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Creative Industries - call for articles


    ...to develop critical understanding and to broaden public discussion about 'Creative Industries' as a key aspect of contemporary policy that is presumed to address inequality.

Arguably, the market focus of Creative Industries policy as a way of approaching both culture and urban regeneration rejects a broader set of approaches, collectively termed a 'political economy of culture' ('Cultural and Creative Industries', David Hesmondhalgh; Handbook of Cultural Analysis), associated with cultural materialism and the critique of earlier social democratic policies.

Marginalizing such forms of critical analysis inevitably reduces the scope of democratic discussion and means, for us, that the contemporary discourse of ‘cultural entitlement’ takes on a rhetorical role in support of a globalised neo-liberal agenda that goes relatively unquestioned by political parties on the national scene. In a polity that fails to garner majority participation in elections, meaningful participation on a day-to-day basis has been called into question by unaccountable 'consultative processes'. With previous cultural policies emphasising 'social inclusion' now widely critiqued as tokenistic, and with the substitution of ‘evidence based policy’ with ‘policy based evidence’ (see: 'Valuing Culture', Sara Selwood, Editor, Cultural Trends), the present terms of debate appear to be highly restricted.

An unqualified policy and theory using the term Creative Industries tends to be based on arguments which all too often come close to accommodating, if not explicitly endorsing, rising inequality and a considerable degree of exploitation associated with contemporary neoliberalism. Under the auspices of the ‘City of Culture’ Glasgow smiled better so the branding went. However between 1970 and today the population of Glasgow has halved from 1.2 million to 600,000.  In an area like Castlemilk, (an inclusion zone enjoying high levels of funding) the population dropped even more sharply from 50,000 to 14,000 (John Miller, Castlemilk East Parish Church, Wheatley Lecture). While the impact of ‘gentrification’ (Neil Smith, ‘Spaces of Neoliberalism - Urban restructuring in North America and Western Europe') may be clear, no study has been undertaken to indicate what has happened to half of Glasgow during a historic process that may be understood as a form of population clearance.

Nor has there been sustained ethnographic and historical research into the sort of informal political disenfranchisement that can accompany regeneration. With Creative Industries policy there is a lack of attention to the way capitalist markets repeatedly work with other processes to produce inequalities of access and outcome in the domain of culture, as in many other aspects of society. Ultimately, the limits of the discourse appear to serve policies that reinforce both economic and cultural inequalities in our societies and diminish real social freedoms which remain enshrined in UNESCO universal declarations.

The move away from a rigorous discussion of cultural policy contains many pitfalls. If culture is to be instrumentalised through its political adaptation to market forces, a concept such as ‘entitlement’ is prone to conceal basic questions of ownership and control over communication, expression and process, the key defining aspects of culture. Far from addressing inequality, the lapse of philosophical integrity and historical critique, (which we believe should be the basis of all discussions of culture) helps open the way for racism to assume the language of ‘fairness’ and multi-culturalism, this time in defence of ‘white power’ against the ‘culture industry’ (Chris Atton, 'Far-right media on the internet: culture, discourse and power', 2006). Indeed the relaunching of the British National Party’s house publication as 'Identity' indicates the rise of extremely prejudiced forms of political expression that contemporary liberal discussion finds difficult to answer, and according to its proponents, prefers to censor.

Simply to accuse Creative Industries policy of complicity with neoliberalism is not enough. Therefore we propose the exploration and publishing of sustained critique within Variant magazine of both Creative Industries policy and its theoretical underpinnings; to question:

the political instrumentalism behind policy-driven consultation and seek to correct a number of misconceptions in what we see as an unqualified, overly celebratory literature concerning the insertion of local – especially urban – sites of cultural production into the global circulation of cultural products;

"[T]he choice of the term “creative” rather than “cultural” is a shorthand reference to the information society and that set of economic analyses and policy arguments to which that term now refers. It is an attempt by the cultural sector and the cultural policy community to share in its relations with the government, and in policy presentation in the media, the unquestioned prestige that now attaches to the information society and to any policy that supposedly favours its development."
From Cultural to Creative Industries: An analysis of the implications of the “creative industries” approach to arts and media policy making in the United Kingdom, Nicholas Garnham,International Journal of Cultural Policy Vol 11, No. 1 2005

the repeated invoking of cultural citizenship as a progressive cultural goal – as citizenship conceptions underestimate the degree to which culture has been used by states as part of top-down nationalist projects, and the degree to which rights have involved exclusions as well as reciprocal obligations between state and subject;

"In contemporary multi-ethnic Ireland 'multiculturalism' is a common linguistic currency, but the experiences of 'the multiculturals' disavow their everyday, institutional and state racist undertones, in the name of racelessness. Assimilationism in relation to immigrants is unproblematically termed 'integration' by state agencies implementing multiculturalist (or 'interculturalist') policies, which ignore the multicultural illusion that face to face communication between the dominant and the dominated can subvert the structures of power. Indeed, by stressing integration as a 'two way process', the Irish state puts equal onus on migrants to play their part, and unequal power relations are not mentioned. In constructing immigrants and asylum seekers as both 'new' and a 'problem', 'the nation' is conceived not only as homogeneous, but also as 'invaded' by 'floods' of refugees, and therefore as arguably 'porous'."
From racial state to racist state: Ireland on the eve of the citizenship referendum, Ronit Lentin, Variant issue 20

the received notion that there is a 'creative class' intensely interested in cultural goods of many kinds, which in turn gives rise to the idea that cities must 'invest' in and through culture; apparently benign terms such as 'creative cities' and 'creative clusters' have become increasingly prevalent as a way of describing culture-led regeneration strategies: the 'moral prestige' of the creative artist has become extremely useful to policy-makers, consultants etc.

