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After considering the functions of capital cities this article argues that culture both as creative activity and as living heritage of customs and architectural assemblies plays a central role in the self-perception of present-day Berlin. The agents—public and private—that interact in the conception and execution of decisive initiatives in the remake of the city form an extensive cultural policy establishment. They derive their legitimation from regional and federal constitutions and from their command of attention in the public discourse. Berlin's claimed status as the most obvious German metropolis is not self-evident. Within the nation it is neither the center of finance, nor the media, nor the supreme courts. In Germany there are other towns and metropolitan regions with a similarly rich infrastructure that can compete at least nationally. But Berlin, building on Enlightenment traditions, is making a plausible effort in regaining its cosmopolitanism. Despite a host of problems, it is now surpassing the ethnic and cultural diversity that was lost in the years of Nazi dictatorship. Can it maintain its attraction for creative talent, both cultural and technological, in view of accelerating social divisions and gentrification?

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