Cultural Democracy:

A Brief Introduction

by Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard

© Copyright Adams and Goldbard 1990, 1995

Cultural democracy is not a complicated idea, though its applications can become very complex. It encompasses several interrelated concepts:

All these aspects of cultural life result from human agency; they're not built into nature, like rocks or the weather. We can affect them; but what's more, cultural democracy emphasizes that we must somehow be engaged in affecting and sustaining them if culture is to be vital and alive.

Culture, in this sense, is an all-encompassing idea: it contains the arts, politics, the built environment, and the entire array of voluntary activities that are part of human life. If we"re to act effectively in the world, we have to understand the interrelatedness of all aspects of culture, rather than succumbing to the view that each aspect is a specialized enclave, best left to experts. In short, culture must be seen as a public interest.

Arlene Goldbard and Don Adams are writers and consultants in organizational and cultural development. They established their consulting firm, Adams & Goldbard, in 1978, and have been based in Seattle, Washington since 1997.

This essay is adapted from "Cultural Policy and Cultural Democracy," Chapter 11 of Crossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture, (Talmage, CA: DNA Press, 1990, pp. 107-109). Crossroads is available from DNA Press, P.O. Box 30061, Seattle, WA 98117-4836 USA for $13.95 (check or money order), postpaid to addresses in the United States.

For a slightly longer Adams & Goldbard essay defining cultural democracy with more historical perspective, see Cultural Democracy: Introduction to an Idea

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© copyright The Institute for Cultural Democracy 1995, 1998