Public Support and Cultural Heritage in a Globalised World

Document Type : Academic peer-reviewed articles


In the age of neoliberalism, it has become common for the private sector to play an increasingly important role in various areas, including heritage conservation. It is believed that most governments nowadays have insufficient financial capacity and shortage in the human resources aspect, which has made intervention of the private sector in heritage conservation- related issues inevitable and warrants close scrutiny. Therefore, this study extends beyond the scope of explaining the potential benefits and barriers of private sector intervention in built heritage and aims to explore and answer questions associated with why public intervention is usually required in the area of arts and built heritage and what types of intervention and subsidy exist. With the intention of addressing these questions, this research follows a theoretically- based approach by investigating numerous texts from cross-cutting disciplines. The results of this research indicate that although the role of the private sector in heritage conservation cannot be overlooked, the role of the public sector continues to hold fundamental importance because some of the values and qualities attributed to heritage properties cannot be easily recognised in the marketplace.


The contemporary movement of globalisation started at the end of World War II with the establishment of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions, better known as the International Bank for Construction and Development and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions sought to enhance political and economic cooperation as well as convergence and cultural dialogue with the intention of avoiding economic crises and the recurrence of war. The disintegration of the Soviet bloc at the end of the 1980s did not pave the way for a fully globalised world; rather, it reflected the triumph of one of the competing globalisations, represented in free market capitalism over state socialism. This free market capitalist-based globalisation is what most people perceive when the issue of globalisation is debated. Such a phenomenon has varied and broadly acknowledged tenets, upon which its rationale is based on—for instance—free trade, international flow liberation of capital, optimising the role of the financial sector, privatisation, the recession of the public sector role in the economy, and the increased role of market forces in social and economic policy.2  In an accelerated globalised and commercialised world, it would not be a shock to most people to experience private sector interference in heritage conservation-related activities worldwide.  The outstanding socio-economic values of heritage assets indicate that in many cases they are identified as commercial resources, which also means that their exploitation for pure commercial purposes can contradict conservation aims.