Cultural Stratification and Cultural Policies: Perspectives of Cultural Globalism, The Case of Croatia

Nada Švob-Đokić

Dr. Nada Švob-Đokić is a Senior Researcher Emeritus in the Culture and Communication Department at the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), Zagreb. Her main research interests include cultural and media transitions and public policies in these areas, cultural globalization, and cultural identity studies.


In this article, the processes of cultural stratification are explored as related to the context of globalism. The globalized cultural context enables fast and effective exchange of content, values, symbols, and meanings within the newly created cultural spaces (in Southeast Europe) and thus influences cultural change reflected in the processes of cultural stratification within national cultures. Although the stratification processes are not always fully transparent, standardized, or clearly visible, certain types of culture can be distinguished and these are described here as institutional culture, independent culture, and market-oriented culture. Functional links among these cultural types have not always been entirely established, but they nevertheless lead to different approaches to cultural policy making. An illustration of such situation is put forward by the presentation of the Croatian case. The roles and potential functioning of cultural policies are explored in this respect. It is observed that cultural policies tend to decentralize and diversify; they tend to encompass an increased cultural production and cultural exchange, but their functional responses to global influences and the issuing cultural stratification are weak and often inconsistent.

DOI: 10.18278/aia.2.1.6


The recent cultural transitions in post-socialist Southeast European countries have opened a number of issues related to cultural change and in particular to cultural stratification inspired by or directly linked to cultural globalization processes. As diversified cultural practices have occurred during the last about twenty-odd years, the previously more or less standardized cultural policies (reflecting the concept of welfare state and profuse investment in development of cultural institutions) have been changed to stress more liberal tendencies in overall social development of all post-socialist countries. The Southeast European cultural space has become ever more diversified and ever more tolerant of different local cultural traditions as well as of global influences affecting them. At the same time, national cultural identification and building up of cultural identity has become a strongly expressed cultural issue on national and local levels. The reference point to such developments is cultural change prompted by globalism and often sustained by cultural strategies and policies.

The overall approach to the analysis of global impacts on local cultures presumes that the systemic transition has initiated a restructuring and reorganization of cultural activities and cultural values, as well as the (re-) establishment of more or less consistent cultural policies open to global (i.e., European) influences. This has supported changes of local cultures and encouraged local responses to global impacts.

In this respect, a general view of globalization and globalism is here presented to mark the inception of new cultural spaces and the raising awareness of stratification processes affecting Southeast European cultures. A general overview of the role and performance of local cultural policies (seen through their impact on the ongoing cultural restructuration) may help elucidate the national and local efforts invested to follow global trends and influences.

The case of Croatia illustrates well such processes. It shows that the notion of national culture is getting closer to the concept of a specific cultural space (e.g., European or regional Southeast European) through the diversification and decentralization of cultural policies, and that the issue of national identification has evolved to promote a variety of different aims and practices. In this respect, the Croatian case is useful for the study of cultural change in Southeast Europe. It is, however, limited by its specificity and concentration on the internalized cultural values and practices.
The study of some similar developments and cultural practices incited by global influences that can be traced in other Southeast European countries indicates that dissimilarities among Southeast European cultures are growing. They may appear disguised as “specificities” of national cultural traditions which strongly support the preservation of national cultural frameworks. Global influences and their impacts do not therefore provide for a kind of regional Southeast European or even European cultural identification.

The strongest and most visible global influences are technological and communicational. As culture is “the source of newness” and thus “drives” technology (Hartley, Wen, and Siling Li 2015:14) the global technological influences do not only affect cultural creativity, but they are also reflected in all types of cultural stratification. It is visible in countries such as Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, or Bulgaria where cultural stratification is, as well as in Croatia, influenced by the development of vivacious NGO sectors that strongly support cultural production, particularly the types “abandoned” by the state.

The public impact of the emerging civil society on cultural production and change in Romania has become “more pragmatic and specifically targeted to the needs of cultural life” as it influenced the provision of “an articulated framework for grants,” incited local pilot projects of public interest and raised public awareness and transparency of management of culture (Balsan 2012).

New actors such as foundations or private cultural institutions, organized by NGOs, have emerged on the Bulgarian cultural scene (Andreeva and Tomova 2011). Civil society has considerably influenced the formulation of a “new cultural policy model” that brought decentralization of cultural policy and included minority cultures participation in the national cultural activities.

Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia have experienced similar developments. The role of NGOs in cultural activities has been constantly growing, which strongly influenced and in many cases enabled cultural creativity and support to individual artists. At the same time, cultural products have entered the emerging and not well-organized cultural markets.

