Practices of hope: care, narrative and cultural democracy

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This article contributes to debates regarding the fundamental aims of cultural policy. It argues that hope is central to political imagination, and that competing hopes need to be addressed within discussions of what cultural policy is ultimately seeking to achieve. In doing so, the paper suggests the distinctive role that cultural policy can play in responding to a ‘populist moment’. It begins with a case study of young people’s cultural opportunities in one London borough, demonstrating the significance of practices of care. Care enables people to narrate their lives, and to experience that their actions matter. Drawing on this case study and a survey of literature on hope, the second section shows that practices of care and creative self-narration support individual and collective hope. The third section argues that addressing the conditions that enable ‘democratic hope’ is an important step in theorizing and realizing cultural democracy as a normative framework for cultural policy. The paper concludes by suggesting that at a time of populist ‘anti-politics’, cultural policy can enable conditions of democratic hope at multiple scales: from supporting practices of care and self-narration within specific projects, to helping rearticulate the public narratives that structure political possibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational journal of cultural policy
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021


  • Capability approach
  • care
  • cultural democracy
  • hope
  • narrative
  • populism


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