In the last forty years cultural policy has been dominated by economic value. As modeled and measured by economists, it has increasingly become the arbiter and final legitimation for cultural policy decision making. Even when other public values or goals are admitted, these are held to be best achieved through the allocative efficiencies of ‘the market’, and by inculcating appropriately ‘market rational’ behavior amongst producers and consumers. For some this was the Faustian bargain required to justify public funding, for others the creative entrepreneurial spirit freed from the shackles of the state and its elitist art forms.
In parallel we have seen the continued decline in public funding for culture; the disruption of public media (including journalism and information); the fragmentation and diminution of audiences into market niches and data sources; the erosion of wages and working conditions for cultural workers; a deepening lack of diversity within the sector, and the on- going exclusion of small scale cultural activities from inner cities to name just some. Many of these developments chime with those elsewhere – rising inequality; the disappearance of housing, education and health affordability in the space of a generation; the reduction of citizen entitlements to consumer services; the domination of global development finance over local needs; the erosion of environmental protection and indigenous rights.
There is crisis of the cultural sector - the ecosystem in which it operates and the values that sustain it as a public good. This is part of a wider crisis of our collective culture. This conference hopes to outline new approaches for the future as a matter of urgency. Rather than the stale ideas of creative industries and creative cities, we seek to engage with post- growth and sustainable economics; Indigenous and cultural rights; new approaches to ‘good living’ in the face of human and ecological distress; revisit making and manufacture in cities, as a question of sustainability and equity; and new forms of global cultural connectivity outside the imaginary of a mobile creative class.
We use the term cultural economy to identify culture as an economy, but folding in the insights from the tradition of political economy, which refuses to treat ‘the economy’ as a given. We take from cultural studies and cultural sociology the insight that culture is intertwined with society and government at multiple levels whose analysis is not served well by traditional ‘arts and culture’ policy analysis. We use cultural geography and critical planning studies to re-think the embedded and regulated cultural ecosystem of the urban and rural.
This conference aims not just to critique the current settings but to outline new approaches for the future. For alongside the stale ideas of creative industries and creative cities, other ideas are emerging: post-capitalism; indigenous and cultural rights set against exploitative economic logics; various versions of ‘good living’ which re-frame culture and nature in the face of ecological distress and the need for ethical purpose; revisiting making and manufacture in cities, as a question of sustainability and equity; and new forms of global cultural connectivity outside the imaginary of a mobile creative class.
We cannot promise answers but certainly we will raise some new questions.
The conference is loosely organised around two days. The first day will look at aspects of the cultural economy, cultural work and cultural value; the second day will look first at the urban context for cultural production, ending with a Roundtable discussion on grassroots innovation Fringe to Famous.