The establishment and elaboration of public cultural policies in all Southeast European countries have continuously enjoyed professional and financial support offered by the Council of Europe through the European Program of Evaluation of National Cultural Policies which started in 1986 and is still going on. Quite diversified, these policies have been formulated by state ministries. They have helped a (re)structuration of national cultural spaces, preserved financing and functioning of cultural institutions and raised the awareness of culture as social value. However, their impacts on cultural creativity and cultural exchange remain limited. It has become evident by now that the cultural NGO sector, its supporters and new cultural markets visibly influence the present day development of Southeast European cultures as these become ever more open to exchange and communication within the global context.

Globalization and Globalism

Globalization has been generally understood as an all-inclusive process that has embraced all types of human activity across the world. Among countless definitions that have emerged from the descriptions and analyses of globalization, the following one seems to express the nature of globalization most adequately for the purposes of the following analysis: “… globalization is best seen as a multidimensional and multidirectional process involving accelerated and increased flows of virtually everything—capital, commodities, information, ideas, beliefs, people—along constantly evolving axes” (UNESCO 2009:5).

Globalization, described and understood as a multidimensional and multidirectional process, has created a state of globalism. Globalism is often interpreted as a new historical paradigm that sees a networked interactive cultural environment emerging from global economic, technological, and social processes. Such an environment strongly supports the creation of new globalized cultural contexts characterized by intensive cultural communication, and this currently is true of most living cultures. The possibility to experience different cultures deepens the knowledge of the values they have developed over time. Through intercultural communication cultural borders have become elusive, flexible, and open (Švob-Đokić 2006:8; 2008:238). The original cultural varieties are now relatively easily transferred, used and practiced in very different cultural contexts, which may subject them to different interpretations and different usages. As cultures are increasingly linked by networked communication (Benkler 2006; Castells 2009), they are exposed to the fast and effective exchange of content, values, symbols, meanings, and cultural products, which have all become relatively easily accessible due to new technological developments and, in particular, the Internet.

This constantly increasing cultural exchange and communication has strongly influenced the character and position of national cultures. Their role in globalization processes has been largely discussed during the past about 30 years. The particular positions of specific cultures have been reflected in their involvement “in the movement of specified objects, systems of meaning and people across national/regional borders and continents” (Anheier and Raj Isar 2007:9). Specific cultures participate in globalization processes in different ways; they either passively accept various globalization trends or invest efforts to actively adapt and involve themselves in such processes. In this way they initiate cultural transitions that enable their participation in cultural globalization trends. Such participation is reflected in the constantly growing cultural exchange and communication, which results in the change of the structures, social positions and creative potentials of the national, mostly European, cultures.

These national cultures display relatively basic structures. They originated within the developing nation states in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The cultural identification processes typical of national cultures were based on the integration of various pre-national cultures, cultural values, and cultural practices, and strongly linked to the newly established national language and artistic practices. Today these processes have become increasingly dependent on local cultures and their specificities, on the (re)interpretation of cultural heritage, and on local cultural products and cultural industries (Potts 2011). They have been encouraged to adapt to global communication processes and to cultural exchange through global markets. In order to be globally exchangeable, they need to observe certain production and technological standards so as to participate in less territorialized cultural production, innovation, and creativity. While the increased economic exchange of cultural values and goods again involves a certain standardization of production processes and products, the state of cultural globalism that prompts local responses tends to support individualized and de-standardized innovative cultural products and to increase their variety and variability. The ensuing cultural dynamics support innovation and generate the need to reinterpret cultural originality and original cultural artifacts and values, leading to the development of new, a-national cultures.

Cultures everywhere have always been diverse and increasingly diversified through mutual contacts. However, for a certain period of time, national cultures displayed relatively harmonized structures with an established and observed hierarchy of values and types of sectorial cultural products which were transparent. This may be best illustrated by the efforts invested in a successful standardization of national languages, which enabled functional communication within national borders. Artistic productions tended to be aimed at people with more cultivated tastes and this became the standardized framework for communication between general audiences and artists. More or less harmonized behavioral values enabled the generalized and widely accepted evaluation of various cultural products, but also helped artists and creators to pursue more individual ideas, and their creativity resulted in the development of new cultural values and meanings. Cultures used to be financed nationally, either through public funds or individual donations, always promoting the cultural values as public values.

