'Art' as basicallydetachedfrom
political process and as ultimatelyissuing from innate 'genius' would
naturallylead its holdersto underestimatethe extensiveand troublesome
taskconfrontingan Arts Councilwhich seriouslyasked how it might go
about this stimulationof public interest, knowledge,appreciationand
practiceof the arts. It is in this sense that these earlyArts Councilslived
out an idea of art's relationshipto society which was out of har600y
both with certainof the social aspectsof modernismas well as with the
democratizingethos of the times.
The voice of this ethos was to be heard in the Seanaddebate in 1971
on the National Collegeof Art and Design Bill whose aim was to free the
NationalCollegeof Art fromthe dead handof the Departmentof Educa
tion. Contributionsby Senators John Horgan, Mary Robinson and


JamesDooge raisedfundamentalquestionsabout the failureof Irisharts

education,'3 about the need for communityapproachesto art,andabout
the damagedone by separatingart and artistsfrom the rest of national
life. JamesDooge, echoingClive Bell sixtyyearsearlier,14put it like this:
'We,morethanany otherpeopleperhaps,look on everyartistas a special
kind of man or woman, whereaswe would be a much healthiercom
munity if we looked on every man and woman as potentiallya special
kindof artist".15Thingschangedafterthe 1973ArtsAct with the appoint
ment of a new Arts Council(now with threewomenout of sixteenmem
bers which committed itself to involvement in education, to the
independenceof the Arts Council, and to direct grant assistance to
artists.Highlysignificantwas the appointmentof a new full-timeDirec
tor in 1975, Colm O'Briain,and an expandingspecialiststaff recruited
on contractfrom outside the civil service.Animatingthese officerswas
the new spirit of culturaldemocracy.
CulturalDemocracyand its place in Irish Arts Policy, 1975-1991
There is a rich historicaltraditioncontributingto the idea that cultural
democracyis a desirableprojectfor rationallybased State policy in the
arts.It largelyoriginateswiththe Enlightenmentof theeighteenthcentury,
andfromtheremovesintricatelythroughthe politicalandculturalhistory
of the modernworld.16In the late 1970sand 1980sespecially,a varietyof
books examiningand advocatingculturaldemocracyappeared.17But the
roots of the ideaaremucholderthanthis and areessentiallyrelatedto the
rise of social democracyas a moraland politicalmovement.A varietyof
historicallyrecentmoralre-evaluationsare relevantto it, and these have
becomeparts of what can be called the modernsensibility.
First,thereis the shiftawayfromthe ideaof societyas a socialhierarchy
andtowardstheideasof equalityandof democracy.Relatedto thisaretwo
moral values whose developmentCharles Taylor traces through the
modernperiod.Thefirstof theseis the significanceof ordinarylife andthe
secondis the ideal of universalbenevolence.18A furtherconstituentis the
emergencein themodernperiodof the idealcon300tionof the selfas a free,
subject.And relatedto this notion of freedomis the idea
of universaljusticeas a moralimperative.Theseidealsof equality,personal
for othersand for the significanceof ordinarylife and lives, are the ideas
of modernityand, withinthe areaof Stateartspolicy, theyconvergein the
idea of culturaldemocracyas an aspectof social democracy.
As an essentiallymodernidea, culturaldemocracyaffiliatesin all sorts
of ways with other movementsof modernity.Its association with the
democratic traditions of socialism are strong, whereas, despite the
rhetoricalindicationsto the contrary,it is and was entirelyincompatible
with the traditions of totalitariancommunismin which the idea of

