On Veridiction: The Case of Art in the European Welfare State


The seventeenth annual meeting of the Foucault Circle

Los Angeles, California
March 23-25, 2017
(hosted by Loyola Marymount University)

In this paper, we focus on Foucault’s term “veridiction” and explore how it can illuminate the recent developments in governing the arts in European welfare states. For Foucault in Biopolitics, the market becomes something like “nature,” a site and principle of veridiction (verification-falsification) of liberal governmental practice. Foucault develops veridiction along two lines, exchange and utility, which together form the principal “interplay of interests” in liberal and neoliberal governmentality (45). Foucault talks about the process of veridiction developing in the 18th century involving “a number of technicians who brought with them both methods and instruments of reflection” (33), but he never really elaborates on the details of these methods and instruments in Biopolitics. Instead, he traces the liberal and neoliberal governmentality as a “number of economic problems” that are then “given a theoretical form” (33). We are interested in the concrete instruments of veridiction and the different forms calculability they produce in the realm of art and culture. Understood as metrologies, we argue, these forms of veridiction constitute a critical but under-examined development of neoliberal governmental practice.

In a welfare state context, the governance of art and culture has been comparatively exempt from sustained references to the market, and thus from the processes of veridiction. However, recent decades have seen this situation change. In the 1960s and 1970s most European states formed Ministries of Culture and they quickly developed concrete forms of governmental intervention. At first the focus was on policy goals such as democratization and increased access to excellent art. More recently, however, the focus has been on developing cultural policy into industrial policy, and into policies of sustainability and social cohesion. In this respect, the market is now undeniably an important site of veridiction for the governance of art and culture.

And here, precisely, we find the most heated debates about the arts and culture: what should act as the “nature” against which the right level and type of intervention is measured? Should art and culture be managed in the name of some merit good, such as human creativity, a just society (democracy and social cohesion)? Or should the arts belong more strictly to the economy and thus be a feature of city development and the creative economy? Or are there other sets of values that perhaps provide a better background against which to measure investments into art and culture, values such as sustainability or health? The contemporary governance of art and culture is desperately seeking the right kind of “nature” against which it can posit and justify the right level and type of governmental interventions: the right level of incentives, the exact number of subsidies and tax breaks; the relevant kinds of arts and culture programs for achieving diverse forms of sustainability—economic, social, cultural and environmental.



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