Cultural governmentality and the role of state: The cases from Finland and Estonia

Maros Krivy (Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia)

In line with Foucault’s observation of a paradox of neo-liberal politics defined by an objective to abolish politics, I analyse urban planning tendency defined by an objective to abolish planning through stimulation of citizens’ participation. The focus is on how the instrument of ‘culture’ is employed in the objective to make citizens participate. Such process could be conceived as governmentality rather than governance. Contrary to governance, governmentality conceptualizes the process, in which state preserves its important role in managing populations, yet its task shifts from provision to activation of these populations.

How, in the context of welfare system (Finland) and post-socialist market system (Estonia), is the instrument of ‘culture’ used in this management? Helsinki’s Suvilahti is conceived by planners as a place of spontaneous cultural activities, but this is justified by ‘cultural offer’ for inhabitants of nearby regenerated waterfront. In Turku ECoC 2011, social problems were individualized and culture was conceived as an antidote. Free tickets to cultural events were distributed through local health stations; doctors assessed which events would be most effective for patients’ condition. Tallinn ECoC 2011 hoped to integrate marginalized spaces and communities by ‘giving them voice’, but little was achieved. The label ‘culture’ was used to frame existing initiatives.

The cases evidence instrumentalization of culture in two different ways. Finnish municipalities are strong, use ‘culture’ to stimulate citizens’ participation and thus hide their own strength. In Tallinn, ‘culture’ manifests municipality’s presence, but its real power to care for the city’s spaces and its citizens is limited.

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