Today such a national structure of cultures is being dissolved. In parallel, attitudes toward culture and the arts are changing and are evolving toward deinstitutionalization of cultural productivity and individualization of cultural consumption. Contemporary cultures have been actively included and exposed to radical changes in cultural production, which could symbolically be interpreted as a transition from the national to the global cultural contexts that are being re-created through the interaction of cultural creativity with all other human activities. In the process, the notion of culture has widened and has become almost all-encompassing. In this respect Terry Eagleton (2005:31, 40) notes that a critical self-reflection of culture makes it inclusive of practically everything (“…lust, arts, language, media, body, gender, ethnicity…”).

As globalization has activated the restructuring of national cultures, it has become possible to understand its dynamics and some of the outcomes of the ongoing cultural changes. The national and global contexts have provided a framework for a new cultural environment symbolized by a notion of cultural space (Harvey 2006). The concept of a specialized space (Storper 1997:19-44) and the concept of a cultural space (Švob-Đokić 2008:238) are derived from analyses of cultural globalization (Beck and Grande 2012), understood as an ongoing process that is open to creative efforts expressed through symbolic signs and content. Various possible interpretations of culture are not made more complicated by these concepts, but they substantiate its existence, presence, and development in a certain socio-historical reality and thus, in practice, reduce a vaguely defined cultural all-inclusiveness to a certain reality, today called globalism.

Cultural spaces are defined by flexible imaginary aspects (artistic, creative, anthropological, linguistic, and other, Appadurai 1998); they are constructed to help the contextualization of human existence within some space that is a-territorial and embraces both virtual and value aspects of cultures. Cultures interact with physical spaces through creativity and step outside their own spaces through communication that provokes dynamic changes to all cultural spaces and to the values they may contain.

The temporal/historical processes (Harvey 2006) testify to the fact that cultural spaces are continuously constructed and deconstructed. In contemporary Europe these processes have been reflected in the structured national cultures that have developed a set of standardized cultural values, languages, arts, and types of behavior, which have contributed to the establishment of general social settings. National cultures are normally subjected to certain dynamics of inner development, which are reflected in changes to values and to other cultural elements. Over time they develop and host various types of cultural product, consumption, and exchange, which continuously promote cultural change leading to the deconstruction of established cultural structures and the values supporting these structures. In present-day Europe, a prevailing type of national culture is being deconstructed in the context of globalism through dynamic cultural transition. This is the result of cultural industrialization and the emergence of new types of cultural values and products which are developed through the usage of new technologies and the general systemic social changes that are now particularly visible in the post-communist countries.

The state of globalism offers new contextual surroundings for the continuity of construction and deconstruction of cultural spaces, cultures, and cultural policies. So far it has influenced and enabled the stratification of the established national cultures and brought new challenges for contemporary cultural policies, which have previously been institutionalized as national, local, or city public policies. Such different types and aspects of cultural stratification are interconnected or even integrated by a holistic view of cultures as complex, innovative, and adaptive value systems, able to meet various cultural sensitivities, tastes, and traditions.

Cultural Spaces and the Emerging Types of Stratified National Culture

The processes of cultural stratification within standardized national cultures in Europe, and in Southeast Europe in particular , have led to the following types of cultural entity (Švob-Đokić 2012).

Institutional culture is based on state-supported cultural institutions (such as museums, libraries, national theatres, orchestras, and others) that mostly depend on public financial sources. Cultural institutions largely reflect the establishment and development of nation states and state cultural policies which may have been recently decentralized to the local and city levels. Institutional culture is primarily concentrated on the establishment, definition, and preservation of national cultural values which have become “traditional.” These values are interpreted as being in keeping with ideas of national cultural identity and they enable and preserve its development. In this respect the preservation of cultural heritage and the (often hasty) representation of authentic cultural values are of key interest. Such interest is sustained and boosted through international cultural cooperation, the organization of cultural events and festivals, and other cultural activities representing national creativity and values. Investment in culture is primarily directed to institutions and cultural infrastructure, but this does not imply that they are being restructured or modernized; it simply secures their survival in the changing social surroundings, often at a high cost. The existing cultural institutions have difficulty in adapting to the globalized cultural communication. They can barely sustain and support cultural creativity. In this sense they prove to be dysfunctional and dependent on obsolete concepts and programs which often result in a lowering of their professional standards and the expulsion of the best artists or other creative professionals. These, particularly in the case of post-communist countries, often take their chances abroad. Those cultural institutions that are able and ready to invest time and effort in adapting to new social contexts and demands earn the position of protected cultural institutions, and are preserved as part of national traditions and cultural heritage.

