This is a paper I wrote based on some research done between 2005-07. Big attempt at understanding how CI function, still ongoing… M
What are the Creative industries?
A brief analysis of organization, epistemology, policy and discourse
from the UK mid- 2007
Key points+ methodology
1. Culture and Industry
The Culture Industry
Cultural Industries and Creative Industries
2. Creative Industries
Definition and Organization
Who are Creative Industries workers and what difference do they make?
The “Creative Class”
3. Creative Industries policy
Cultural Policy and Open Source
Cultural Policy and Subsidy
Public- Private Partnerships in Art and Education
5. Conclusion: responding and relating
key words; creative industries, culture industry, cultural industries, policy, UK, creative work, flexibilisation, precariousness, public- private partnerships, education, commercialization, open source, discourse, creativity, innovation, talent
The Creative Industries are a new and flourishing sector of advanced capitalist economies , particularly in the UK where it makes about 7.3% of the economy and is of comparable size to the financial services industry . An exhaustive report has just been released by the UK DCMS in anticipation of a green paper . While the Creative Industries are referred to as a success story in the UK and elsewhere, there is need for a more critical reflection on what exactly they are composed of and structured by, how they stand in relation to cultural policy and the Cultural Industries, and what they aim to bring to or take from “culture” and “creativity”.
The notion of culture has since after the second world war been increasingly associated with industry and markets, and since the 70s along with notions of knowledge and creativity increasingly associated with the monetary and enterprise. As part of a host of notions that have arisen in the course of complex developments of correlations between culture and economic sectors, the concept of creativity has come to play an important role in the vocabularies of government and business, particularly in the UK and France since the mid-80s. The arising discourses are increasingly under investigation by academics as well as cultural workers in critical, subversive or affirmative manner.
The accelerating growth of what came to be known as the knowledge economy in the nineties furthered the emergence of new kinds of policy and discourse around what one might call “culture”. Ways of relating to this notion had been undergoing constant transformation since the early 20th century, when continually changing conditions of production impacted on practices and markets associated with “culture”. Since the nineties, the emergence of a discourse surrounding Creative Industries appears most notable in France and the UK, contributing the formation of a highly neoliberal idea of cultural production and the legitimation of corresponding policy. The formation of what I would call an emerging regime of Creative Industries bears correspondence to the notions and policy of Cultural Industries as well as the concept of Culture Industry as coined by Horkheimer and Adorno , however it does not entirely coincide with either. The emergence of Creative Industries is being rigorously implemented on a policy level.
Ever- increasing investment in what I will generally refer to as semantic, symbolic or cultural production and the marketing thereof as copyrighted material forms the basis of the prospering Creative Industries. The policy and according investment in this sector not only affects those whose activities happen to coincide with this relatively new definition of a field, but encompasses various developments that impact on society at large. The highly economy-oriented assignment of value and meaning to cultural phenomena gives rise to policies that encourage processes of gentrification in urban zones, systematic education of flexible creative workers as well as supporting a general shift towards a proprietary model for ideas.
Creative Industries is a hybrid strategy for the extraction of financial profit mainly from “immaterial” labour, cultural services and experiences, but also hardware production and sales. With increasing deregulation, the rewarding of intellectual and creative activity becomes more difficult, because there is a new organization of labour within which fixed or stable working hours and contracts no longer hold. The quantification of knowledge or creativity in economic terms on the other hand is achieved through the application of Intellectual Property (henceforth IP) regulations. Creative labour as such is highly competitive, despite depending on peer review and supposedly collaborative team work .
While symbolic production becomes ever more important for national and supranational economies, there exist many different ways of developing and sustaining a wealth of related activity and production within regions and states. This text will focus on the history, policy and contemporary government Creative Industries (henceforth CRI) discourse in the UK, while also referring to European and Brazilian contexts. It seems particularly relevant to refer to the CRI in the UK because, since the 70s its role has been pivotal in developing a host of urban and national policies that propose new approaches to merging culture and business. In recent years CRI policy has become a priority for the UK government, which aims to be at the forefront of a new culture and prosperity brought by creative enterprise. The UK CRI are often cited as a model that informs policy in many other nations.
The CRI conceptual, strategic and legal framework goes beyond the means of distribution and reception that the Frankfurt School described as mass media or Culture Industry, but it can be seen to be part, offshoot or successor of Cultural Industries Policy. Like most Cultural Industries (henceforth CUI) frameworks (which mainly come out of the postwar US and 70s UNESCO policy) the CRI include a vast range of sectors such as arts, antiques, computer games, fashion, design, publishing- encompassing almost any creative individual, business or arts organisation. In the UK, where the notion of Creative Industries appears more frequently than that of Cultural Industries, the CRI are a key component of cultural policy. Implications of this are both positive and negative for people working within the culture sector: an increased number of workplaces and support for creative enterprise, but also more competitiveness and flexibilization, as well as commercialization of creative practice and associated institutions. In the context of cities such as London, some have argued that the advent of CRI might mark a shift from investment into management consultancy and finance towards investment into culture and creative enterprise . For others it means a desirable move towards the creation of something like “Ubiquitous dream societies of icons and aesthetic experience” . For people living close to cultural/ creative workers it means processes of gentrification. For the education sector it means encouragement of creative or project-based learning in schools while at university level it means an introduction of “innovation”, speculation and venture capitalism. Public- Private partnerships receive government support particularly in higher education (for example through HEROBAC, the HEFCE Higher Education Reach-out to Business and the Community Fund), where institutions have to commit to the agenda of producing a business-oriented and individualized creative workforce accustomed to a logic of Intellectual Property. Increasingly within Cultural Industries policy, and most definitely in the Creative Industries regime, the enforcement Intellectual Property law becomes the basis for the subsistence of those employed in the CRI.
