International Cultural Relations
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International Cultural Relations

J. M. Mitchell

  1. 270 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

International Cultural Relations

J. M. Mitchell

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About This Book

This book, originally published in 1986, analyses and describes the significance of cultural relations in international affairs. It traces the beginnings of cultural relations in the 19th century and their evolution. Consideration is given to the nature and organization of global 'cultural diplomacy', with a particular focus on France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA. This book will be of interest to students in international affairs and modern history, but also to those working in government departments and agencies.

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Beyond Diplomacy

The heading Beyond Diplomacy suggests further horizons. In the often quoted definition by Sir Ernest Satow, 'Diplomacy is the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between the governments of independent states' (Gore-Booth, 1979, p. 3). One is struck by the constraints implied in this form of words. Official relations do not directly touch the lives of most people, not even of elites, though everyone may be disastrously affected when they go wrong. Governments, whether elected or not, are executors of a political will determined by present necessities and burdened by the past. And governments are preoccupied with short-term policies to meet immediate crises.
Politics as a mechanism for bridging the gap between national interest and the compulsive forces at work in the world at large does not score obvious successes. Diplomacy is, however skilfully conducted, the instrument of the political will. Ours is hardly a visionary age. Its technological wonders often exacerbate rather than resolve its fundamental problems. But one unsensational progression has been achieved that brings a degree of international convergence of thought. This is the spread of education, the propagation of the written word, information across frontiers, and the availability of cultural goods in people's lives. It is in this area that cultural relations work is done. The time is opportune to capitalize on the potential it yields for world stability. If, as is often said, the golden age of diplomacy is past, then beyond diplomacy lie alternative forms of international relations.
That cultural relations are of great importance is not today generally in dispute. It is accepted in many countries that they are an essential third dimension in relations between states: third, because they accompany politics and trade (for some American writers, they come fourth after politics, trade and defence). It was Willy Brandt, when he was German Foreign Minister in 1966, who first gave currency to the term 'third pillar of foreign policy'. Senator Fulbright, after whom one of the most imaginative exchange schemes is named (see pp. 54, 57 and 157), wrote in his Foreword to The Fourth Dimension of Foreign Policy. 'Foreign policy cannot be based on military posture and diplomatic activities alone in today's world. The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how well we communicate the values of our society to others than by our military or diplomatic superiority' (Coombs, 1964, p. ix). The French, who pioneered the whole business, consider the representation of their culture abroad almost a sacred mission and spend half their budget for foreign relations on fulfilling it. But whereas the French government has traditionally identified this work closely with French interests and foreign policy, the general tendency in other democracies since 1945 has, as Doka (1956, p. 33) points out, been to distance it from government direction. The idea of people communicating with each other across national boundaries has been frequently invoked. Indeed, some expressions of the idea have gone further than can altogether be sustained. Writing in a period of postwar idealism, the American author Archibald MacLeish, who was then Assistant Secretary in charge of public and cultural affairs in the State Department, went so far as to say, 'Foreign Offices are no longer offices to speak for one people to another; the people can speak now for themselves. Foreign Offices are offices of international understanding, the principal duty of which is the duty to make the understanding of peoples whole and intelligible and complete' (McMurry and Lee, 1947, p. x). This seems today to carry to extremes the Open Door and New Deal approach, but the desirability that communication between nations should not be inhibited by political barriers remains fundamental and has steadily gained in recognition.

