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This report is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

Letter from Paris Robert Julian
Even today the politics of culture in France goes back to Malraux. In 1959 he transformed the ominously named Ministry of Information into a Ministry aimed to foster "popular culture through images, mass education by radio and to make expanded use of opinion polls". At least the first two of these orientations, and indeed much of the ambition of the Ministry, remain largely the same thirty years later. While opinion polls perplex elsewhere in society, read "cinema" as the current form of insistence on images and broaden "radio" into "communications" and you will not be far from the latest pronouncements of the new Prime Minister Michel Rocard.

But the world surrounding the question of mass culture has changed. Malraux's project was utopian. Based on what he had seen in the USSR during the thirties, he championed the mass distribution of images - cultural artefacts in reproduction, the "museum without walls" - and the founding of a network of "Maisons de la culture" in cities and towns as the most effective means of bringing world culture to the ordinary citizen and giving him a chance to participate democratically in culture. Above the portals of the House of Culture in Bourges, he set this injunction: "There is not, and there will not be, a House of Culture through the efforts of national or even local government. The House of Culture is you. The question is whether you want to make it exist!"

The authorized version of the history of ...


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