Independent culture has been developing through transitional processes, as a kind of intermediary creative activity that grows through networking and the use of new communication technologies. This is usually financially supported by international organizations and foundations which may be either private (e.g., the Open Society/Soros Foundations) or public (e.g., the European Cultural Foundation). The “independent” culture functions mostly through nongovernmental organizations and individual small enterprises. It is able to attract an important number of creative individuals and to invest both funds and effort in local cultural creativity. As the international financial sources are being reduced over time, the “independent” culture tends to turn increasingly to local public funds (which introduces a threat of political influence) and to various private sources seeking to avoid the cultural marketplace. Such intentions are reflected in efforts to institutionalize cultural activities and thus change cultural mainstreams, sensitivities, and values. The “independent” culture is present in public life through modern art, new dance trends, experiments in theatre, and also often through developments in design, fashion, and other brands of modern artistic and cultural industrial creativity. It is able to accept, introduce, and reinterpret global creative trends at local levels, to work with new technologies and communicate globally. Although its treatment of cultural industries is distrustful due to its unwillingness to turn to the markets, its products are close to those of cultural industries and pop art, particularly as regards music and audiovisual work. This culture addresses large audiences and it refuses to accept an elitist social status.

Market-oriented culture operates internationally in both global and local cultural markets. It follows pop-cultural consumerism and often domesticates and imitates global trends in pop-music, for instance through the organization of cultural events such as large concerts and festivals, and participates regularly in the development of cultural industries. The cultural communication that it develops is based on the format of business interests. Market-oriented cultural products are sponsored by big companies and other sponsors who are not interested in program and content but who appreciate the quality and popularity of cultural products and, in particular, their attractiveness to large audiences. As this sort of culture boosts cultural markets, it enjoys a kind of creative freedom and draws profits from the increasing consumption of its products. The market-oriented culture is open to very different types of cultural creativity and it is able to offer good cultural products from any origin. In an effort to meet market demands it is totally dependent on industrialized, reproductive, and repetitive cultural production, namely on cultural industries.

If the presumption that a number of European national cultures display similar structures is correct, the spatial reach of the identified cultural types might be pan-European, but not always typical of each particular culture. The structural analysis of contemporary cultural spaces that include different stratified cultures demands the development of a global structure that would encompass cultural diversity, multiculturalism, and intercultural dialogue as constituent elements of any type of contemporary national culture and the eventual cultural space in which it exists. In order to include numerous diverse and varied aspects of these potential cultural spaces in the context of globalism, cultural policy needs to concentrate almost exclusively on the communication, exchange, and cooperation among existing cultures and on the technological infrastructures that can enable the networking and interlinking of cultural spaces. The analytical attempts to design such an approach to culture have so far included interpretations of notions such as world culture, transnational culture, global culture, and global multiculture. Ulf Hannerz (1996:106) defines world culture as “an organized diversity” that is interconnected by the universality of cultural values. The concept of transnational culture interprets cultural borders as distinctive and the need to overcome them as a call for tolerance and understanding of others (Robins 2006). Jan Nederveen Pieterse (2007) sees cultural pluralism as a basis for the concept of global multiculture. It is derived from elements of ethnicity, multiethnicity, and multiculturalism that are encompassed by cultural globalism. However, cultural development and the role of cultural policies in this respect have not been extensively analyzed in the light of cultural productivity that might stream from intercultural communication within the context of globalism.

The identified cultural types reflect an inner developmental dynamics of national cultures (Švob-Đokić et al. 2014). Exposed to global influences they are changing identities through new types of cultural creativity and mutual connectivity. These incite national cultures to overstep their national boundaries and participate actively in cultural globalization trends. As the context of globalism has not yet been fully structured, the cultural re-identification processes might influence its formation by implanting a number of specialized cultural production areas.

A Case Illustrating the Stratification of a National Culture: Croatia

The identification of Croatian culture as “national” is associated with the libertarian bourgeois movements in mid-19th century and cultural and historical developments in the first half of 20th century, particularly those related to the First and Second World Wars.

The understanding of Croatian culture has evolved from romantic interpretations of culture as a framework for the standardization of Croatian language and identification of cultural heritage as “Croatian” to the inclusion of artistic production and creativity (plastic and fine arts, music, literature) into European traditions and the literary and artistic movements of the time. A view of culture as a comprehensive value system, as a type of production, and creativity has evolved by the mid-20th century, particularly with the development of film industry, audiovisual production, and modern arts. Technological advances became ever more influential and supportive of intensive cultural exchange and communication. Mediation of cultural communication largely contributed to cultural exchange. Notwithstanding the ups and downs of cultural development, the role of the state, formatted by both historical and political as well as European and global cultural influences, has been established as crucial. The state (whether independent republic or a republic within Yugoslavia) was in a position to either support or prevent certain types of cultural creativity. Its role deeply impacted the recent systemic cultural transition through the establishment and development of a cultural policy.