individualfreedom and genuine self-determinationby communitiesis

anathema.Thereare elementsof Romanticismtherein that, like Shelley,
the power of the arts to strip away familiarity from the world is
recognized.but whereas the consequence of this for Shelley was the
revelationof beauty,culturaldemocracyconceivesof the arts as a form
of power,as 'literacies'whichempowertheirusersto notice the suddenly
defamiliarizedand until then 'obvious' world, to understandit and, if
necessary,to reconstituteit. In this sense culturaldemocracyconceives
of the arts as a form of political as well as of aestheticpower.19It also
owes a debt to thinkers of the nineteenthcentury such as Matthew
Arnold who marriedthe idea of art with those of social progressand 31
improvement,even if they believed that only the few could achieve
culturalexcellence.In morerecenttimes,it owes a particulardebt to Ray
600d Williamswho, a600gst many other things, argued for the Arts
Council'srole in an expandingand changingpopularculture,andin tak
ing 'the arts to the people'.20At the contemporaryend of the historical
spectrum,it could be argued that cultural democracy is a form of
postmodernismin that, for example,it activelyseeks to erase the boun
dariesof popular art and of what is known as high art.21
The idea that arts policies can be clearlythought out and purposeful,
an idea with which I began this paper, does not have a strong pedigree
in Irisharts policy. By and large,this policy has over most of the history
of the Statesimplythoughtof itselfas 'gettingalongwith thejob' without
the unnecessarybaggage of theory or intellectualjustification or the
rationalityof a comprehensivenational policy. At the level of policy
making, this attitude inevitably leads to reactive, once off 'grand
gestures' which in turn lead to a neglect of serious infra-structural
changes and planning, and to duplication and the waste of scarce
At best, developmentis then subject to caprice and, as in
recentyears, to political caprice.
The administrativecategories under which cultural democracyhas
madeitself felt on the agendaof the Arts Councilhave largelybeen those
of education(both in and out of schools), what has come to be called
'communityarts', and the issue of regionalpolicy. Notions of 'access',
'equitability'and 'empowerment'are central con300ts here. From the
timeof Coim O'Briain'sand the sixth Arts Council,culturaldemocratic
ideashaveformedan importantpartof the generalbody of ideasshaping
and informing arts policy. The stimulatingand enabling role of the
CalousteGulbenkianFoundationin developingtheseideasas they might
applyto Irelandwas essentialhere. Since 1978the Arts Councilhas had
aneducationalpolicyof its own as well as viewsof its own on educational
As regardsthe controversial
policy which it expressesindependently.23
areaof 'communityarts', the strongeststatementyet on this came from
the joint Arts Council-GulbenkianFoundationACE projectwhich ran


from 198589.24Butthe internalcontroversywhichthisgenerateda600gst

the membersof the ninthArts Councilwas symptomaticof the tensions
whichcontinuein the Arts Council'scon300tionsof its functions.In the
presentclimate,reflectingtheethosof 1980sThatcherism,the twinnotions
of the artsas businessesor 'culturalindustries'and of 'returninvestment'
have come to dominateas ideas informingarts policy, or so it seems.
The crisisin the State'sfinanceshas meanta re-valuationof the State's
commitmentto certainservices.Significantly,it has meanta reconsidera
tion of the natureof serviceswhicha moderndemocraticstatethinksthat
it ought to provide.Thesere-valuationsand reconsiderationstend not to
be part of any publishedpolicy. They emergein decisions. And if the
sameis trueof the previousunformulatedpolicieswhichthey are chang
ing, then the significanceof those decisionsbearsa final comment.The
supplantingof exchequersupport for the arts, for example,by lottery
supplements,and the mechanismsof its disbursement,may turn out to
be of far-reachingsignificancefor future State arts policy, as would a
prolonged vacancy of the Education Officer'sjob or of the Regions
Officer's in the Arts Council itself. The process whereby ideologies
strugglewith each other continuesas does the need for explicit policy.
It is no accidentthat those favouringculturaldemocracy(in the shape
of bettereducationservices,betterways of thinkingabout and develop
ing communityorientedarts activities,and betterregionalpolicies have
felt the need to argue and give reasonswhy their case should be heard.
This is because cultural democracyis not like other elements of arts
policy whose requirementsfor support and prioritymay appear to be
self-evident.The reason,as I have suggested,is that the case for cultural
democracyis moraland political,and groundedin the dominantideas of
modernity.It resiststhe con300tionof art and of artistsas detachedfrom
ordinarylife, and arguesinstead for transcendingthe divide which has
grownup betweenart and society.In one formor another,the ideas sup
porting this divide are still very much alive in Ireland, as elsewhere.
Policieswhichaffectthe relationshipsof art in societyrequirethe makers
of those policies to think criticallyabout those relationships.A com
prehensivearts policy in which culturaldemocraticideas are reconciled
with contemporaryartisticand aestheticones is still an aspiration,but
it is one which, despite the significantvacanciesin the Arts Council, is
closer to realizationsince 1975.
Mythanksaredueto NoelBarber,AnneKellyandCoimO'Briain
mentson an earlierdraftof thispaper.
of thisseeRay600dWilliams,Culture,
1. Fora discussion
2. J.J. Lee, Ireland1912-1985:Politicsand Society,Cambridge:

Press,1989,p.158.SeealsoTerenceBrown'sIreland A Social
3. QuotedbyBrianP. Kennedy,
in hisinformative
TheStateandtheArtsin Independent
Ireland,Dublin:The ArtsCouncil,
4. ibid..p.7.
5. Fora furtherdiscussion
of thisseeCiarpnBenson,'Modernism
Selves' Circa,Jan-Feb1992.
6. J.J.Lee,op. cit., p.159.
7. See S.B. Kennedy,Irish Art & Modernism,
Dublin:The Hugh Lane
MunicipalGalleryof ModernArt, 1991, pp.160-61.
8. JohnMaynard
Keynes,TheListener,12July1945,p.31.Fora discussionof
Keynesin the contextof a criticalreflectionon the ArtsCouncilof Great 33
Britainsee Ray600dWilliams'lecture'Middlemen:
Ray600dWilliams,WhatI Cameto Say, editedby Neil Belton,Francis
9. See Anne Kelly, CulturalPolicyin Ireland,Dublin:UNESCO/The
10. See TheArtsAct 1951,Dublin:TheStationery
11. SeeBrianKennedy,op. cit., Chapter8.
12. BrianKennedy,ibid.,p.222.
13. Thiswasnotof coursethefirsttimethatsuchcriticisms
Bodkinraisedthemin his Reporton theArtsin Ireland,Dublin:The Sta
tioneryOffice,1949,as didthe Reportof the Scandinavian
In Ireland,Designin Ireland,Dublin:CorasTrachtala,1961.
14. SeeCliveBell,Art,NewYork:Capricorn
Books,(1958 (1913).
15. Quotedin BrianKennedy,op. cit., p.170.
in relationto the
16. For a fascinatingtreatmentof this period,particularly
moralsourcesof self,see CharlesTaylor,Sourcesof theSelf TheMaking
of theModernIdentity,Cambridge,
17. See,forexample,SuBradenArtistsandPeople,London:Routledge
Art and the State: Stormingthe
Paul, 1978:OwenKelly, Community,
Company,1986.ThemajorBritish(or,as he wouldhavepreferred,
thinkeron questionsof culture,community
A600gstotherworks,his Culture
Chatto& Windus,1958,and TheLongRevolution,
18. CharlesTaylor,op. cit., pp.394-395.
wouldbe closelyalliedto the thinkingof
19. Thisis whyculturaldemocracy
theoristsof actionsuchas PaoloFreire.
20. Seehis WhatI cameto Say,p.106.
21. Onthissee,forinstance,FredricJameson's
Society'in HalFoster,ed.,Postmodern
A WhitePaper
22. Theshort-lived1987WhitePaper,AccessandOpportunity:
on Cultural
Policy,promisedto offeran alternative
33. See,for example,CiaranBenson,ThePlaceof theArtsin IrishEducation,
Dublin:TheArtsCouncil,1979:Don Herron,DeafEars,Dublin:TheArts
Council,1985:and TheArtsCouncil