It is however important to note that the Creative Industries perhaps is not as planned a field as some of its discourse or indeed this analysis may suggest. Following the highly complex and diverse development of Cultural Industries, the Creative Industries is a field which is being installed in and impacts on regions and zones in heterogeneous and sometimes hardly calculated ways. There has been an explosion of terminology around the economy of culture in the past twenty years (marked by terms such as Cultural industries’, ‘creative industries, ‘creative economy’, ‘experience industries’, ‘content industries’, knowledge industries,‘entertainment industries’, sunrise industries, future oriented industries, copyright industries’, ‘(multi) media industries’ etc) which may be taken to indicate just how fast shifts within this sector occur and how many actors (government, academics, business, cultural workers) are involved in analyzing and shaping these discourses and developments.
There is also a tangible impact of CRI policy on the arts, which constitute one of its main component sectors. Commercialization of aesthetic practice and their institutions means a decrease in support for small, independent, politically or experimentally radical projects. It is also frequently argued that the traditionally precarious status of most artists becomes transposed to larger populations of creative workers in the CRI, through an organization of labour as project-based, flexibilized and highly competitive cluster activity. While proclaiming a democratization of culture and creativity via a rhetoric of horizontality and self-realization, the current expansion of the CRI seems to mark a shift away from the social towards the economic, producing cultures of exclusion and precariousness. There is hardly a CRI policy paper that does not speak of opportunity, however in the light of cultures of self-exploitation, speculation and bankrupcy there can not really be mention of democratization. The vastly problematic implications of ever- increasing marketisation of semantic production cause counter- movements to emerge. These are heterogeneous, sometimes amorphous and mostly in movement, and often affirm an ethics of open source, collaboration, critically/ politically/ socially engaged practice, self-organization/education, piracy, hacking and/or sustainability.
Key points and methodology
In this text I try to understand the relation of contemporary CRI discourses to prior and other ways of speaking about culture and creativity, referring to what I would broadly call humanist as well as modernist ideas. Initially I will refer to Felix Guattari for a delineation of different ideas and values invested in the concept of culture. Subsequently and throughout the text, I will try to disentangle clusters of concepts such as Culture Industry/ Cultural Industry/ Creative Industries and creativity/ innovation/ talent as well as to some extent knowledge/ immaterial/ creative work (I can only hint to analyses of the latter through reference to other texts). Much of the delineation of a kind of vocabulary of the CRI is based on pieces of government discourse, which I will frequently invoke as quotes.
Another aspect of my analysis is tracing how the CRI is defined by new conditions and technologies for production and organization, and to outline policies and consequent changes brought about by this. There is a place within the economic and semantic fields that has opened out in the course of complex developments over the past seventy-or-so years, which now accommodates the idea and purpose of the Creative Industries. This is of course marked by conflict, with different actors pulling in different directions and advocating divergent and variable strategies with respect to CRI development. I will attempt to point out some different positionalities and the discourses they engage, particularly in the area of policy. One such example is a paper or manifesto written by former UK minister of culture Tessa Jowell , as well as instances of contemporary cultural policy in Brazil as inspired by minister Gilberto Gil.
A third point I will keep coming back to concerns the situations of those working in the Creative Industries. Similarly to other precarious forms of labour, the CRI are characterized by flexibilized, insecure and underpaid work- a large economy of internships is but one facet of this. While the hype of the creative sets the tone of another wave of commoditization and exploitation, it bears employment for large numbers of people and brings forth new forms of labour. From left to right people have argued that the kind of work characteristic of the CRI (cognitive, intellectual, creative, immaterial, etc) brings forth new ways of relating to work/non-work, exchange and society. For some, the ways in which language and the transfer of messages becomes both the means and the end of a process of production appears to hold much promise for the emancipation of the class of (immaterial, cognitive, creative, etc..) workers from conditions of domination. For others, flexibilized and self-managed labour is synonymous with exploitation, or to the contrary freedom. The analysis of these interpretations and discourses is widely relevant for understanding the modes of subjectivation encouraged by the CRI regime, helping to perceive the challenges and possibilities these developments offer.
The relations between CRI and education are a fourth recurring aspect of this investigation. During my years of study at a London art school I observed that the notions of creativity, innovation and flexibility play a large role in the recruitment for production as well as consumption of knowledge goods (within markets of knowledge, culture as much as communications technology). The liberal arts college has regained relevance for the production of national wealth in the context of CRI, exceeding the production of just cultural capital. In similar developments, secondary and community education come to encompass creative training programmes.
