Shortcut Europe 2010:
Cultural Policies and Social Exclusion

In close cooperation with the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Kulturpolitische Ge-sellschaft, Fonds Soziokultur will be holding a European convention in Dortmund from 3 to 6 June 2010 in the context of »RUHR.2010«, the European Capital of Culture. Other partners of the convention are the Bundesvereinigung Soziokultureller Zentren and the Bundesverband der Jugendkunstschulen und kulturpädagogischen Einrichtungen, as well as their European associa-tions, the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC) and arts4all, the European art school network. The Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft is responsible for organising the convention.

Context and goals

This will thus be the second time that Fonds Soziokultur e.V. has held an international conven-tion in the framework of the »Shortcut Europe« series of European events, which was established in Copenhagen in 1996. The first conference in Germany, the subject of which was »Culture & Conflict«, was held in Weimar in 1999 in the context of the Cultural Capital of Europe. In the coming year, the Cultural Capital of Europe RUHR.2010 will be the programmatic and regional context of Shortcut Europe 2010, the sixth event in the series. Sociocultural centres and players from the whole of Europe will be invited to discuss the theory and practice, situation and pros-pects of socioculture in Europe, and to intensify the exchange of experience and networking of European sociocultural centres and players. In terms of content, the event will focus on the ques-tion of whether and to what extent socioculture succeeds in contributing to active cultural par-ticipation of »educationally deprived« social strata, and on discussing the relationship between social and cultural exclusion in its programmes and practice.
In this way, Fonds Soziokultur and its partners are reacting to the EU initiative to address topics of social inclusion, the fight against poverty and social exclusion, in 2010. RUHR.2010 likewise wants to be a »Capital of Culture for All« (Fritz Pleitgen) and has therefore formulated »social participation« as a goal and developed concrete measures. Cultural participation has become a key concept in the cultural policy debate, also at the European level.


The convention is primarily aimed at institutions and players from the »sociocultural scene« in the broader sense. So, the addressees are not only the representatives of sociocultural centres (as defined in Germany), but also cultural centres for children and young people, as well as institu-tions of cultural neighbourhood and community work that have an interdisciplinary orientation and are committed to sociocultural ideas (keywords: empowerment, setting orientation, inclusive orientation, intercultural orientation). Institutions and players in the Member States of the Euro-pean Union will be invited.

Discussion forum

To accompany the convention, we want to launch a discussion forum in »Kulturpolitische Mit-teilungen« and on the convention website to be created at, in order to discuss the topic of »Cultural Policies and Social Exclusion« in the context of cultural policy and address a larger circle of interested parties. This discussion process will start with thoughts from Norbert Sievers, Reinhold Knopp and Jochen Molck, who outline the context of justification in social and cultural policy and formulate questions to be discussed at the convention.
Kurt Eichler

Culture not for all? Cultural policy and social participation


»All citizens must fundamentally be put in a position to avail themselves of [cultural] offerings in every sector and in every degree of specialisation. The time expended and the financial burden incurred in this context must be such that no income-specific barriers arise. Neither money nor unfavourable working hours, neither family nor children, nor the lack of private means of trans-port may be allowed to constitute long-term obstacles that make it impossible to utilise offerings or engage in corresponding activities.« (Hoffmann 1979: 11)
No lesser person than the former Head of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Frank-furt, Hilmar Hoffmann, formulated this mandate of public cultural policy some 30 years ago. His democratic vision, and that of many of his fellow campaigners, was to make cultural participa-tion possible for as many people as possible, if not everyone. What has become of this Utopia?

First desideratum: cultural participation

Even though the research situation regarding cultural participation tends to be rather meagre, it can nonetheless be noted, despite the impressive statistics on the utilisation of cultural offerings, that the notion of a steadily growing interest in culture cannot be empirically confirmed – at least in terms of the time expended on cultural activities. A comparison of the Time Budget Surveys conducted by the Federal Statistical Office in 1991/92 and 2001/02 reveals that this ten-year pe-riod saw no significant growth in the amount of time spent on cultural participation (see Ehling 2005: 95).1 This finding is all the more remarkable in that the prerequisites for cultural participa-tion – more purchasing power, more leisure time, higher formal school qualifications and a mas-sive increase in the number of offerings – have improved substantially in the last few decades. So, the improvement in the framework conditions has apparently not led, or no longer led, to general growth of cultural participation. The anticipated “elevator effect”, meaning the raising of the level of cultural participation to greater heights, has not materialised – at least not to an ex-tent reflecting the wealth and diversity achieved in the cultural offerings provided with the help of public and private funding.
Should it be empirically borne out, this situation is more than disconcerting for cultural policy which, after all, generally justifies the expansion of the offerings with the aim of wanting to reach more people and intensify cultural participation. However, it must acknowledge the fact that cultural interest is not available in unlimited quantities, but instead a scarce resource for which numerous providers compete. The expansion of public cultural offerings in the framework of the New Cultural Policy of the last three decades, the competition of private providers in the leisure and cultural sector and, above all, the attention that the (digital) media tie up, have cre-ated a new situation: the options available to potential culture users have grown enormously. The result is that interest in culture is not only increased, but also divided and redistributed among the wide variety of private and public leisure-time offerings. The quantitative growth and the diver-sity of cultural offerings today encounter differentiated demand, but not necessarily an adequate increase in the number of participants and users or a larger time budget for culture as a whole. Although there are more visits, there are not necessarily more visitors – a fact that cultural statis-tics usually suppress or do not reveal.