The re-definition of national culture, strong mediation, and mediatization of cultural creativity and the revision of cultural policy focused on Croatian cultural resources are seen here through the lens of cultural globalization and in the context of cultural globalism. Processes of re-definition of the Croatian national culture are here illustrated by changes of the concept of culture, changes in cultural communication, and by an overall reorientation of cultural policy.

The concept of culture. The holistic concept of Croatian national culture (identified through language, cultural inheritance, and types of cultural creativity) was slowly disintegrated through its modernization, re-identification, and openness to strong global technological influences in the framework of transitional processes. The initial understanding of culture remained based in the specialized activities supposed to constitute an interactive area of creativity: literature, plastic and fine arts, music, and other cultural branches. Such specialized fields are still operational and preserved as types of programs included within the institutional culture. The budget of the Ministry of Culture (Budget, Program Shares 2015) identifies the following cultural activity areas and their budget shares: management of culture (8% of the current budget), museums and galleries (10%), theaters and music (15%), libraries and printing industries (6%), audiovisuals and the media (8%), archives (9%), preservation of cultural heritage (26%), and other cultural activities (18%).

This split of supported programs reflects an understanding of culture as a sum of specialized cultural activities. The limited number of areas leaves a number of other creative and cultural activities and specializations aside and thus limits the understanding of culture to the concept of institutional culture, that is, the culture managed by the state. However, global cultural influences have largely widened the perceptions of cultural specializations and fields. They have introduced new interpretations of culture as “a critical self-reflection” that “makes it inclusive of practically everything” (Eagleton 2005:31). This is also connected with the anthropological understanding of culture as “a way of life.” The understanding of culture as an all-encompassing holistic area of life and creativity has supported a structural diversification of the cultural field, which is reflected in the growth of independent culture and the establishment of specialized cultural organizations, such as POGON—Zagreb center for independent culture and youth; Kulturpunkt (NGO Kurziv—The platform for issues of culture, media and society), cultural and dance centers and others. In 2011 the Kultura Nova Foundation dedicated to the development and co-financing of independent cultural scene was established (Zaklada Kultura nova 201. Ninety-three cultural NGOs active in different cultural fields are now registered in Croatia (Barada, Primorac, and Buršić 2016). As a result of systemic transition and diversified cultural consumption, a specialized cultural market has emerged and became clearly visible.

Cultural communication and the media. Global cultural influences have been largely transferred through printed and digitalized media. Easily accessible contents have met local interests in all cultural activities and expressions. As the media have generated processes of mediation and mediatization of culture (Hepp 2013) they have also included local networks in the distribution of cultural products.

All three identified types of the Croatian national culture have been submitted to strong interactive relations with different media. The contextualization of the media and the issuing processes of mediatization indicate that the role of different media in cultural mediatization is different, and that the results of media involvement in the cultural production and consumption are different. The varieties of such influences and impacts depend on the type of the media and on the cultural type and they produce a number of new cultural specializations embracing life styles, cooking, fashion, and interest in “traditional” cultural productions such as classical music, painting, and other.

Institutional culture is mediated and mediatized through the creation of information on the cultural production, organization, and functioning of cultural institutions. It often represents artists and their works and achievements, cultural activists and professionals, workers and managers who are in the most cases fully employed by cultural organizations and institutions (e.g., museums, orchestras, theatres, etc.). The information on cultural activities is produced by professionals employed either in the Ministry of Culture or by media organizations. Mediation mostly refers to the established print and electronic media organized under the principles of the mass media communication. The extension (Schulz 2004) of cultural information may take place online through websites of the established media organizations.

Independent culture is influenced by the media and mediatized through cultural activities (publishing, theater performances, film making, exhibitions, etc.) which are usually communicated online. Cultural creativity is de-territorialized, organized through projects, networked, and mostly virtual. The social position of cultural workers is not quite transparent. Communication depends on the interested public and may be quite restricted to the particular groups. The presentation and mediatization of this type of culture depends on the virtual and networked individual communication much more than on the institutionalized mass communication media. It is not submitted to the established professional standards, but rather follows creative interests of either educated or devoted public. Such communication may be quite flexible and open as it is only occasionally included in the processes of professional mediation by critics or the institutionalized media. This type of mediated communication provides for new values and highly individualized inspiration. It may be expressed in new productive efforts inclined toward the mediatization of cultural creativity.

