ESR 7 Blog April/May 2022: Noa Mamrud

Blog – 25 April, 2022

Hello there!

In my last blog I introduced the theory of Europe as a Power and expanded on one type, Normative Power, which conceptualises the strategic approach to all operations and activities dedicated to the stabilisation and reaffirmation of the European identity. Constructed by European values, it frames the moral standing of Europe and brands the union as a global actor working with the faith in, and service of, democracy, freedom, equality, and an active civil society.  European quality implies a notion of production that is conscious about labour rights and that is ecologically responsible, rendering a European product one of high market value.

In this blog, I will expand on a parallel perspective that regards Europe as a Market Power. Market Power Europe is a conceptual framework that examines how the EU, through Externalising its internal social and economic policies, increases its influence on the international market and exercises power outside and within the European system. A process of Externalisation takes place when EU institutions “attempt to get other actors to adhere to a level of regulation similar to that in effect in the European single market or to behave in a way that generally satisfies or conforms to the EU’s market-related policies and regulatory measures” (Damro, 2012, p. 690). Tracking a process of Externalisation does not mean necessarily looking into how technical EU policy details and regulatory measures are being implemented by non-EU actors, but, rather, following how EU policy areas, seen primarily internal, are added an external dimension, and as such conjoined with the area of EU external relations (Damro & Friedman, 2018, p. 1397). ‘Low politics’, such as culture, has for long been at the service of EU external relations, helping the EU to reaffirm its political and economic leadership internationally.

In their analysis of the Bologna Process through the conceptual framework of Market Power Europe, Damro and Friedman (2018) describe the “importance of market factors, externalisation and supranational actors in the EU development of an external dimension of Higher Education policy” (p.1406). Their methodological contribution – to track the market factors, the supranational nature of a policy, and the tools used to externalise it – could potentially be applied to Cultural Policy for improving analytical clarity and understanding, not only on a normative level, but also in relation to the financial functioning of the EU.

Internally in Europe, the definition of culture is not strictly determined by the union but left open-ended for the interpretation of each country. However, the functioning of the EU in the area of culture is legally acknowledged through a consolidated statute, stated in Article 3 of The Treaty on European Union and Article 167 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union. While the “Member States have exclusive competence on cultural policy, […] the Union’s role is to encourage cooperation and support and supplement Member States’ actions”(European Commission, 2018). In addition, it helps them to defy “common challenges” (European Commission, 2022).

The strategic objectives and actions listed in the recent European agenda for culture (2018) are split between three sub-topics that are telling about the EU motivation in supporting culture: social dimension, economic dimension, and external (international relations) dimension. While the agenda draws on progressive social and welfare theories, such as cultural participation and a ‘capability approach’, conceived originally by Amartya Sen, it also provides an action plan for unlocking the economic and external potential of the cultural sector. The agenda was derived from a larger strategic plan called ‘Europe 2020’ that in 2010 had set out the vision and the objectives for Europe to become a global knowledge economy by 2020. The strategy responded to the impending new economy, as well as to the global recession and financial crisis of 2008 with a clear mission: “…to help us come out stronger from the crisis and turn the EU into a smart, sustainable, and inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion” (European Commission, 2010, p. 3). For this aim, culture is being institutionally harnessed not only for helping communities to become more resilient following the crisis, but also to contribute to the European economy. This is an important context for understanding the incessant preoccupation of cultural policies with art that is socially engaged, and the entanglement of social and financial value in the light of global crisis recovery. The case of the funding of the FEINART programme is a representative and teaching example of this paradigm. The FEINART programme has won the full support of Horizon 2020, “the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness” (European Commission, 2022). Investing economic development-purposed funds in a research project dedicated wholly to Socially Engaged Art is not coincidental. In fact, it necessitates a level of critical awareness, especially in the case of project No. 7, to which I am assigned to, that is tasked with “compiling an overview of the institutional support and employment of Socially Engaged Art” (FEINART, 2022). My attempt to discuss the affinities between funding, and methods of work and the organisation of Socially Engaged Art on a European level must take into account the European approach to cultural policy, to which the issue of neoliberal extraction of value from art is inherent.

The theory of the EU as Normative and Market Power will continue to accompany my investigation as I believe it can be a useful framework for capturing what the EU as a multifaceted entity is and disentangle the multi-layered motivation of Europe in funding the arts. Observing the EU as a Normative power emphasises the moral principles that drive the EU in funding the arts, while the parallel view of the EU as a Market Power expands on the financial, NGO rationalised framework that the EU is using in setting specific expectations from art institutions’ operation and output.

Are art institutions classic NGOs? Can we expect them to utilize impact language? What are the discontents and reactions in practice to such frameworks?

Thank you for reading.

Always open and glad to read your comments and thoughts –

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