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Sweden/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

The Swedish cultural policy model has until recently been marked by a strong national level, with most of its powers invested in government agencies under the leadership of government appointed directors and boards, including representatives of relevant fields and professions. The complexity of the Swedish cultural policy model is revealed by the large number of heterogeneous units directly subordinated, and / or financially dependent on, the Ministry of Culture. Among the most important, such bodies are the Swedish Arts Council and the Swedish Heritage Board. Other large public bodies are the Swedish Film Institute, and the government agencies responsible for various museums and other cultural institutions. The autonomy of cultural institutions organized as government agencies is protected by constitutional law.

In addition, there is a tradition of respect for the autonomy of artists and cultural professionals in matters of content and quality of cultural production. This can be described as a double arm’s length principle. Safeguards against political intervention in the practices of publicly owned and / or publicly financed cultural institutions are relatively strong.

In the Government Bill on Cultural Policy of 2009 (2009/10:3), the previous focus on the national level of cultural policy was somewhat changed. Since then, a new system has been introduced, in which national government funding of regional institutions is governed through regional Cultural Policy Plans approved by the Swedish Arts Council (see chapter 4.1). The autonomy of cultural institutions on the regional and local levels is not constitutionally protected.

Cultural education is largely outside of the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture. Instead, higher artistic education is integrated in the university system, a responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Lower level culture and music schools are a municipal responsibility. The Ministry of Education also supports national study associations and folk high schools, also often dealing with cultural activities and cultural education (see  chapter 8.3.1 and chapter 8.4.1). While the national government is in many ways the main actor in Swedish cultural policy, the organisation of arts and culture in Sweden can be described as a complex web of interactions between the state, the market, civil society, private patronage and cultural professional associations. The dominant political attitude in cultural policy has favoured cooperation between the state and the cultural professions, while - typically and until recently - being more suspicious towards the market and private sponsorship.

Such attitudes are now increasingly being replaced by a perspective that is more positive towards the market, especially on the local and regional levels. At the same time, the regional level is becoming increasingly important in the Swedish cultural policy model.

Chapter published: 11-05-2017

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