Finally, my attempt at laying out the conditions and discourses that inform and legitimize moving notions such as creativity and culture into the field of economics serves to hint at possible other ways of going about discourse, work and policy with respect to the production of signs and meaning. It seemed to me important to understand how policy informs practice and how this relates to the stakes people like myself put into cultural work. I hope to produce an outline that can helpfully indicate what different struggles for autonomy in this context may be structured by. Moving beyond some of the depoliticized cultural forms brought to us via corporate as well as government funded culture, and drawing upon empowering and critically engaged modes of relating to knowledge and creativity is a challenge lots of people are busy with. While such a struggle can hardly be relevant if based upon lament and nostalgia, an engagement with critical analysis helps to suggest strategies and positionalities that go beyond complacency and defeatism, or opportunism and discursive game. It seems to me that spaces related to art and culture hold much potential for encouraging the facilitation of debate, movement and research around contemporary cultural, social and political activities and developments, their realities and relations to markets.
An earlier version of this text formed the basis of a collective reading, editing and discussion session at a Chelsea College of Art and Design (London) degree show in summer 2006 . I graduated from this art school and had been trying to understand the financial as well as decision-making mechanisms at college and university level (University of the Arts London, formerly known as London Institute), which myself and others in these institutions found to be highly bureaucratic and quite intransparent. The initial text, as well as an accompanying series of diagrams (printed at the end of this text) were made in response to this, and as an intervention into the smooth atmosphere of a graduation art show.
Inevitably, this text is fragmentary and based on personal experiences and conversations as much as research. The particular cases and approaches I address are not meant to establish some canon of references but are merely examples that struck me as interesting.
1. Culture and Industry
The Culture Industry
When tracing the history of the concept of “Creative Industries”, there are many possible paths to take. The Frankfurt Schools “Culture Industry” concept is one evident trajectory, marking the first generic term that appeared in the context of expanding economies of mass cultural production. While there is certainly a correlation between Culture Industry and CRI, it needs to be noted that the Culture Industry concept has much more of a history, outlining some of the developments that make conditions of possibility for the CRI. New technologies enabling the mass distribution of culture, and a clear reference to fordist modes of production and dissemination are at the heart of the Culture Industry paradigm, and can help situate the different context in which the CRI is situated- a new organization of labour within knowledge economies.
´Kulturindustrie´, best translates as ´Culture Industry´ and is a term that was coined by T.W. Adorno and M. Horkheimer in the 1940s , mainly to substitute for the word ´mass culture´ in their theoretical writing . “Mass Culture” appeared too ambivalent a term, because it not only implies a centralized way of producing/ distributing culture but also carries an undertone of a culture of the masses, made by and for the masses. “Culture industry” seemed to appropriately de-mystify the idea that the role of culture in war/post-war Europe at the beginning/middle of the 20th century could be anything but instrumental to the perpetuation and accumulation of ideologies and capital, losing its critical potential in the process. While A+H elaborated on much of this during the second World War, much of Adornos writing comes from his time in the postwar US. The US under Roosevelt and Europe under Hitler showed similarities in their employment of mass media as tools for large scale subjectivation . As such, this first conceptualization of a mass economy of culture by A+H carried very negative connotations.
“Culture Industry” referred to the mass production and distribution of symbolic structures and associated products to a wide populace, wherein those were subject to industrial, quasi assembly-line production and no longer depended so much on artistic genius or craftsmanship, A+H suggested. The opposition of the Culture Industry to supposedly true or high art production is implicit in A+Hs writing. The “high art” that A+H valued could apparently not exist in a populist economy of culture, wherein mass appeal and accessibility became the main criteria for the production of signs and codes (rather than prestige within a small circle of connoisseurs).
The Culture Industry referred to a framework of centralized state media and cultural institutions and an increasing influence of corporations thereupon, putting powerful conglomerates in a position to mainstream ideas- mainly nationally but increasingly also internationally, an example being the export of Hollywood films. This was made possible via new communications technology that could broadcast information via long distances and at fast pace, delivering products such as radio shows, music, film and television as well as news and advertising to large audiences from a central source.
The concept of Culture Industry has been highly influential in terms of offering an analysis of a mass production of culture, and was taken as a warning of the influence of US cultural exports, which led most European countries to refrain from structuring cultural policy accordingly. It was only in the 1970s that the UNESCO adopts the idea of “free flow of information”, however as a democratic principle, not as a means of defending the interests of American Transnational Corporations – (UNESCO policies like the “cultural exception”, which aims to protect local culture through not liberalizing fields such as audiovisual production, attest to this today). The UK, France and Holland adopted the Culture Industries as model similarly early, taking account its critique by A+H to different degrees.
A core philosophical question raised by A+Hs Culture Industry concept is that around the value assigned to culture. In how far does an instrumentalization of cultural activity for economic purposes bear danger? What were the relations between economy and culture throughout the centuries, and how did the 20th century differ from those? How are we to define “cultural activity” in the first place- what kind of concept is culture?