Social selectivity of culture utilisation

Simply on the basis of this fact, it is in the well-understood self-interest of cultural policy to ex-amine the orientation of the offerings of cultural policy and ask how further “clients” can be re-cruited. The change of perspective necessary to this end is moreover recommendable for another reason: the social selectivity of cultural participation that still exists and on which war was de-clared with the slogan »Culture for All« as long ago as in the 1970s, albeit without achieving any great impact. It may have proven possible to develop a new interest in culture in the framework of the offering-oriented New Cultural Policy, as also confirmed in a concrete increase in the number of visits at the regional, sectoral and institution-specific level, but the primary goal of enabling all segments of the population to participate in the public cultural offering was nowhere near achieved.
Half of all people are still left out, and only 5-10% of the population constitute the dependable core of frequent users, for whom ever more providers compete and for whom more and more, and increasingly exclusive, offerings were made available at public expense in the last three dec-ades. And in this context, there is still a clear relationship between education, social status and cultural participation. The »cultural divide« between users and non-users of cultural institutions, who can be clearly distinguished on the basis of social criteria, has even grown, rather than shrinking (see Opaschowski 2005: 211 ff.). Above all, education is a highly effective indicator. The audience for culture is an audience with advanced-level school-leaving certificates.2 In other words: the relationship between social exclusion and cultural exclusion is becoming more rigid. Paradoxically, all the more so – relatively speaking – the more offerings are created.
This is not only the case in Germany. Comparable developments have also been described in other European countries (see Ehling 2005: 94). For example, the Director of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Pius Knüsel, points out »a few explosive facts from the cultural sector«, because there, too, as a result of the increase in the number of cultural institutions, there has ap-parently been »mainly an increase in the frequency of utilisation by the already culture-loving public« and the number of producers has been increased, while the many people who were sup-posed to be reached continue to »enjoy themselves in front of the small screen« (Knüsel 2005: 9). Statistics on the leisure-time behaviour of the Swiss, published a few years ago, stated »that 80% never, or only very rarely, see a theatre, an opera house or a museum from the inside«. Even the cinema was not faring much better, with »71% (almost total) abstainers« (ibid.: 11).
The legitimatory burdens and the risks contained in these findings for cultural policy, which set out with the motto »Culture for All« in Western Germany some 40 years ago, are greater than the players in this policy field generally admit, particularly as they do not describe the end of a development, but probably only the start. There are many reasons for this: the change in cultural interests (particularly the declining interest of young people in classical music), demographic trends, the constantly growing importance of Internet-based media, and also socioeconomic de-velopments in the European countries, especially the growing divide between »poor« and »rich«.