Market-oriented culture uses the inspiration for cultural creativity and cultural products (that come from either institutional or independent culture) to place them on the market. This mostly takes place through the creation of cultural events, popular concerts, or popular performances. The cultural products may be re-packaged in order to become easily consumable. The communication of the contents and events within this cultural type are generally virtualized, and may be mediated through the TV, radio, and products of the cultural industries. The cultural production and consumption within this cultural type is clearly territorialized (in public premises, city squares, TV studios, etc.) but it nevertheless reaches large audiences. The mediatized cultural communication is largely shaped by, and oriented toward market logics.

The Croatian culture has been diversified according to the production, distribution, consumption, the use of cultural products, and the specific mode of cultural communication developed through the distribution and consumption. The presence and the role of the media depend at the same time and equally on their character and the general interests of specific media in cultural themes and issues. Moreover, the cultural production and cultural communication shaped by various media interact to generate mediatization processes. These are related to traditional mass communication abilities as well as to the mediatized connectivity, and may be organized by either established media organizations or by interested individuals. In this respect, “Mediatization…refers to the process of construction of socio-cultural reality by communication” and, “…in turn, existing specifics of certain media have a contextualized ‘influence’ on the process of communicative construction of socio-cultural reality“ (Hepp and Krotz 2014:3).

The structural analysis of contemporary cultural spaces opens the possibility to discuss specific characteristics of the Croatian culture as constituent elements of “long term structural transformations of the relation between media and modern society at large” (Hjarvard 2014:125). These “long term structural transformations” within the Croatian national culture indicate that there is certain compatibility between cultural types and the related media types. Such compatibility largely defines their interactions and the issuing communicative construction of the mediatized cultural realities that are strongly influenced by the cultural globalism and globalization of culture.

The identified Croatian cultural types are the result of ongoing wider social transformation processes, that is, of the transition from socialism to capitalism and of strong external globalization influences. Interactions among media and cultural productions, cultural creativity, and consumption are clearly visible in each identified cultural type. The parallel impacts of the media are reflected in the mediatized communication that has deeply influenced all these structural transformations and clearly indicated the existing and preferable relations between the types of media and the identified cultural types. Although culturally contextualized in all three identified cultural types, the processes of mediatization have nevertheless remained fluid and difficult to systematize.

Cultural policy. “In the early 1990s, the cultural policy of independent Croatia was politically and administratively centralized … with special emphasis on national traditions” (Primorac, Obuljen Koržinek, and Švob-Đokić 2014:2). The priority was given to “national interest” while the policy issues were formulated in rather general terms, “emphasizing market approach, freedom of creativity and professionalism.”

Efforts to further organize national cultural activities and deepen the elaboration of cultural policy issues were introduced through the inclusion of Croatia into the European Program of Evaluation of National Cultural Policies (Cvjetičanin and Katunarić 1999). The Croatian Ministry of Culture supported expert teams whose mission was to explicitly standardize Croatian cultural policy with European and global policy trends. A more balanced approach to cultural traditions, cultural pluralism, and multiculturalism was in line with the cultural reality of Croatia, and it was organizationally supported by the decentralization of cultural activities and public financial sources. This was reflected in the split of the public financing of culture, which was continuously decreasing. In 2013 the Ministry of Culture accounted for 38% of the public expenditure for culture, the share of towns, including the capital was 54%; while the participation of counties and municipalities was only 8% (Primorac, Obuljen Koržinek, and Švob-Đokić 2014:42, 43). Cooperation with a dynamically growing “independent” NGOs cultural sector, subsidized mostly by foreign foundations, was established.

The general objectives of cultural policy (such as observance of aesthetic and multiethnic cultural pluralism, creative autonomy, polycentric cultural development, cooperation between the public and the private sector and others) were proclaimed. These coincided with the cultural policy aims in most countries—48 signatory members of the Council of Europe—and reflected the intensions and efforts to integrate the Croatian cultural development into the frameworks of European cultures and cultural policies.

The Croatia in the 21st Century: Strategy of Cultural Development (Cvjetičanin and Katunarić 2003), passed in the Croatian Parliament in 2002, proclaimed an overall goal of Croatian cultural development: the democratization of culture. This goal was also supported by legal provisions and policy instruments such as the distribution of funds. It resulted in a continuously increasing cultural and media openness and communication, in growing bilateral and multilateral cultural cooperation, and in initial links between publicly supported and “independently” or privately subsidized cultural programs and projects. Cultural policy became better structured and more transparent.

