Thursday

"Culture is there, to be Shared - Not Sold" - SIMON ANHOLT


"... international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful..."

- Simon Anholt

The recent Good Country Index had a surprise. India's rank under the category of "Culture" was a lowly 119 among the 163 countries that were surveyed. For India watchers like us this was indeed interesting given the huge interest in government and policy circles to promote Indian culture overseas as a component of Indian soft power. 


The Public Diplomacy Blog spoke to Simon Anholt on this aspect trying to understand why India ranked low on "Culture". Simon brings to the fore an important distinction between promotion of 'culture' versus 'cultural contribution' and there seems to be a good opportunity for India's creative economy to be internationally 'participative'.


The following is what Simon Anholt had to say:


How is 'culture' defined in the survey?

Simon: We follow the UNESCO definition of culture that incorporates cultural production, the creative industries and expressions of national/regional culture; we also consider how each country facilitates freedom of movement and freedom of expression in order to allow the production, sharing and dissemination of culture. As explained on the website at https://goodcountry.org/index/source-datathe way we ‘sample’ a country’s cultural contribution to the world in the Good Country Index is by combining the following datasets:

  • Creative goods exports: Exports of creative goods (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • Creative services exports: Exports of creative services (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • UNESCO dues in arrears as % of contribution: UNESCO dues in arrears as percentage of contribution (negative indicator).
  • Freedom of movement, i.e. visa restrictions: Number of countries and territories that citizens can enter without a visa (according to Henley & Partners).
  • Press freedom: Freedom of the press (based on mean score for Reporters without Borders and Freedom House index as a negative indicator).

Of course these five indicators don’t give a complete or exhaustive account of a country’s cultural output – it’s just a sample – but they’re the best and indeed the only suitable datasets we were able to find. 

Cultural expression just isn’t very fully measured internationally, and obviously we need data that’s collected in a consistent way, every year, in at least the 163 countries we cover in the Index. These five datasets were the only ones we could find that fitted the bill.

2. Indian government does a lot in promoting Indian culture and there is a tacit acceptance in policy and media circles that it is India's biggest soft power - and we see a lower rank for India as a whole. What is your comment on this?


Simon: I think they’re doing the right thing (although I would argue that simply ‘promoting’ one’s national culture isn’t a very Good Country thing to do: culture is there, after all, to be shared – not sold to people as a way of enhancing the country’s image). Of course a lot of this activity is 'unmeasurable' in a comparative survey like the Good Country Index, and this is one of the reasons why we are hoping to start producing more qualitative, in-depth, country-specific surveys in the near future: this will enable us to cover a lot of the activity in all seven categories that the Good Country Index is unable to measure.


3. Does the ranking reflect a perception by people of "culture" in the country or the state of culture in the country ?

Simon: Neither: the Good Country Index isn’t an opinion poll, it’s a measurement of reality; however it doesn’t directly reflect the state of culture in the country, it attempts to measure how much of that culture is shared internationally.
4. How do you think the ranking would impact India's perception?

Simon: My research over the last 15 years has consistently demonstrated that international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful. So whilst a high ranking in the Good Country Index on its own is unlikely to affect public perceptions of the country, the good behavior that gives rise to that ranking certainly will. 

Simon Anholt


Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
- Madhur





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