Culture and poverty

The debates about the development of poverty in the European countries have acquired a new quality since the late 1990s. The focus is now no longer solely on the question as to the social differences between »top« and »bottom«. Rather, attention in the social science debate is more directed at problem situations that go hand-in-hand with social disintegration. Under the heading »exclusion«, the central question is whether long-term unemployment and poverty exclude peo-ple from participation options to such an extent that we must speak of an »inside« and »outside« or an »outside« in the »inside«. This »exclusion in society« (Martin Kronauer) becomes particu-larly obvious in view of child poverty (the figures vary between 17% and 26%), the poverty risk of singles, or also the threat of old-age poverty. Exclusion no longer affects ›only‹ fringe groups. People experience social exclusion in many spheres of society, without being able to escape the institutional framework. They experience failure in the school system, when applying for jobs, in their residential neighbourhood, etc. They experience that they are not needed, and they feel su-perfluous. Subjectively experienced disintegration of this kind has far-reaching consequences for social participation, and ultimately for the democratic system – all the way to non-participation in elections.
Today, the insecurity of the social situation and the threat of declassing or marginalisation ex-tends right into the middle of society. The socioeconomic status of the formerly broad middle class has deteriorated significantly. The last Report on Poverty and Wealth of the Federal Gov-ernment shows that the gap between »poor« and »rich« in Germany is becoming increasingly wide, and at a rate that surprises even critical experts (see Winkler 2007: 30). In 2005, 50% of all households only possessed just under 4% of the total net assets, while 47% of these total assets were owned by the richest 10% of all households. »The poverty rate rose by 50% between 1998 and 2005, from 12% to 18%; that means four million poor people, and the trend remains un-changed« (Berger 2008). So, it comes as no surprise that there is again talk of the class society. Ten million people are said to be entitled to claim Hartz IV unemployment benefits or social se-curity, which makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate in cultural of-ferings. These people can quite simply no longer afford theatre or opera tickets, if they ever could or wanted to. This, too, makes it evident that more and more people are being forced into a marginal situation »that they experience as social and cultural exclusion« (Winkler 2007: 30).
More important than this, however, is the fear of social decline. Only in May 2009 did a study by GfK-Marktforschung on behalf of »Welt am Sonntag« reveal that 28.4% of people in Germany fear that the persistent economic crisis could lead to their social decline (ddp of 9.5.09). For ever-larger social groups, these subjectively experienced threats are having problematic conse-quences that can manifest themselves not only in growing pressure to keep up and greater com-petition, but also in resignation and withdrawal. ›Perceived poverty‹ nowadays reaches much further into the middle class, leading to a situation where many people exclude themselves from public life before they are in fact excluded in sociostructural terms. That is not a good prerequi-site for cultural participation, at least not if what is meant is behaviour that does not remain re-duced to passive consumption of media entertainment offerings.
However, social exclusion has not only a material dimension. It means not only exclusion from the acquisition of goods and services needed to live, and also not only the reduction of chances of social participation, but also has consequences for the personality development of every indi-vidual affected. The individualised society, relieved of the burden of traditional systems of meaning and obligation, does not result solely in growing freedom and diversity – and certainly not for everyone – but also increases the subjective demands on the development of stable identi-ties. If »social patterns for everyday life … (lose) their utility« and »the meaning of life (be-comes) the personal responsibility of the subjects« (Keupp 2007: 20 ff.) because supporting »meta-narratives« have lost their power of conviction or are no longer registered, then the ques-tion arises as to who can compensate for these missing prerequisites and who can not. Patchwork identities are not to everyone’s taste.
Not everyone has self-organisation skills, e.g. »self-care« (Michel Foucault), »self-embedding« (Heiner Keupp) or »politics of lifestyle« (Anthony Giddens), and not everyone is equally capable of acquiring them.3 Rather, they also decide the issues of social exclusion, inequality and the risk of social disintegration, because the conditions for individual identity development and success-ful socialisation differ widely and correspond to the social situation. It will have to be assumed in this context that, while the greater demands on personal identity work affect every individual, their problematic consequences accumulate at the lower end of the income scale because sover-eignty in life and self-organisation presuppose sufficient material security and cultural skills. Their ›distribution‹ is, however, characterised by social inequality.
This relationship between social and cultural disadvantages, or the meshing of the old, vertical social inequality with a ›new‹ structure of cultural difference, including the associated cultural skills, is not new, but was already to be seen twenty years ago.4 However, the social issue is in-creasingly coming to the fore again today.

Socioculture: strategies against social exclusion?