Felix Guattari offers an analysis of ways of conceiving of culture in his essay “Culture; un concept réactionnaire?”, which goes a long way in illuminating the link between Culture- and Creative Industries. He argues that culture is a profoundly reactionary concept, because it can only exist when limited to certain spheres and applications, such as the market, nationalism or collectivism. “Culture” can not autonomously exist otherwise, because the kind of activity it refers to is inseparable from life, hence to call only certain things by this name (such as certain products/ productions, things of a certain origin etc) is a reactionary gesture.
In capitalism, “culture” is to subjectivity what capital is to economy- a means of subjectivation which allows this system to function as it does. The particular form of subjectivation favoured in capitalist culture is that of individuation, which occurs en masse through personal and psychological as much as machinic, economic, social, technological, iconical, ecological, ethological, mediatic systems- the notion of “culture” being at the forefront of most of them.
According to Guattari, there are three main ways of encapsulating “culture” by way of assigning specialized value it. The first such conception of culture corresponds to some extent with the idea of “high” and “low” culture as invoked by A+H. This refers to “culture” as a means (and end) to making power relations, by virtue of which the status of an elite is legitimized and maintained. In this sense, the distinction between cultivated/ uncultivated people, high/ low culture or sophisticated/ popular culture qualifies who has access to and controls semiotic production and structures of power and decision making. This conception of culture helps sustain processes of subordination along the axes of class, race and gender . Culture in this sense is something one does or does not have (and only rarely can acquire), defining social and economic status.
The second way of investing the notion of culture with meaning is somewhat opposite to the first one- referring to a collective asset, something that everybody has and that can be categorized ad infinitum via anthropological or ethnological methods. Culture as the essence and soul of civilization, a kind of a priori which in its different manifestations or classifications can serve nationalist (Volkskultur), conservatist (culture francaise) as well as universalist (cultures of the world, UNESCO) agendas. This second variant is frequently employed in government discourse and specifically marks cultural policy documents, which often describe the value of culture in national as well as collective and humanist terms (I will refer to this later on).
The third common notion of culture is that of a field of production and consumption of (often immaterial) goods- this industrial kind of culture is also at the basis of “creative” culture in its CRI encapsulation. “Culture” in this sense denotes anything that contributes to semiological production- be it books, films, studios, persons, equipment, museums, cultural centers, media etc- and that thereby contributes to a market that can be regulated to a greater or lesser extent. It is the sphere in which culture neither refers to the collective nor the exclusive, supposedly keeping clear of value judgement (while in actuality engaging both the first and second concept of culture in favour of the third) and primarily referring to an entity that has a place in a market. The exclusiveness that is characteristic of the “high/ low” or “innate” type of culture subsists in its economicist bias. This is because it is again based upon thinking culture separately from politics and everyday life, this time as a ghetto characterized by the monetary (not privilege or authenticity). It is not that it does not make sense to speak of “culture” as a field of the production and reception of signs. Because semiotic activity forms the very basis of our lives and subjectivities, we need to move beyond its encapsulations, appropriating and subverting in a singular not individualized way. Guattaris argument is situated in the context of Brazil in the 1980s, where such a movement seemed possible. By this time, the “Cultural Industries” had been coined as a generic term marking the expanding economy of culture as subject to policy, investment and increasing analysis.
Cultural Industries and Creative Industries
There is a lot of confusion around the concepts of Culture/ Cultural and Creative Industries, which often seem to be used interchangeably. The “Cultural Industries” has been an official term since the 1970s, when it came to be subject to policy at the UNESCO, as well as in the US, UK, France and Netherlands. At UNESCO and in Europe, it demarcated de/regulatory policies, bringing the “Culture Industry” concept to a critical policy level. While the “Culture Industry” and “Cultural Industry” clearly emerged in the 20th century, the “Creative Industries” was a term that came to be frequently used since the 1990s and bears close connection to the dotcom boom and the beginnings of knowledge economies. Intellectual property is at the center of the CRIs economically oriented policy. Cultural Industries also embrace IP fully since the late 20th century, however they are based on an older and more socially and democratically oriented model of cultural production than CRI, which stem out of a context of a knowledge economy, of the digital and post-fordist production. The modes of dissemination and production engaged by the CRI are defined by this right from the start.
The emergence of creative industries is related to the rise of culture industries [sic], the significance of knowledge to all aspects of economic production, distribution and consumption, and the growing importance of the services sector.
The most mentioned factors contributing towards the development of the Cultural Industries into a flourishing economic sector include: rising prosperity in industrialized regions, increasing leisure time, rising levels of literacy, links between the new medium of television and new discourses of consumerism, the increasing importance of ‘cultural hardware’ (hi-fi, TV sets, and later VCRs and personal computers) for the consumer goods industry, and so on . Television and Radio, which Adorno commented on extensively, marked the beginning of an age in which informational networks started to go global, making communications and information design increasingly important sectors of industrialized countries, particularly for spreading the cultural and economic hegemony of the so-called West. With these possibilities to mainstream culture on a global scale, a shift occurred in industrialized countries from manufacturing jobs to services jobs:
Between 1971 and 2001, Britain lost 4m manufacturing jobs, but gained 3m business service jobs, 2,3m jobs in distribution and leisure, and 2m positions in the public sector.
