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A Pragmatic Intellectual: Dutch Fabians, Boekman, and Cultural Policy in the Netherlands, 1890-1940
International Journal for Cultural Policy
Special Issue: Intellectuals and Cultural Policy (Part 1)
Around 1900, the notion of community art (gemeenschapskunst) served to crystallize Dutch social democratic thinking about the role of the arts in society. Drawing on the pragmatism of leading social democrats like Wibaut, and drawing on his formal education in economics and statistics, the self‐made social democrat Emanuel Boekman redressed the utopian meaning of community art to signify the dissemination of "good" culture over all layers of society in his influential 1939 dissertation on the relation of the state to the arts. Being about facts rather than opinions, Boekman set the boundaries of his work to exclude a substantial discussion of the meaning of "good" culture. On the one hand, this pragmatism helped Boekman to gain support for government intervention for the arts over most of the political spectrum. On the other hand, Boekman thus pre‐empted discussions about the tension between "quality" and "accessibility" of the arts that haunts cultural policy in the Netherlands to this day.
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