Globalizing influences on such tendencies have been particularly visible in a growing interest in and openness toward new contents and genres (e.g., in plastic arts, theatrical experiments, modern dance, a hasty development of TV series, and others), in mediated and mediatized cultural values, contents, activities, and creativity; in an initial development of cultural industries and industrialization of cultural production, including design, fashion, and other; in emerging specialized, but small and fragile, cultural markets and the use of new technologies in cultural production. Notwithstanding the transfer of cultural policy standards, the cultural policy in Croatia remained focused on the institutionalized national and local levels and hardly interested in rationalizing the global influences.


Cultural Policies’ Responses to Cultural Stratification

In the aforementioned interpretations of cultural globalism, the role and position of cultural policies have not been fully addressed. Although cultural policies have experienced changes in their roles, functioning, and scope, they are not quite adapted to the ongoing cultural stratification that has occurred through cultural development formatted by globalism and globalized cultural contexts and that is largely influenced by the still ongoing globalization processes. Cultural policies have diversified and expanded into different cultural strata and various cultural organizations, but remain feebly interlinked and mainly un-systematized.

In the institutional culture, the position and functioning of cultural policies have been best preserved. Within this type of culture cultural institutions are well established and their functioning is organized and planned by the state administration. Even when decentralized to the local and city levels, cultural policies follow general administrative, organizational, and financial rules. Moreover, they remain “…oriented primarily toward supporting supply side, while the demand side (users’ expectations and needs) that points to the relevance of cultural offer in the present day context to the present day audience has not been tackled adequately” (Primorac, Obuljen Koržinek, and Uzelac 2015:17). Cultural production within such frameworks may be repetitive, but it clearly reflects standards of creativity and consumption developed in line with the standards set by the state and by national cultural identification frameworks. In this sense, it widely supports cultural professionalism and is interested in presenting its results internationally.

The independent culture is supported by foundations, whether private or public, and follows manifold and multidirectional aims. Cultural policy is eventually developed by very different NGOs or professional cultural and media associations, as well as by individual small enterprises. At the same time the frameworks for cultural production and creativity are designed by the interested sponsors, often in cooperation with the artists and producers concerned. The need for flexibility and temporary orientations in creativity and production mean that planning and relative stability in cultural creativity are rare. This prevents stable financing of cultural actions and programs. Participants in independent culture accept such risks and short-term projects that may have very interesting results, or may fail. Professionalism is rarely seen as a value; instead, inspiration, and approval of outcomes that may shock are valued. In this respect the actors of independent culture rely increasingly on co-creative projects (e.g., in film industry). A visible orientation to an eventual policy approach is focused on co-production, cooperation, and communication among involved actors.

Market-oriented culture is clearly governed by the rules of the market. The “invisible hand of the market” organizes cultural and artistic professionals and creators and follows just one rule: profit making. Artistic and cultural creativity produces quick results, and there are no limits to either professional or value considerations. The interaction with various audiences is intensive and momentary, rapidly negotiated, and responsive to all kinds of sensitivities. Cultural policies only relate to temporary projects with limited content, and to technological innovations that may support cultural consumption. In practical terms, cultural policy appears to be a policy of response to market interests, which also includes the attempt to adapt or even change the structure and character of cultural markets.

The interactions among the identified cultural strata and cultural policies developed within them are not clearly visible. It is not entirely clear what links could be established among different strata, and how. Processes of cultural policy making do not provide for better communication and interaction among different cultural strata, and cultural policy making remains strongly connected to the role of the state (Hartley et al. 2013:69–73) within the institutional culture. Policy actors within the independent and market-oriented culture are less transparent and less interested in defining any cultural policy.

A certain proliferation of cultural policies is, however, visible at the level of cultural organizations, associations, networks, cultural industries, and cities and regions. They each formulate some kind of cultural policy for themselves and their needs, and there is no visible interlinking of such policies. Even if, and when, the state offers some support to the activities of these organizations as part of the defined aims of cultural policies, this does not lead to processes that may help to standardize or systematize a large number of specialized cultural policies. In this respect, cultural policy has been reduced to an instrument (often identified with “cultural strategy”) that may eventually be useful, but that may serve very different aims. The development of such an instrument may be supported by national state aid or investment, but this is not offered permanently and cannot reach a large number of cultural organizations and cultural industries. Many among them also do not want to lose their relatively independent autonomous positions, their opportunities to function flexibly, and to develop programs and activities that they can direct at various audiences through different markets.

