Autonomy, Culture, Action: On Culture's Spheres of Political Action in the Neoliberal Welfare State


The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences

Project type



This project studies the possible domains of political action for culture and the arts today, by critically investigating histories of progressive cultural policy initiatives in Western European welfare states, focusing on the Nordic countries, France, and the UK during the period between the conflicted years of the 1930s and the present. The project will ground this study in a theoretical revision of the concept of autonomy, understood both as an aesthetic term, denoting the specific social logic of aesthetic experience, and as an ethical and political term, denoting an ideal of individual and collective self-determination. The project asks two overall questions:

1) can we recover a critical concept of the progressive value of culture and the arts with respect to the conditions of individual and collective self-determination in contemporary society? This is a question regarding the status of autonomy under today’s social conditions.
2) what models for policy and organization exist that could serve to realize that concept at the broadest possible social scale? This is a question regarding the historical definition and contemporary status of culture’s spheres of political action in the political economy of the modern welfare state.

Project information

Gustav Strandberg, PhD Philosophy,

Kim West, PhD Aesthetics,

Josefine Wikström, PhD Philosophy

Research area / geographic area

Culture and Education Aesthetics Critical and Cultural Theory Philosphy & religion Europe

Contract ID


Project time

2021 — 2024


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