This essay is part of a joint Demos and CASE (Culture and Sport Evidence Programme) fellowship examining the evidence currently available in relation to public participation in culture and sport. It addresses the question: why should the state get involved in culture, and if it should, how?

At the moment, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is among the smallest of government departments, both in terms of budget and the importance attached to it. Cuts will make it smaller still and threaten to hollow out what power and influence it has. However, culture has a bearing on areas of policy far beyond what is currently thought of as DCMS’ domain and its importance must be reflected. By distinguishing two concepts – the cultural realm as a basic and inalienable continuum of human life and society, and the forms that provide the manifestations of beliefs and opinions about culture – this pamphlet puts in place a new rationale for government intervention in these areas of social life.

Culture Shock argues that cultural policy must focus on the equitable distribution of individuals’ cultural capabilities, indicating that this will require thinking anew about what form the structures take, and how they are run. Social, political and economic developments have combined in ways that pose new challenges for policy-makers and the cultural sector alike. This pamphlet describes one way to meet those challenges.