Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Andrew Calabrese

Second Advisor

Janice Peck

Third Advisor

Lynn S. Clark

Fourth Advisor

Timothy Oakes

Fifth Advisor

Elizabeth A. Skewes


At the conclusion of his seminal essay, “Culture is Ordinary,” cultural theorist Raymond Williams intones that “the ordinary people should govern; that culture and education are ordinary; that there are no masses to save, to capture, or to direct.”

Williams’s passage captures the heart of his intellectual project and the central conflict in the development of cultural policy: the hierarchical separation of culture seen as a “whole way of life” and as “arts and learning.” Within cultural policy, this split is constructed at times as the democratization of culture (culture as civilizing) or cultural democracy (better access to the means of cultural production and distribution).

This dissertation addresses these tensions by undertaking a case study of Canadian cultural policy in its support of the country’s independent popular music industry. Due in part to Canada’s geography and demographics, the country has developed a rich history of cultural policy that captures the historical tensions in understanding culture by attempting to adequately support both “serious” music and “music of a light or popular nature.”

Moving beyond policy review, this study explores the impact of government-supported popular music subventions on the ground through interviews with policymakers, music industry personnel, and popular music artists.

The results demonstrate the continual need of the state to redefine and reimagine the underlying intent of its policy interventions. Distinguishing an act of policy as either “cultural” or “industrial” fails to reveal how state political choices in matters of culture and democracy come to shape and inform their intrinsic value.