This chapter charts the evolution of cultural policy throughout French history. In France the idea that the state has a responsibility for aesthetic culture, as for national defense, the economy, and the highways, is old. But the term “cultural policy” dates only from the time when Charles de Gaulle, on assuming power in the new Fifth Republic, asked André Malraux to head a new Ministry of Cultural Affairs (1959). In this context culture is the proclaimed basis of French internal unity and international eminence, and acts as a central component to French republican ideals. Marlaux's work came apart in the heat of May 1968, however, and much of the current national cultural policy has since been bent on sustaining existing establishments and simply maintaining and repairing the holdings of France's extensive built heritage—safeguarding rather than expanding upon its cultural base.
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