The UK Department of National Heritage: a model for the development and integration of leisure policy in the new Europe?
Ravenscroft, N., (1994) The UK Department of National Heritage: a model for the development and integration of leisure policy in the new Europe? Working Papers in Land Management & Development. 21/94. Working Paper. University of Reading, Reading. pp22.
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Leisure is in the vanguard of a social and cultural revolution which is replacing the former East/West political bipolarity with a globalised economic system in which the new Europe has a central rôle. Within this revolution, leisure, including recreation, culture and tourism, is constructed as the epitome of successful capitalist development; the very legitimisation of the global transmogrification from a production to a consumption orientation. While acting as a direct encouragement to the political transformation in many eastern European states, it is uncertain how the issue of leisure policy is being handled, given its centrality to the new economic order. This paper therefore examines the experience of western Europe, considering in particular the degree to which the newly-created Department of National Heritage in the UK provides a potential model for leisure development and policy integration in the new Europe. Despite an official rhetoric of support and promotion of leisure activities, reflecting the growing economic significance of tourism and the positive relationship between leisure provision and regional economic development, the paper establishes that in the place of the traditional rôle of the state in promoting leisure interests, the introduction of the Department has signified a shift to the use of leisure to promote the Government's interests, particularly in regenerating citizen rights claims towards the market. While an institution such as the Department of National Heritage may have relevance to emerging states as a element in the maintenance of political hegemony, therefore, it is questionable how far it can be viewed as a promoter or protector of leisure as a signifier of a newly-won political, economic and cultural freedom throughout Europe.