Cultural Relations and Cultural Diplomacy

These two terms are often used as though they were synonymous. In fact, the differences between them are fundamental, but also complex and fairly subtle. Both apply to the practice followed by modern states of interrelating through their cultures. Both have acquired greater currency with the recognition that culture is an expression of national identity and therefore a factor in international affairs. Culture lends impetus to the quest for convergence between conflicting national interests; it has a particular part in overcoming conventional barriers that separate peoples, by promoting understanding between them. Culture represents a dimension in international attitudes where alienation between nations yields to familiarity and feelings of common humanity.
This evolution has had important consequences, which have not been fully appraised and described. The underlying concepts, therefore, remain ambiguous. The term cultural relations itself is neutrally descriptive and throws up little semantic difficulty. It has a wide reference going beyond the actions of governments and their agencies. Cultural relations can be conducted on the initiative of private as well as public institutions. Cultural diplomacy is narrower in scope because it is essentially the business of governments. But cultural diplomacy has two levels of meaning. The first-order meaning applies to the agreements, whether bilateral or multilateral, which are made between governments to permit, facilitate or prescribe cultural exchanges. The inter-governmental negotiation of cultural treaties, conventions, agreements and exchange programmes is cultural diplomacy. Two examples of these are shown in Appendices A and B (see pp. 233 and 235). Likewise the inclusion of cultural clauses in major international agreements, such as the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation, signed in Helsinki in 1975, is cultural diplomacy. The creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1946 was an act of cultural diplomacy. The same applies to the cultural aspects of international organizations that are primarily political or economic; for instance, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Community (although the Treaty of Rome, 1957, makes no mention of culture), the Council of Europe (whose members signed a European Cultural Convention in 1954), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Nordic Council.
The Tindemans Report (1976, p. 28) proposed the creation of a European Foundation 'to promote, either directly or by assisting existing bodies, anything which could help towards greater understanding among our peoples by placing the emphasis on human contact'. The aim in fact was to further wide-scale cultural relations by an act which in itself rates as cultural diplomacy. The examples Tindemans gives of this human contact – 'youth activities, university exchanges, scientific debates and symposia, meetings between the socio-professional categories, cultural and information activities' –clearly go beyond governmental or governmentally inspired activity; they illustrate the way agreements under the heading of cultural diplomacy can facilitate, by collective resolution and budgetary obligation, a wider range of operations involving the institutions of member states. Yet the motive force of diplomacy is clear, as in the sentence: 'This Foundation will also have a role to play in presenting abroad the image of a United Europe' (p. 28). This is a political purpose, but it requires the backing of cultural relations for its implementation. Political agreement or decree involving individuals and institutions would be tenuous without some expectation of their support; there must therefore be a basis in the popular will, and this basis rests upon cultural attitudes.
An outstanding example of multilateral cultural diplomacy is seen in the Helsinki Agreement of 1975. A major section of this, known as Basket III, is concerned with 'Co-operation in Humanitarian and Other Fields'. There are important elements in this which represent concessions made by the Warsaw Pact countries, in return for the recognition of the status quo of Central and Eastern European frontiers, to the demand by the Western democracies for greater freedom of contact and for human rights. Although these concessions have by no means been fully honoured, they provide a text, the product of long diplomatic negotiation and the object of protracted subsequent debate, which can be invoked in the cause of those relations between people that contribute to international security through access and exchanges. Basket III comprises Human Contacts, Information, Co-operation and Exchanges in the Field of Culture and Co-operation in the Field of Education. Under Culture, the participating states:
Declare that they jointly set themselves the following objectives:
  • (a) to develop the mutual exchange of information with a view to a better knowledge of respective cultural achievements,
  • (b) to improve the facilities for the exchange and for the dissemination of cultural property,
  • (c) to promote access by all to respective cultural achievements,
  • (d) to develop contacts and co-operation among persons active in the field of culture,
  • (e) to seek new fields and forms of cultural co-operation. (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, 1975, p. 40)
The first-order meaning of cultural diplomacy is apparent enough, then, as one of the areas of international affairs governed by negotiations and agreements between governments. The second-order meaning is less determinate. Essentially, the execution of these agreements and the conduct of cultural relations flowing from them may be seen either as the extended responsibility of governments or as something delegated by governments to agencies and cultural institutions. The former is cultural diplomacy of the second order. As an aspect of diplomacy it is normally carried out abroad by diplomatic staff. It is closely aligned to official policy and national interest. Its ulterior purpose is political or economic. This may or may not be perceptible to its foreign clients, depending on the tact and restraint with which it is executed. Cultural diplomacy seeks to impress, to present a favourable image, so that diplomatic operations as a whole are facilitated. Typically, though with a touch of exaggeration, it would be cultural diplomacy for a government to dispatch its national opera company, with a galaxy of international stars, to perform at a prestigious foreign festival before a cosmopolitan audience, or to mount a series of image-building lectures in a foreign capital, followed by lavish diplomatic receptions, for an invited audience of the great and the good. Both activities would be designed to redound to the credit of the sending country; they might even be timed to further some particular diplomatic end. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Much activity that rates as cultural diplomacy is defensible and desirable. This might well be true of the examples above. It could undoubtedly be true of national participation in gala occasions, such as arts festivals, to which national representation cannot be denied without offence to the host country or without a significant and damaging forfeit of presence. The manner and cost of representation will of course need careful thought, as we shall see in later chapters, but the compulsion to be included, not to default on an occasion of international offerings, is a worthy reaction not only of diplomacy in general but also of cultural diplomacy. No government and no people wishes to fade into oblivion. Flying the flag is a common manifestation of national identity. Of the colours to be hoisted at the masthead, those that unfurl a nation's cultural achievement are in many modern situations the most appealing. And it is, of course, part of cultural diplomacy to appeal.
Cultural relations on the other hand, are more neutral and comprehensive. In a sense, they embrace the methods of cultural diplomacy, for they employ the resources granted by governments and the benefits resulting from international agreements. The difference is, in practice, one of mode. The purpose of cultural relations is not necessarily, and in advanced thinking hardly at all, to seek one-sided advantage. At their most effective, their purpose is to achieve understanding and co-operation between national societies for their mutual benefit. Cultural relations proceed ideally by the accretion of open professional exchanges rather than by selective self-projection. They purvey an honest picture of each country rather than a beautified one. They do not conceal but neither need they make a show of national problems. They neither pretend that warts are not there nor do they parade them to the repugnance of others.
Obviously, it would make for easier intelligibility if the term cultural diplomacy were reserved for its first-order meaning, and if cultural relations were applied generally to the execution and to the craft. The second-order meaning of cultural diplomacy could then be abandoned to the archives, where it figures prominently in documented history. In effect, this is the tendency that is at work. But to postulate its fulfilment at present would be to presume too far on the intention of all modern states to handle their cultural representation objectively and not to link it inexorably with national interest. After all, cultural diplomacy is probably still the only realizable mode for countries that have not been able to evolve beyond a high degree of government control.
The boycott belongs to cultural diplomacy. It is an expression of political animus. For instance, the cultural boycott placed by Western democracies on the Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and on Poland after its imposition of military rule in 1980 is a short-term political response. It is based on the calculation that a greater effect will be achieved in the boycotted country, and before world opinion, by restriction than by the maintenance of normal cultural relations as a projection of alternative and presumably superior values. Normally, boycotts of this kind involve the suspension of major cultural events rather than the cessation of routine exchange programmes; they are therefore more declamatory than fundamental, the equivalent of the withdrawal of ambassadors rather than the rupture of diplomatic relations. The desirability and efficacy of boycotts can be debated from various points of view. But it is clear that the political motivation, however justified in its own terms, is alien to the spirit of cultural relations, since these operate on a longer time-scale and different wavelength. Admittedly, it might be the case, though it usually is not, that society at large in the sending country would not tolerate more than a minimal level of cultural activity towards a state that has offended against international law or the accepted code of conduct. Then it would be appropriate to cultural relations for more than obligatory activities to be frozen. Indeed, the executors, whether artists or whatever, might refuse their services for reasons of conscience. But in general the cultural boycott is politically motivated and unwelcome to the executors, who as members of elite groups value professional contacts abroad and do not wish them to go by default. For just as cultural relations can continue through nongovernmental agencies in countries with which diplomatic relations have been broken off, so they can remain a vehicle for longer-term understanding between peoples, even when hostility between their governments finds its natural political expression in the way in which diplomacy and trade are restricted. Indeed, the citizens of the offending state may use their response to visiting cultural events as a means of indirectly expressing their own condemnation of their government's actions. The acclamation that artists from the free world receive in totalitarian countries is often fuelled by protest.
This book is concerned with cultural relations. Cultural diplomacy of both the first and the second order takes due place, but the progressive and exciting aspects of the actual work lie beyond government direction. Already, democratic countries with open societies subscribe to the idea of two-way benefit, of mutuality. Admittedly, some governments even In open democratic countries look for a return on the investment of funds in cultural relations in terms of immediate national advantage, whereas the real return is in long-term relationships, which produce and propagate understanding and encourage co-operation. It is because these relationships can flourish only if they are not subject to politics that cultural relations work is best done by organizations that enjoy an appropriate degree of independence of the state machinery. Sometimes, for instance in some major countries with traditions in this direction, such organizations are constitutionally independent; elsewhere, they are formally responsible to a ministry, usually the foreign ministry, but are encouraged by the home authority and by the ambassador to exercise a considerable measure of autonomy. Indeed, today the concept of the cultural attaché slavishly scoring points for his political masters, the very antithesis of right-minded cultural relations, is probably out of date even in the embassies of totalitarian states. If such a person still exists, he inhabits a world of his own, unblessed by ideals, untouched by modern communications and the cynicism of his clients — and of himself.