Even if cultural stratification in Southeast European culture is not always fully transparent and even if cultures do not always display the same cultural subtypes, they do reflect processes of cultural deinstitutionalization and the general transformation of attitudes toward culture. In relation to cultural spaces, cultural policies have been only partly de- and re-constructed, and this has intensified discussions about their nature, scope, and functioning. In a way, the concept of national culture has been dissolved within the concept of cultural space, but this also remains rather vague. As cultural dynamics reflect the increase in cultural production, exchange and communication, and the intensity of cultural exchanges, cultural policies can be slow to adapt to the state of globalism that is reflected in a wider and not clearly defined notion of cultural space. Although cultural policies remain predominantly confined to national cultural spaces and to the strata of institutionalized cultures, they increasingly need to conceptualize various possible types of cultural surroundings and spaces, which might help them to adapt and thus to improve their functioning and flexibility.

In the context of globalism, cultural policies might encourage ideas of democratic governance to be introduced within cultural spaces. They may strengthen relationships between local and national cultural policy levels and reflect both global and local influences on cultural policy making. However, the relationship between cultural policies and markets that demand liberalized cultural exchanges in the context of globalism remains undefined. There is a divergence between the interests of publicly supported cultural institutions, workers, and artists on the one hand, and consumers as individual users of cultural goods and values on the other.

The question is whether the transformation of cultural policies through the enlargement of their scope to global surroundings (Kleberg 2002) might be possible. When they refer strictly to the institutionalized (and state-supported) culture they diminish their scope, and their functionality is reduced even if such policies may be reproduced and adapted to local cultures at subnational or regional levels. When the existing national policies refer to globalized contexts, as for example in the case of audiovisual productions, their role is restricted and minor in comparison to market influences, technological prerogatives, or policies of large integrations such as the European Union. Moreover, their possibility to integrate into global markets is vulnerable both conceptually and financially. This is, for example, seen when cultural policies support specialized cultural networks that integrate cultural agents through projects and defined tasks which need not be influenced by state cultural interests (Švob-Đokić 2011). Networks remain far more flexible, often less professional and less permanent, which limits possible cultural policy influences on them. Furthermore, the notion of cultural space scarcely contextualizes the possibilities for cultural policies to function at horizontal local, national, and regional levels. In this sense, the here identified cultural stratification remains almost untouched by national cultural policies and their outcomes at either local or regional levels.

A Concluding Note

In an effort to trace the recent processes of cultural change in Southeast European post-socialist countries, a type of cultural stratification driven by global influences is identified as an indicator of new cultural settings and of redefined cultural spaces. The context of globalism and global influences are supportive of a holistic concept that sees culture as a complex, innovative, and adaptive system of values, not strictly limited by state borders. In this respect impacts of new technologies and intensive cultural communication are particularly valued. Global influences inspire an inner restructuration of national cultures and directly affect their structures. Such restructuration is generally reflected in: constantly increasing and intensive cultural exchange empowered by new technologies and the media; technological impacts on cultural production and creativity particularly visible in the development of cultural and creative industries; permanent growth of cultural distribution and consumption of cultural products, connected to the emergence and development of cultural markets; and, in an increased participation in culture, particularly through the processes of co-creativity. Moreover, these global influences are ever more reflected in cultural creativity and new types of cultural sensitivity, which is particularly sustained by individual artists and, in organizational sense, by NGOs devoted to cultural activities.

The response of the newly established cultural policies to such new cultural developments may be crucial. However the Southeast European cultural policies are only partly responding to the new challenges of cultural growth and restructuration. Their focus remains within the concept of a national culture, diversified by regional and local cultures and influences, but not oriented to the wider global cultural scope. In this respect, the efforts have been invested in addressing culture as a resource that influences social cohesion, increases knowledge of different cultures, and promotes identity aspects. It can be said that the attempts by cultural policies to adapt to the state of globalism have been weak and not fully transparent. Their adaptation to globalism may have turned them into not quite clearly defined instruments that may have potential to mainstream creativity into cultural and art production, which may help the positioning of a culture in the global cultural space and context. At the same time Southeast European cultural policies largely miss an orientation to programs that focus on cultural production, innovation, smart specialization, cultural trade, intellectual property regulation, and other globally relevant issues.

The case of Croatian culture illustrates well the position of a culture fully exposed to the European and global cultural influences. It exists in between the efforts to preserve some of its own traditions and values on one side, and to adapt to global cultural exchange and communication on the other. In the global context the success or failure of such adaptation is an issue of creativity and innovation.


Image Attribution: By Zeitblick (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



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