The creative economy in Britain today employs 1.8m people . The growth of the internet further reinforced and accelerated the production and distribution of signs, enabling the development of a new sector of economy which is increasingly informational, global and networked (Terry Flew) and creating jobs in the process. While leading towards the CRI, this technological change also brought forth peer to peer infrastructures and collaborative modes for sharing ideas and information, which are incorporated in the CRI concept alongside strictly proprietary and individualistic models.
All of these shifts could and have however also been incorporated by the Cultural Industries. What marks the difference between such an incorporation and the CRI regime is that the latter extends beyond the sphere of cultural policy. At the basis if this is the linguistic shift from “cultural” to “creative”, which allows for a further injection of the economic into policy that might not be possible on a similar scale in the context of Cultural Industries, because of the democratic and critical principles inscribed in them.
From the context of the UK, the rise of Cultural Industries policy and terminology is often explained via the Greater London Councils development of cultural policies in the 1980s and onwards . Andy Pratt and David Hesmondhalgh suggest that one factor for the change in terminology was the desire of the politically centrist UK labour government of the late 1990s to distance themselves from the activities of left-wing metropolitan councils such as the Greater London Council and Sheffield in the 1980s. This was a step towards liberalization of cultural policy that the CRI now incorporates.
The Cultural Industries and the Creative Industries regimes don´t foreclose one another, indeed they perfectly coexist in (post-) national economies. In the UK, the CRI have gained in momentum since the 80s, while on mainland Europe they are being introduced more slowly into prevailing socially oriented cultural policies. The term “Creative Industries” shows to have been increasingly in use since 1990, most frequently in the UK (where a liberalization of cultural sectors has been ongoing since 1980 and had much impact on business, education and urban planning) and in France (where a minister of culture Jack Lang in 1982 held a plea for more government intervention in this field) . But even in countries with advanced CRI policies, certain cultural sub-sectors continue to be subject to regulation (such as film, radio, television; libraries, archives and museums)- as propose protectionist measures of UNESCO .
This does not mean that Cultural Industries are not part of the picture anymore. It does not seem possible at this point to draw a distinction between Cultural Industries and Creative Industries based on fundamental differences- the two merge to various degrees in different national policies. However it can be said that certain tendencies are more present in the concept of CRI, such as the exploitation of IP and increased deregulation. In the UK, a new report now suggests that the CRI entail the Cultural Industries rather than vice versa. Clearly the CRI is gaining momentum in post- industrial societies , and its regime comes to dominate over many types of production.
2. Creative Industries
Definitions and Organization
The creative industries is a field which some take to include not only
advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer games, television and radio, but also ‘low art’ forms such as heritage, tourism (cultural and mass), and sport
…but also manufacturing industries such as CD pressing plants, the printing of inlays, distribution and retail. If seen in all its aspects as an economic sector, the CRI include various facilities for the production of hardware and knowledge products. This conglomerate of sectors seems highly problematic, since each of its component fields has a different investment in “culture”, a different history and engages different modes of production. While levels of deregulation differ for each of these fields even in Creative Industries policy, the question perhaps is how long this is to last under a regime clearly and explicitly following economic imperatives.
In geographic terms, the CRIs increasing economic importance today is not limited to the northern hemisphere or so-called West, but to information-driven societies. The UNESCO reports that the “culture industry” markets have changed from being dominated by US business to being fairly equally distributed between US, Europe and Asia today . At the same time, power and profit today resides with a few global megacorporations that produce, market and patent cultural products (Viacom, Time Warner, Disney; Bertelsmann; Sony; News Corporation, Seagram..)- those are mainly based in the US. High literacy, access to education, media, technology and a mass market for culture, are prerequisites profitable CRI- in this respect there are new and potent markets developing in Asia particularly.
It is mainly in urban cores that information gets designed, content gets created and desire produced, while at the center as well as the margin there are information processing factories and telecommunications centers that constitute a huge, but less visible part of the CRI. Much of the work that gets categorized as CRI-relevant is outsourced (call-centers, hardware manufacture, film production, etc). Arguably there is little guarantee for tolerable working conditions in such production spaces, however there are also large numbers of information workers working under precarious conditions in city centers and suburbs. Working conditions vary greatly, and a detailed analysis of the divergent modes of cultural production would be very necessary to understand how divergent forms of labour can come together under the concept and policy of CRI. In the many fields lumped together under the CRI there are expectations and subjectivities that greatly vary. It is clear that not all people working in the creative economy have their employer or state provide them with social security, a decent contract and wage, or the feeling that they are being creative and free. There should be no illusion that CRI labour necessarily means teamwork and champagne- sipping, or that it is marked by any more freedom than a teaching job- the contrary is perhaps the case. Gerald Raunig calls the creative industries
[…] postfordist versions of the huge structures of culture industry, which tend to limit, rather than to expand the range and the concepts of what is mainstreamed as culture. […] Cultural heritage thus develops into a tool for restricting the public spheres, culture industries turn out to induce postfordist processes of (self-) exploitation, and cultural identity becomes a concept to justify exclusion and wars.
