Cultural policy has traditionally emphasized ideas about education and refinement, equality, and
democracy; and of culture as a means to instill these values in citizens. While economic considerations have always been important realities for cultural operators, these concerns have mostly been treated as subordinate. Today, this is no longer the case. Ideas about profit and loss, and economic accounting, permeate all organizations in the cultural field, and lately the political discussions have come to centre on cultural policy as an instrument for economic growth and innovation within the “creative industry”. A pronounced ideational shift has taken place in the perception of the role of culture and the mission of cultural policy. It is this shift that we wish to understand and explain.
In order to comprehend various aspects of the described changes, two different dimensions of the
cultural field will be studied: a) how the ideational changes have entered, and been handled within,
cultural policy; b) what happens when the ideas of profit and management meet organizational practice. Here, two aspects will be investigated: the emergence of new university educations and professions as a response to new ideas; and what happens when the new ideas meet the practice of existing cultural organizations (museums, theatres, art galleries e t c). We will study the various aspects of change in two different national contexts with very dissimilar historical trajectories – Lithuania and Sweden – in order to discern similarities and differences in relation to ideational emergence and impact on both policy and practice.
The project aims to contribute to theories of institutional change by emphasizing and exploring the
existence of conflicts and dependencies within institutional fields. The study’s main contribution lies in
its explaining, firstly, how new ideas in a field are reshaped in practice (the issue of translation);
secondly, what possibilities for the molding of new ideas are created by the individuals and
organizations concerned (the issue of institutional entrepreneurship); and, thirdly, how conflicts between established and new, challenging ideas are handled (the issues of power and continuous power struggles).