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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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The ambition of this research was to understand the processes of emergence, institutionalization and change of cultural policies in Mexico and Argentina and to comprehend the influence on these public actions of the big political, economic and institutional changes experienced by these countries at the end of the 20th century.

Before the 1980s cultural actions were carried out by a few scattered public and associative organizations and while the Mexican State played the central role in such cultural action, this was not the case in Argentina where numerous foundations and associations organized on the boundaries of the state contributed to the development and spread of culture. In the 1970s and 1980s, groups of intellectuals in Mexico and Argentina took action to demand that the authorities reform cultural policies and abolish censorship. Some of these actors subsequently joined the forums affiliated to political parties in which they “thought out” cultural policies. Thanks to policy window, two political entrepreneurs who had taken part in the coupling of the policy and problems streams were appointed by Carlos Salinas and Raúl Alfonsín to implement Mexican and Argentinian cultural policy. V. Flores Olea and C. Gorostiza and their close collaborators thus moved from reflection forums to the arenas of decision and participated in the institutionalization of cultural policies in the two countries. The hypothesis of the institutionalization of Argentinian and Mexican cultural policies in the 1980s was validated by the presence:

– of an institutional framework and a...

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