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When Cultural Policies Change

Comparing Mexico and Argentina


Elodie Bordat-Chauvin

How can change in cultural Policy be explained? Through a comparative and historical analysis, this research sheds new light on the emergence, institutionalization and transformation of the cultural policies of two major Latin American countries: Mexico and Argentina.
Elodie Bordat-Chauvin’s investigation is based on the material gathered in ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2008 and 2010. It gathers observations, unique archive material and more than ninety semi-directive interviews with the majority of Secretaries of Culture in office between 1983 and 2010, several intellectuals, interest groups leaders, cultural managers and members of unions who all played a role in these countries’ cultural policies in the last thirty years.
This work challenges the common assertions that Mexican cultural policy is characterized by inertia and Argentinean cultural policy by instability. It analyses factors of changes – such as the neo-liberal turn, transnationalization, decentralization and politico-institutional changes – and their consequences – including reductions in cultural budgets, transformations in cultural industries and modifications in the balance of power between national, subnational, public and private actors.
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Chapter 3. Cultural Policies in The Neo-Liberal Turn


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Cultural Policies in The Neo-Liberal Turn

In the 1990s, Argentina and Mexico adopted “orthodox neo-liberalism”1 which resulted in economic openness, a reinforcement of monetarist policies, privatizations and transfers of competences to the private sector, as well as to subnational governments2. Although in the grey literature, decentralization and inclusion of the private sector (commercial and non-commercial) were presented as being a way of taking UNESCO’s recommendations into consideration, these measures nonetheless also met the FMI and World Bank’s demands. According to N. García Canclini, at this time the state transferred to national or multinational private companies competences in “the production, financing and distribution of cultural goods”3. Can it be said however that the state was no longer the main actor in cultural policies? When Mexico and Argentina had just signed regional agreements, what place was given to cultural industries and what were the consequences of the liberalization of exchanges for these sectors?

The purpose of this chapter is to look at the consequences, for Argentinian and Mexican cultural policies, of the increased inclusion of the private sector and subnational levels on the one hand, and, on the other, of the coming into effect of NAFTA and MERCOSUR.

The changes brought about by decentralization and the private sector’s participation

Did the policies of decentralization and greater inclusion of the private and associative sectors in public action lead to a questioning of the national governments’...

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