Within the UK, the CRI are most focused on knowledge and software production, notably the games, design, arts+ antiques markets, as well as television, publications and spectacle, each of which raise enormous profits. The UK engage a well trained and educated population of creative workers that get much support from government for developing business and products if they play by the rules of IP, self- exploitation and gentrification. In this sense, CRI operate on national levels- nation states increasingly compete for extensive accommodation and education of CRI workers who hold the promise of bringing future wealth. The CRI function internationally in the sense of being embedded in and constitutive of a globalised market for information, knowledge, communications strategies and technologies, and also because there are transnational strategies for development of CRI such as those of the European Union.
Who are Creative Industries workers and what difference do they make?
Those who might be referred to as CRI workers are hard to trace statistically, since much of the work in the creative sector occurs without long- term contracts, unregistered and/or for free, and/or tax-exempt. There can hardly be a reasonable analysis of average incomes or working conditions beyond the different sectors that constitute the CRI. While the CRI and corresponding jobs grow exponentially, there is still much to be understood about the way these jobs function- how well they pay, how long they last, what kinds of lifestyle they require and foster, what the futures of young generations of CRI workers might look like, and how this differs within the CRI.
Intellectual, Cognitive, Creative, Cybernetic, Virtuoso, … labour and the kinds of subjects and social dynamics these generate has been extensively theorized from both the left and the right (since the industrial revolution until this day ). There are various claims as to how this “new class” of knowledge workers would transform things; by generating prosperity via IP, by forging a new class consciousness, by revitalizing run-down areas, by making virtuosic and subversive use of technology and design, by forging a new kind of flexibilized labour, by forging cybernetic communism through peer-to-peer culture, and so forth.
In the context of operaismo for example, Paolo Virno speaks about the virtuosity of what he calls Culture Industry labour as opposed to fordist labour- communicative activity which has itself as an end- and because of the political potential of any activity without an end, he assigns it political potential . The concept of the multitude and its organization for him is closely connected to the form and organization of virtuosic labour.
Precariousness, Precartiy or the Precariat are often invoked to refer to the ´new class´ of workers, of which the creative and cognitive labour sector constitutes a significant part, be it manufacturing of computer chips, designing of websites or writing of scholarly articles.
Coming from the French term precarité, precarity is a very recent term used to refer to either intermittent work or, more generally, a confluence of intermittent work and precarious existence. In this latter sense, precarity is a condition of existence without predictability or job security, affecting material or psychological welfare.
(Wikipedia, precarity, Oct 06)
Gerald Raunig refers to the ´self- precarization´ of cultural producers. I expect he does not mean to say that precarity is a desired or consciously elected state, but that the economy of internships, short term and flexible labour that emerges through the demand for visibility and success within the cultural- creative sector forces workers to make themselves precarious, taking up lots of jobs, working for free here and there, and trying to fill CVs with experiences that raise their cultural capital. This can determine the lives of both manual and cognitive workers, of cleaners as much as programmers, and is often contingent with the financial, family and residency status. Minimum access to former public services such as medical care, insurance, pensions are characteristic of precarity.
The problem with most intellectual and CRI work is that, whether in the context of self employment or a contract, labour time is hardly structured by working hours and most of the time far exceeds the time one would spend working in any kind of office job on a similar or higher salary. The highly competitive jobs in the CRI mostly require teamwork, and while this might give the allusion of collaboration or horizontal power relations, the contrary is mostly the case. Relationships between people in higher and lower positions are casual, which makes it even more difficult to leave work at a given time when the boss, who one is on friendly terms with, is still sitting in the back office.
Relating these living and working conditions to those of the industrial proletariat and its struggle, the term “precariat” has been coined and invested with the hope for a new class consciousness. In referring to those primarily working intellectually, Franco “Bifo” Berardi suggested the term “cognitariat”, a working class of intellectual workers who often hold university degrees and come from lower middle class families yet live precariously. Again there is allusion to possibilities for solidarity and movement among such people . Overtly political in their emphasis, the mentioned conceptualizations are meant to help understand and subvert shifting processes of subjectivation in order to bring about social change, not to count or classify people. In the framework of economy-oriented CRI policy on the contrary, increasing attempts to statistically capture and categorize workers are undertaken, in order to understand the their lifestyles and to build on new ways of disciplinary subjectivation from there. Discourse is one crucial means for doing this, and will be investigated further on.
The “Creative Class”
The probably most well known theory about the subjects of creative labour is that of the “Creative class”. It refers to the benefits of a high-skilled creative or cognitive workforce that works on designing and managing information and is mostly based in urban cores and brings major revenue to cities. This part of the CRI has received much attention and praise in recent years, after Richard Florida published a book that was to become a kind of bible for urban and CRI policy makers as much as creative enterprises.
