’We have no politics involved in state subsidies!’

Civil servants as political actors within the system of cultural administration.

Our article begins with the presumption that politics can be discerned within the administrative hierarchies of ministries and public agencies. We examine the Finnish state cultural policy administration as a significant organizational structure that wields public power through its policy instruments. Similar to the Nordic region in general, state subsidies constitute a crucial economic tool in Finnish cultural policy. This article primarily focuses on the subsidy policies implemented by the Ministry and Arts Promotion Centre Finland. The center, established in 2013 as the successor to the Arts Council of Finland, operates under the performance supervision of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture as a national agency and an expert in arts policy, annually allocating a significant number of subsidies. Our primary focus is on the allocation of state subsidies and the exercise of power by civil servants in the various stages of the allocation process, from policy strategies to subsidy decision-making.

Our principal empirical material comprises expert interviews (n=15) with cultural policy civil servants. In the context of our empirical analysis, we describe the historical institutionalization of the Finnish cultural administration as part of the welfare state project and explore the central features of the primary paradigms of contemporary public administration: New Public Management (NPM) and New Public Governance (NPG). Consequently, we illustrate how the traditional procedures of cultural policy state subsidies blend ideas and practices from these newer paradigms. Subsidization is not a linear administrative process but rather a continuous, cyclical political activity. Individual civil servants have the ability to influence the cultural policy system in various ways, including strategic planning, budgeting, policy preparation, and evaluation. However, the power relations are not unidirectional, as, for example, civil society actors continue to exert an influence on the administration. 

Projektets forskare