Meaning of Culture

This book, then, is about cultural relations. The component parts comprise the arts, libraries and information services, literature, language teaching, science and technology, social structure, the exchange of persons, links between communities and institutions, and educational aid and training in the developing world. But what of culture itself, that undefined concept at the very heart of the matter? Fortunately, this is not the place to attempt a comprehensive definition: if T. S. Eliot (1948, p. 22) in his Notes towards the Definition of Culture was prepared to settle for 'Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living', we need not plague ourselves over abstractions. All that matters here is to establish what we mean by culture in cultural relations (or cultural diplomacy). This is rendered more difficult, however, because culture means different things in different languages. In German, for instance Kultur is a more elemental word than 'culture' in English, where it tends to have associations of preciosity. In England, the idea of culture has never moved the man on the Clapham omnibus, as the ordinary citizen has been styled, and yet he himself incorporates a very distinctive culture in the sense of a set of values. When at the 1982 World Conference on Cultural Policies the opening address by the Mexican Minister of Education included the sentence, 'Culture is man's capacity for reflection on himself (UNESCO, 1982, p. 179), no doubt everyone thought it a fine phrase but few could have distilled from it the pure lymph of meaning. It would hardly have lent speed to the man on the Clapham omnibus.
These two examples demonstrate the range of meaning in culture. It embraces a narrower sense, which is concerned with the intellect and the arts, and a broader sense, which extends to a way of life and the values that this manifests. Both meanings are the business of cultural relations; each is a necessary complement to the other. The purpose should be not only to present learned and artistic accomplishment (high culture) but to represent the vital substance of a nation. Past glories are a powerful ingredient, but over-concentration on them would lead to a heritage obsession. The living element would be missing. It is now generally agreed, though practised in varying degrees, that the cultures to be related to one another should be conceived comprehensively.
It is also generally agreed that culture has become an indispensable form of communication within societies and between societies. Cultural conventions and agreements between states are now a common feature of their relations, and one that more obviously leads to convergence than do the inherent divisiveness of politics or the competitiveness of trade. This is why in recent decades, and particularly since the outbreak of the Cold War, multilateral forums such as UNESCO (of which more later) and the Committee for Cultural Co-operation of the Council of Europe have attracted some of the universalist idealism that previously found a more political expression in the League of Nations and the early United Nations, Indeed, the Conferences of European Ministers with responsibility for Cultural Affairs (held in Oslo, 1976; Athens, 1978; Luxembourg, 1981; Berlin, 1984), organized by the Council of Europe, are a sounding-board for this thinking. At t...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title
  4. Copyright
  5. Original Title
  6. Original Copyright
  7. Contents
  8. Acknowledgement
  9. General Editor’s Introduction
  10. Dedication
  11. Foreword
  12. 1 Beyond Diplomacy
  13. 2 The Uses of Cultural Relations
  14. 3 Origins and Early Evolution
  15. 4 Propaganda
  16. 5 The Example of France
  17. 6 The War and the Unquiet Peace
  18. 7 Information and After
  19. 8 The Organization
  20. 9 Aims and Means
  21. 10 The Cultural Dimension in Development
  22. 11 A Personnel of Paragons
  23. 12 Analysis and Evaluation
  24. 13 Four Major Reports
  25. 14 Activities and Their Planning: Information and Books
  26. 15 Exchange of Persons
  27. 16 Languages and Language-Teaching
  28. 17 The Arts
  29. 18 Schools, Science, Universities, Literature and Multilateralism
  30. 19 External Broadcasting and the New Technology
  31. 20 Thematic Propositions
  32. Appendix A Cultural Convention between Great Britain and France
  33. Appendix B Cultural Agreement between Great Britain and the Soviet Union
  34. Appendix C External Broadcasting: Programme Hours per Week
  35. Appendix D Budgets of Britain and Analogue Countries
  36. Bibliography
  37. Index