His 2002 book “The Rise of the Creative Class” proposes that
metropolitan regions with high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, musicians, gay men, and a group he describes as “high bohemians”, correlate with a higher level of economic development than cities and regions that are lacking these. […] attracting and retaining high-quality talent — rather than building large job-creation infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, shopping centres — would be a better primary use of a city’s regeneration resources for long-term prosperity. […] Florida has devised his own ranking systems that rate cities by a “Bohemian index,” a “Gay index,” a “diversity index” and similar criteria. (Wikipedia: Richard Florida)
While it takes many of his cues from the growth of the London creative sector and the influence of policy upon it, Floridas model has been taken up by many city councils (including London) as a means to attracting capital into low-income urban areas. The problem with Floridas regeneration theory, which works very well in terms of economic profit, is that it encourages processes of exclusion through gentrification -a process the upper strata of creative workers is involuntarily implicated in. For people existing in the areas in question- be they low-income families, creative workers, migrants, elderly people and so forth, it implies rising rent prices or even eviction or demolition of (mostly social) housing, and the colonization of neighbourhoods by well-off young workers, families and consumers. Existing communities disintegrate while inhabitants are forced out of those districts towards suburban areas, where gentrification processes are bound to sooner or later repeat . The atmosphere of creativity, openness and tolerance characteristic of low-income “creative” areas results is bleak commercialization that comes in the form of top-down imposed “culture zones”. As such, Floridas consultancy firm is highly successful . Examples of “Master Plan” regeneration projects and their effects on communities and urban design are abundant- whether or not they refer to creative workers as a starting point for regeneration, the accommodation of CRI businesses is usually a concern. Within the UK, the installation of the Sheffield Cultural quarter is an example.
3. Creative Industries policy
Within the CRI, exploitation of Intellectual Property is a key phrase. There is paradox in positing non-diminishable and collective resources such as knowledge, ideas and creativity as proprietary. The proposal of exploitation always refers to a resource, and while natural resources are more tangible through being easy to locate and finite, it is not clear how knowledge and creativity can be understood in this sense. Ideas can not really be finite nor attached to one single person, and so a generation of scarcity of knowledge needs more than just a proprietary regime, but a new mode of understanding knowledge generally. It seems to me that this is achieved through a discourse that has been on the rise with knowledge economies .
Nurturing and rewarding creative talent is the start of the intellectual property value chain and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are at the core of creative industries existence. However, government recognises issues surrounding IPR are of significance beyond the ‘creative industries’ and must be considered in that context. The creative industries are one of the UK’s major economic success stories, growing at more than twice the national average, representing 8% of GDP. Yet they are facing opportunities and threats – particularly with the advent of the digital environment and advances in new technologies. The effective exploitation of IP will be the key to their success in meeting these challenges and continuing this economic growth.
Reference to success, threat/security and opportunity help with ignoring the question: what will happen if the realm of ideas, like the material world, becomes subject entirely to ownership regulations? Will it mean the immediate absorption of any idea into the market, so that only ideas of a certain age would be “free” and the all the rest would be free market ideas (assuming copyright law remains limited to the lifetime of an author plus some years)?
The timely reference to “threats” links up with discourses surrounding terrorism in the context of a politics of fear, and is an effective way of proposing IP as a must-be. References to opportunity and wealth are also highly appealing when left so vague. The “threats” alluded to include the open source and hackers movement as much as free webcasting and horizontal organizational forms that come about through software such as Wikis and file sharing sites and programs. Since IP is the guiding principle of CRI success, it will be important to legitimize the criminalization of those treating knowledge as a common resource, and the marginalization of free and open access networks. While peer to peer culture will continue to exist, technological devices (such as the IPod) will cooperate with government policy to make it difficult if not impossible to get access to cultural products without paying money for it. Court cases are only one way of safeguarding IP. The general enforcement of a legislation impacts not only cultural production, file sharing or research and development in science and medicine (where IP and patents were firmly established), but also on how people communicate and share thoughts with eachother on a daily basis.
It is worth mentioning the Creative Commons, alongside many other efforts to counter Intellectual property regimes and the transformation of knowledge and creativity into products and shares. If these initiatives are not the main subject of my text this is because my aim here is to understand the larger (economic, legal, discursive) frameworks they operate in- as a way of both providing context and reference for these initiatives, be they in the fields of education, art, science etc. CC licences are surprisingly popular amongst UK artists, a survey by the Arts Council has shown- some 170.000 websites in the UK now licence their work under the creative commons- including not only young artists but also the Tate and similar big arts business . In 2006, open content licencing has been taken up by the BBC in its Creative Archive campaign which encourages you to “Rip it. Mix it. Share it. Come and get it.” while offering a licence that closely resembles the Creative Commons share-alike, non-commercial, attributive licence- with the added condition that all material is only to be further used within the UK . It seems possible to put open content licencing to use in order to share and restrict creativity and knowledge within a national framework.
Cultural policy and Open source
There are ways to think socially about learning, knowledge and culture. Not only small scale initiatives and organizations operate with and ethics of sharing and empowerment beyond national, gender or class boundaries, furthering the use of Open Source and increased accessibility of artistic strategies and education to a wide population. There are also some governments that take on this ethics, particularly in contemporary South America.
