The question of legitimacy for public cultural investment has become a
constant thread through post-war cultural policy in Europe, in response to which three broad approaches have emerged. The first, widely adopted during the 1950s and 1960s, was rooted in the welfarist idea of the democratisation of culture, and aimed at extending access to existing cultural offer. The second is the use of arts or cultural activities to further socioeconomic objectives. The third is to extend access not just to cultural consumption, but to enlarge the franchise in terms of the means of artistic production and distribution. These different responses have framed a space for action within which - the paper argues - conflicting cultural values may be accommodated, therefore making decisions about cultural action more legitimate.