Enabling Cultural Policies? Culture, Capabilities, and Citizenship

Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Jan Fredrik Hovden, Hallvard Moe


This article mobilizes the capabilities approach to offer a new and empirically grounded critical perspective on how cultural policy should promote citizenship to audiences. The capabilities approach posits that public policies should be designed and measured in terms of what they actually enable subjects to do or be. Focusing on the case of Norway, we operationalize the capabilities approach in two steps. First, based on survey data, we highlight systematic relationships between social background, cultural consumption, and citizenship. Based on extensive interview data, the article thereafter offers insight into how people engage with culture and whether this engagement enables them to function as citizens. In contrast to common assessments of cultural policy, we argue that the merit of this approach is that it focuses attention on how different measures actually empower different groups of citizens and fail to empower others, thus providing a basis for more effective and just policy measures.


capability approach, citizenship, cultural policy, cultural consumption, democracy, TV series, fiction literature

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