The definition of 'cultural needs' and the legitimisation of public cultural policy through statistics in the 1960s

The conditions of possibility of cultural statistics

The production and use of cultural statistics took off in the mid-1960s, owing to a then unlikely conjunction between the fields of public administration, cultural community work and social science. At the time, distinctive rationales at work in each of these three spaces converged to make such a conjunction possible (Dubois 1999; 2012).

In the early 1960s, the utopia of a rationally planned public policy informed by science was widespread in the field of public administration. While economics was the government's main auxiliary science, sociology also played a part in the elaboration of this 'scienticised' policy. This, in part, was due to the diversification of public policy domains; the evolution of planning is a particularly good case in point. Planning was organised after World War II under the authority of the state, with the participation of experts, trade unions and other representatives (Kindleberger 1967). From 1946 onwards, successive multiannual plans were designed to forecast and organise the development of the country. They initially focused on economic infrastructure and production. At the beginning of the 1960s, planning was extended to 'social development', including education, sports and culture (the Fourth Plan, 1962-1965). With these new policy domains, planners had to face new 'uncertainties', as they said. In order to reduce these uncertainties, they called on scientific expertise from sociologists. Leading administrators such as Pierre Masse, Commissaire General au Plan (Commissioner-General of the French National Planning Board), or Claude Gruson, director of INSEE (French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies) openly asked for the input of sociologists, including on cultural matters (see e.g. Gruson 1964).

Social scientists were also in demand in the circles of cultural community work and popular education. At that time, cultural management functions were starting to become professionalised, with specialised training programmes, new positions and organisations. They required new skills - both symbolic and practical - that social science was able to provide (Saez and Claude 1981; Ion 1993).

The fields of social science and of sociology in particular were, for their part, still under construction. Sociology was still a weak discipline in the academic field: it had yet to achieve emancipation from the faculties of humanities and their dominant model, and it offered few professional perspectives (de Montlibert 1982). The public demand for sociological research was accordingly used as a resource to face this double challenge; disciplinary autonomy was conquered at the price of a temporary dependence on those who commissioned this research (Pollak 1976). Thus, numerous sociologists responded favourably to institutional demands, including, for instance, Pierre Bourdieu (Dubois 2011). Culture was one of the areas of collaboration between policy-makers and researchers who specialised in this domain, from Joffre Dumazedier (1967), who prophesied a 'society of leisure', to Pierre Bourdieu, as well as specialists of other fields, who conducted more short-term studies, such as the urban sociologist Paul- Henry Chombart de Lauwe, and the promoter of organisational sociology Michel Crozier.

These favourable conditions for the development of cultural sociology and statistics would probably not have sufficed without the mobilisation of agents who promoted research applied to cultural policy. A case in point is Joffre Dumazedier who, as he combined activist resources (as the President of the main popular education network at the time, Peuple et Culture), scientific authority (his work on the sociology of leisure had a wide audience) and relational capital in senior administration and planning circles, bridged these different spaces alone. He was not only a scholar bringing in his knowledge; holding all these different positions, he was 'naturally' predisposed to theorising what he saw as necessary relations between science and policy, and achieving a synthesis between the two. Another example is Augustin Girard, a rapporteur in the Plan (National Planning Board), who quite literally invented his function as a mediator between decision-makers and scholars, and managed to structure their relations within the framework of the Fourth and Fifth Plans and eventually create the Service des Etudes et de la Recherche in the Ministere des Affaires Culturelles. Organised in Bourges in November 1964, the conference Des Chiffres pour la Culture (Figures for Culture) was a turning point in the mobilisation for the recourse to scientific research in the elaboration of cultural policies. Bringing together officials, economists and sociologists, the conference resulted in, among other things, the adoption of a motion for the development of research that benefits cultural policy.

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