»Socioculture is the attempt (…) to comprehend art as a communication medium – as a way, and a very important one, of bringing together a plural society (and thus a society fragmented into diverse individual interests, conflicts of interests and communication barriers) at the ›communi-cative‹ level.« (Glaser/Stahl 1974: 25 f.)
In the cultural policy concept of Hermann Glaser, the former Head of the Cultural Affairs De-partment of the City of Nuremberg and pioneer of many sociocultural projects and models (e.g. the »Culture Shops«), socioculture was a political and integrative concept. His aim was to ad-dress the problem of culture as »stratum-specific experience« and the associated »social alloca-tion limits«. He did not and does not want to see culture as a »ceremonious occasion for the spirit«, but as an »everyday affair« that people can approach in an »unceremonious« and »care-free« manner, and called for the development of strategies that make it possible to communicate culture in a »non-affirmative« spirit (ibid.: 29). His »cultural curriculum« envisaged »latitude« that offers people in search of their identity possibilities for finding their identity and prepares them for »social change«: in »playing through (thinking through, feeling through) options« (ibid.: 35). For him, cultural policy was inextricably linked to the »adventure of democracy«, to emancipation, justice and inclusion: the »civil right of culture«. In this context, he saw the term socioculture as being a »makeshift« that was to retain its justification for as long as the demands formulated by him were not fulfilled.
The programme of Fonds Soziokultur is committed to this tradition and consciously picks up on it with the »Shortcut Europe 2010« convention, in order to update it and discuss it in the light of the new situation and in a European context. Can cultural policy, can cultural work, cultural edu-cation and cultural teaching develop strategies to counter social exclusion? Do they even still perceive the social facts in society? Can and should socioculture have an integrative effect, when diversity is being recommended everywhere as a desirable cultural pattern deserving promotion? Can cultural education actually be helpful on a broad basis in the personality development of children and young people, and communicate cultural techniques that enable a self-determined life? Does it reach the people who need this help? Is equal opportunity still a goal of cultural pol-icy and can/should cultural work have a compensatory effect? What contribution can it make to the meaning of life, quality of life and joy of life through the arts and culture becoming possible for everyone? Can cultural participation be comprehended as a counterforce, and where does overestimation of the capabilities begin, the decline into a low-cost repair business?
To what extent do sociocultural centres and projects succeed in enabling cultural participation of as many social groups as possible? Is the theoretically formulated ambition of »Culture for All« still present in people’s minds, and what do things look like in practice? Who does culture or cul-tural work target? The middle of society or inclusion of its fringes? Are there new approaches and methods of activating cultural work and empowerment in European socioculture? Are there common points of reference for alternative action to the cultural mainstream, also in collabora-tion with the established cultural institutions? To what extent have these institutions adopted so-ciocultural experiences and approaches? Where are there points of reference to art projects that oppose social exclusion and discrimination? Where is exemplary, model work done that would be worth imitating? Who are the players and the addressees of a new »Culture for All«? What is the situation as regards their institutional and financial working conditions? What is seen to be the future of this field of practice?
These questions are to be the focus of the convention, not only at the cultural policy level as re-gards the demands on cultural work, but also with respect to pragmatic approaches to solutions. How can culture be opened up? What consequences does this have for the structuring of admis-sion prices or reduction systems? What measures can the institutions really implement without getting into financial difficulty themselves? Must cultural work include more outreach activities, i.e. go out to the people who do not come of their own accord, and how can ties to the respective institution then be established? What cultural projects and cultural offerings are capable of reach-ing people who otherwise do not come, or no longer come? How is it possible to address young people from socially disadvantaged situations, in particular? How can key persons, who »open doors« for others, be qualified and integrated into the institutions (key work approach), without this impeding the work of the institutions, but enriching it instead?
These and other questions are to be discussed at the convention on the basis of experience from European practice – as a contribution of the cultural sector to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010, and as a communication forum for sociocultural players who are still committed to realising the civil right of culture.
Norbert Sievers, Reinhold Knopp, Jochen Molck
Although there are more visits, there are not necessarily more visitors
– a fact that cultural statistics usually suppress or do not reveal.


Berger, Jens (2008): Mogelpackung Armutsbericht,
Ehling, Manfred (2005): Zeit für Freizeit und kulturelle Aktivitäten. Ergebnisse aus Zeitbudgeterhebungen, in: Institut für Kulturpolitik der Kulturpolitischen Gesellschaft (ed.), Jahrbuch für Kulturpolitik 2005, Thema: Kulturpublikum, Bonn/Essen, p. 87-97
Hoffmann, Hilmar (1979): Kultur für alle. Perspektiven und Modelle, Frankfurt/Main
Glaser, Hermann / Stahl, Karl-Heinz (1974): Die Wiedergewinnung des Ästhetischen. Perspektiven und Modelle einer neuen Soziokultur, Munich
Keupp, Heiner (2008): Sozialpsychologische Dimension der Teilhabe, in: Maedler, Jens (ed.), TeilHabeNichtse. Chancengleichheit und kulturelle Bildung, Munich, p. 20-26
Knüsel, Pius (2005): Langes Werben, zäher Widerstand. Neue Paradigmen für die Kulturförderung, in: Passagen, No. 40, 2005/06
Krings, Eva / Roters, Andreas / Sievers, Norbert / Siewert, Jörg / Zühlke, Werner (1990): Bausteine für eine kommu-nikativ und ökologisch orientierte Kulturpolitik, in: Kulturpolitische Mitteilungen No. 51, IV 1990, p. 16-21
Opaschowski, Horst W. (2005): Die kulturelle Spaltung der Gesellschaft. Die Schere zwischen Besuchern und Nicht-Besuchern öffnet sich weiter, in: Institut für Kulturpolitik der Kulturpolitischen Gesellschaft (ed.), Jahrbuch für Kultur-politik 2005, Thema: Kulturpublikum, Bonn/Essen, p. 211-217
Winkler, Michael (2007): Unterschicht, Kultur und soziale Arbeit. Eine andere Geschichte, in: Maedler, Jens (ed.), TeilHabeNichtse. Chancengleichheit und kulturelle Bildung, Munich, p. 27-38

