Who benefits from public funding of the performing arts? Comparing the art provision and the hegemony-distinction approaches

Tal Feder, Tally Katz-Gerro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we ask, who does cultural policy serve? We test the applicability of two theoretical approaches that explain the motivations that underlie public funding of the performing arts. One approach emphasizes the role of cultural policy in making the arts accessible to the wider public. The second approach emphasizes how cultural policy facilitates processes of hegemony-distinction. Using data from Israel, we document trends in the public funding of arts organizations in the domains of dance, orchestras, theater, and opera over a period of 48 years. Employing a time series analysis, we demonstrate how these trends in funding are associated with changes in level of education, ethnic composition, and level of income in the population. Our main conclusion is that in terms of how funding responds to changes in education and income-support for the performing arts in Israel benefits the wider public. However, in terms of how funding responds to changes in the size of ethnic groups-support for the performing arts in Israel caters to elite interests. This intricate set of relationships is discussed in the light of the two theoretical approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-381
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors collected data from documents available in the Israeli state archives and from official government publications. These documents list all of the artistic and cultural organizations in Israel that received funding from the Ministry of Culture in each given year. These organizations include, for example, orchestras, theaters, museums, dance companies, cinema institutions, and artists’ organizations. The funding is provided by the government for the ongoing operation of the arts organizations, without restrictions on specific uses. The sum allocated to each organization each year is specified in the contemporaneous currency. We chose 1960 as the first point of data because in 1959 the Public Council for Culture and Art was established, indicating the beginning of a systematic attendance to cultural affairs. Data for the years 1960–1987 were drawn from the state archives; data for 1991–1997 were obtained from published reports of the former Cultural Information Center (see Appendix A) and from Yalkut Hapirsumim (see Appendix A); and data for 1998–2009 were taken from reports published by the current Cultural Information Center, a research body under the Ministry of Culture (see Appendix A). Data for 1988–1990 and 1977, 1983, and 1985 are missing. Files for these years could not be located in the archives or in other publications, despite several attempts. In the variables section we discuss how we overcame these missing data points. We constructed a database that resembles a matrix with the names of all of the organizations that received funding from the Ministry of Culture by year of funding. Each cell represents the total sum granted in a specific year. All of the sums were expressed in 2009 New Israeli Shekel values.6

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the reviewers and the editors for their thoughtful and helpful comments. This research was supported by grant #413-10 from the Israel Science Foundation to the second author.


  • Budget analysis
  • Cultural policy
  • Israel
  • Performing arts
  • Public funding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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