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MARTEL Frédéric

France

De la démocratie culturelle en Amérique (Gallimard, 2006)

Frédéric Martel
© C. Hélie

Frédéric Martel was born in Avignon. He is a writer and a journalist. He was cultural attaché for France in Boston, USA from 2002 to 2005. He is also a researcher and investigated culture in America for four years. That is the subject of his most recent book, De la démocratie culturelle en Amérique. His other books are Le Rose et le noir, La longue marche des gays and Theater.

The Frederic Martel’s website
In french


Bibliography :

  • De la démocratie culturelle en Amérique (Gallimard, 2006)
  • The Pink and the Black : Homosexuals in France Since 1968 (Stanford Univ Pr, 1999) - Le Rose et le noir. Les homosexuels en France depuis 1968

A brief summary of De la démocratie culturelle en Amérique :

Our daily lives are made up of the commonplace, certainties that allow us to live and get our bearings. Because France and the USA have given their revolutions an international dimension, many believe that love of money comes first in the USA while France values culture above all. The writer felt these stereotypes needed looking into. He undertook a vast unprecedented investigation on cultural life in the USA. He met with players in the field (film makers, gallery owners, writers, theatre people, dancers, curators, critics and so on) in cities that are known to be cultural metropolises, but also on campuses, in rural states and amusement parks, which are recognized forms of mass cultural life. He has reviewed the fiscal benefits, met with the administrative personnel both in the public and private sectors of culture, delved into the federal archives of the most famous presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Roosevelt, Reagan). The writer paints a rich and very nuanced picture of the situation that upsets our initial impressions. The USA do not have a department of culture, but they do have a cultural policy. There is no department because the federal system has always preferred for the states rather than the federal government to have the responsibility in matters of culture, except for Roosevelt who mobilized actors and artists in his struggle against unemployment in the thirties. There has been a dual fear historically, and that is that an official culture would arise that would reflect the urban elites rather than the curiosity of the populations.

There is a strong desire for a democratic culture of the ordinary people. So culture has become a “new frontier”, according to Kennedy’s wishes, in the effective struggle for civil rights against social and racial inequalities. This approach also lead to the development of “The National Endowment” in the sixties whose budget is voted every year by the legislators to promote a cultural policy without precedent in the West, even if the Republican administration starting under Reagan wanted to clip their wings. The conclusion of the experiment was that with state aid, there is a decentralization of cultural life where artists and players in the field can meet with the people everywhere in the USA ; also, with private and corporate philanthropic donations, there is a real policy of quality cultural promotion, the entertainment industry being the prerogative of the private sector. With contributions from school campuses and universities, an avant-garde movement has appeared and over the years, it has permeated into other aspects of American cultural life. So there may be no American department of culture but culture is everywhere.