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When Cultural Policies Change

Comparing Mexico and Argentina

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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 4. Political and Cultural Policy Changes

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CHAPTER 4

Political and Cultural Policy Changes

Argentinian and Mexican cultural policies experienced major political and institutional transformations during the decade of the 2000s. In 2001, Argentina went through a political and socio-economic crisis which led to institutional and “presidential” instability1. This had consequences for cultural policy: dismissal of politico-administrative leaders and national directors, decrease in budgets and the emergence of a new philosophy of action. Although Mexico did not experience such an extensive crisis, its growth slowed down at the beginning of V. Fox’s term of office and after the subprimes crisis in 2008, and its cultural policy went through several changes. In both countries, relations between the actors of cultural policy, the executive, the legislature, local authorities, the public services, social movements, the private sector and transnational actors altered. New actors appeared in Argentina and Mexico. They appealed to the “global issue”2 of protecting cultural diversity: social movements which opposed public and private projects affecting heritage and Indian populations who demanded to be taken into account in the making of cultural policy. We shall see to what extent these actors produced change in cultural policies. We shall compare the dynamics of change in the two cultural policies by looking at the actors, philosophies of action, objectives and instruments, while taking into consideration the political and institutional changes experienced by the countries in order to see if these dimensions influenced and interacted with each other in the same way.

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