"Peck and Tickell see neoliberalism articulated in the city through a combination of market ideologies and forces. For them, neoliberalism embodies a growth-first ideology, backed by a pervasive naturalisation of market discipline. Neoliberalism operates through and alongside active state partners, scanning the horizon for investment opportunities in an increasingly competitive urban environment. Neoliberalism locks-in public sector austerity and growth-oriented investment. A symbolic language of innovation – “dynamic”, “pioneering”, “daring”, “entrepreneurial” – obfuscates a familiar cocktail of state subsidy, place promotion and local boosterism (talking up or promoting a locale), and suppresses the opportunity for genuinely local development. Neoliberal policy in the urban framework is characterised by uneven development, creating massive social polarisations in and between cities as highly mobile capital seeks profit unhindered by a regulatory framework."
Constructing Neoliberal Glasgow: The Privatisation Of Space, Friend of Zanetti, Variant issue 25

the way in which an abstract rhetoric of creativity is becoming increasingly important to the fuelling of labour markets marked by irregular, insecure and unprotected work; this argument in turn has had much wider implications in that it has pushed education policy much more strongly in the direction of a discourse of skills, on the basis that future national prosperity depends upon making-up for a supposed lack of creative, innovative workers.

"Organisations and employers are increasingly looking for a creatively agile workforce and there is a growing awareness of the advantages of starting this work early on in the school years. Key to this vision of creative education is the development of relationships with a variety of partners from the cultural, creative and business sectors..."

the manner in which Creative Industries policy, while seeming to offer a certain freedom of creative autonomy and self-realisation for workers, is in fact explicitly bound up in finding new articulations of existing power relations – the way in which notions of passion for, and pleasure in, work serve as disciplinary devices, enabling very high levels of (self-) exploitation, noting the extremely low levels of union organisation in most cultural industries.

" [T]he cultural industries are seen as complex value chains where profit is extracted at key nodes in the chain through control of production investment and distribution and the key “creative” labour is exploited not, as in the classic Marxist analysis of surplus value, through the wage bargain, but through contracts determining the distribution of profits to various rights holders negotiated between parties with highly unequal power (Caves 2000). ... [T]he political economy approach placed its major emphasis on the technologies of distribution, on the ways in which key economic and regulatory debates were to be seen as struggles over access to distribution under shifting technological conditions without any necessary effect on either the nature of the product being distributed or the relation with the audience. In particular, this analysis stressed the ways in which the profits of the whole process were returned to controllers of technological distribution systems rather than to the original producers of the cultural products or services."
From Cultural to Creative Industries: An analysis of the implications of the “creative industries” approach to arts and media policy making in the United Kingdom, Nicholas Garnham,International Journal of Cultural Policy Vol 11, No. 1 2005

"82% of visual artists recently surveyed (by far the highest proportion of all artforms) earned a mere £5,000 per year (gross) or less, from their  artistic activity."  
"90% of the arts budget is absorbed by ‘administration’ [within the existing ‘arts’ infrastructure, managers, project developers and administrators] with only 10% actually being awarded to artists."
The Scottish  Artists Union, www.sau.org.uk

the continued concentration on highly privileged, consultant-led 'artist'-centred programmes that perpetuate a top-down concept of the artist-as-leader – such as Clore Leadership Programmes' courses for 'emerging leaders in the cultural sector', the NESTA-driven Creative Entrepreneurs Club at The Lighthouse Glasgow, Cultural Enterprise Scotland – rather than addressing inequalities in cultural provision and people's rights to democratic expression.

"In the cultural sector (particularly the ‘cutting edge’ art world), with so many brokers acting as corporate-friendly conduits to an artificially constructed ‘outside’, ‘marginal’ and ‘socially engaged’ culture, it should come as no surprise that these oppositional metaphors, for some, are difficult to dispense with."
Culture Clubs, Mute magazine, 2000, Anthony Davies and Simon Ford

"Without dealing directly with structural inequalities, social inclusion policy is ineffectual as a democratic instrument, functioning mainly as a cosmetic mask to disguise unequal power relations. Indeed, it is the potential of a wider cultural politics that social inclusion programmes deliberately exclude: it is this which cultural producers now need urgently to recover. Whatever the local victories (and from our experience they are remarkably few), social inclusion policy will never work: egalitarian aspirations cannot be grafted onto the market. In this sense current efforts by various agencies to strengthen their economic and social impact assessments are counter-productive – they contribute only to expanding, rather than restraining, capital?s field of action. Likewise, the shift by arts councils towards promoting cultural diversity will prove empty without a reinvigorated struggle around the politics of redistribution."
Beyond Social Inclusion : Towards Cultural Democracy, The Cultural Policy Collective

We intend to develop this as a significant strand within the magazine over forthcoming issues.
Please contact us at: [email protected]