Social facts in Germany

»2.5 million children and young people in Germany receive welfare benefits. That is twice as many as in 2004.«
Source: Deutscher Kinderschutzbund (2008)

»14 percent of the people who still counted as middle-class in 2000 are now living in poverty.«
Source: Report on Poverty and Wealth of the Federal Government (2008)

»In Germany, people are defined as poor if they live on less than 880 euros per month. That is 60 percent of the average net income. On that basis, 18 percent of Germans are poor.«
Source: German Institute for Economic Research (2007)

»42 percent of single parents live on Hartz IV benefits. Single mothers and fathers are thus the group with the highest poverty risk.«
Source: Confederation of German Trade Unions (2008)

»40 percent of children from poorer families are members of a sports club, compared to 72 percent of children from affluent families. Only four percent attend courses at a music school. 11 percent read books or magazines every day. 23 percent never read. The situation is reversed among children from affluent families: 46 percent ready every day, three percent never.«
Source: World Vision Child Study (2007)

»6.5 million people work in the low-wage sector. That is 22 percent of all employed persons and 43 per-cent more than in 1995.«
Source: Institute for Work, Skills and Training (2008)

»Collectively agreed wages in Eastern Germany:
5.50 euros is the hourly wage of a meat cutter in Saxony.
3.22 euros is the hourly wage of a horticultural worker in Thuringia.
3.05 is the hourly wage of a hairdresser in Brandenburg.«
Source: WSI Collective Agreement Archive (2008)

»The gross wages in the lower income segment fell by 1.9 percent between 1995 and 2005. The salaries of the management boards of the thirty largest German joint stock companies rose by 300 percent over the same period.«
Source: German Institute for Economic Research (2007)

»Only 55 percent of all employed persons still have a classical full-time job today.«
»Almost one employee in two is nowadays engaged in atypical employment. That includes mini-jobs, one-euro jobs, part-time work, limited-term jobs and temporary work.«
Source: Institute for Employment Research (2008)

»Almost 20 percent fewer children can swim in the lower class than in the upper class. Roughly half of all pupils of special schools spend two hours and more per day in front of the television.«
Source: World Vision Child Study (2007)

All data taken from: Friedrichs, Julia / Müller, Eva / Baumholt, Boris (2009): Deutschland Dritter Klasse. Leben in der Unterschicht, Hamburg (Hoffman und Kampe)

1 Ehling (ibid.) even assumes that the coming decades in Germany will see a declining trend in the »utilisation and practice of traditional cultural activities«. However, the time expended on cultural activities is not equivalent to the frequency of utilisation of cultural offerings. For instance, it may well be that the number of visits to events has in-creased, even though the average time spent on cultural activities has declined. Time expenditure is nevertheless an effective indicator for cultural interest.
2 However, this does not mean that the increasing number of higher-level school and university qualifications auto-matically leads to greater utilisation of cultural offerings. For example, Ehling (2005: 95) was able to prove empiri-cally that the expansion of education in the 1970s did not lead to a continuous increase in cultural activities. Rather, he assumes that socialisation in the parental home plays a greater role than the standard of education when it comes to the development of cultural interests and concrete cultural participation.
3 Winkler (2007: 31) speaks of an overload situation, in which many people find themselves as a result of the pro¬cess of individualisation, and sees an »existential drama«: »The enforced and actually empty freedom leads to a situation of ›loss of security‹ and ›desocialisation‹.«
4 To quote the »Elements for communicative and ecologically oriented cultural policy«, for example: »The old, verti-cal structure of social inequality (and the associated lifestyles and social milieus) is increasingly being overlapped by a new, horizontal structure of cultural difference. While social pluralisation follows the hierarchical logic of the two-thirds society, the lifestyles and the notions of a successful life are fanning out in all strata and milieus. In other words, the economic structural change is being accompanied by a change in lifestyles and orientations, i.e. by cultural modernisation – with its own winners and losers, who can be identified not only socially, but also on a regional scale.« (Krings et al. 1990: 16 ff.)

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