In Brazil there are various schemes along these lines in place, and have been going since some years now, backed by President Lula and Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil. One such scheme prescribes that 80% of businesses and government agencies in the country convert their Computers operating systems to Linux, an open source code. This will, through a gradual migration campaign, come to allow communities and agencies to customize their software to their own needs, share expertise and learning, engage the wider community in digital culture and finally rid the state of its dependency on Microsoft and exorbitant package fees. This initiative is complemented by a radical programme that distributes old computers from businesses or government to self-education centers poor areas, where they are set up as linux platforms and local digital workshops are established, granting people of all incomes access to the internet and digital technology. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture offers various education programmes, online platforms and networks for debate and learning about the values of culture. This facilitation of platforms encourages autonomous learning and sharing of skills, which represents an approach totally opposite to the infusion and subtle indoctrination with market knowledge that the UK CI education schemes are working towards under a New Labour governement. Within contemporary Brazilian cultural policy, the focus on social problems and the inclusion of all members of society as active participants is a necessarily political act. The notion of inclusion, which by US or UK standards frequently means nothing other than the tokenistic protection of a few individuals from the consequences of the neoliberal policy, which as the source of exclusion is supported by these governments. Inclusion comes to signify something else in the ideas of Gilberto Gil, who recognizes that it must mean empowerment, creating independence and political thinking as opposed to producing more dependency and symbolism- approaching culture as shareable and ideas as the open source of the citizens of the world.
There are many other organizations and governments that have, largely for financial reasons, made the transition from proprietary to open source operating systems . In itself, it is of course unlikely that a switch to Open Source software can effect much social change if it only applies to centralized government service or economic elites and their businesses, without being embedded in a cultural policy that engages all its citizens with the sharing, programming and collaborative creation of culture.
Cultural policy and Subsidy
The CRIs straightforwardly profit oriented kind of approach offers a convenient way of circumnavigating ideas that might otherwise or earlier have informed cultural policy. Particularly in relation to the arts, the social, autonomy, excellence and access have played an important role for the formulation of UK policy in the last thirty years. The CRI is indeed about enriching informational or entertainment products through artistic techniques, but social, philosophical and political problems are beyond its scope. The cultural policies that had, in the UK of the 80s and 90s, implemented a mixing of art with social or community work seems to fall outside of the strict terms of the CRI: the so-called “third sector”, where artists work with NGOs or other entities who replace the state in its social and welfare functions, does not sit well with the CRI . Yet the arts, in their entirety, are officially part of CRI in the UK as much as where there is a CRI policy in place. With respect to the many sectors the CRI include, there have been and are different histories and systems of subsidy, private sponsorship, or corporate support. For example, publishing is based on peer to peer review and gift economies within academia, on individual research, subsidized by government and self, hardly privately sponsored; while architecture is based on competitive team work, subject to government regulations, public as well as private funding, however considered predominantly as public service; and computer games are corporate funded, technology based, and market oriented. It is an open question how these fields can coincide within CRI policy, or what other reason there could be for this than moving them as far as possible into the real of the economic.
Public- Private partnerships in art and education
Allocation of funds from private sources is a prerequisite for the survival of museums, galleries and art centers as well as educational institutions in the UK today . For such a site of public interest to become a viable site of investment, it needs to enter into a contract of sponsorship, censorship, branding, and hence into a regime of visibility and popularity. Most institutions and projects in the sector of culture and education need to secure a certain amount of investment in order to prove their liability for government support. This means adopting business models. The emergent ´Public-private´ governance of initiatives means that transmission and research become increasingly difficult due to inaccessibility of knowledge (copyrighted and patented information is too either expensive or kept secret, particularly in the sciences), increasing precarization of jobs that traditionally fell into the public sector, and mounting fees for tuition. The “Creative London” inititative of the London Development Agency describes its agenda for education:
.. when it comes to making sure that the right people with the right creative skills are always available for the creative industries, we’re here to work closely with the educational and training systems and look beyond traditional institutions for talent.
The £40 Mio. “Creative Partnerships” initiative (managed by Arts Council England and funded by the DfES and DCMS) is a programme engaging
young people to experience, learn from and enjoy artistic and creative activities […]: Creativity in all areas of work is widely regarded as a critical factor in the future economic success of the country. It is a source of competitive advantage in a knowledge economy and receives considerable Government attention and support as a result .
The Creative Partnerships are a massive investment into future generations of CI workers, parallel to the establishment and transformation of sites to equip them with further education and skills for creative jobs. These jobs will be based upon the competitive exploitation of Intellectual Property and the increased flexibility which the market requires.
It is quite clear that the kind of skills employers require now include skills that are much wider, that you could broadly describe under the headline of “creativity”; team working, being able to challenge ideas, to think laterally, to have critical understandings; those are very much the skills that Creative Partnerships have developed.
The Creative Industries Fact File released by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) is concerned with making links between higher education and the CI:
DCMS in partnership with Universities UK has established a Creative Industries Higher Education Forum. The Forum draws together members of Government, creative industries and educational establishments to advise Ministers on the strategic policies relating to education and research in the UK creative industries. […] Creating strong links between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and businesses is an essential part of improving our economic performance, and HEIs have an increasingly important role to play in increasing the competitiveness of regional economies.
The University of the Arts London is a striking example of CI education and Public-Private Partnerships. The university presents its development board like this:
drawing on a broad range of expertise from across the creative and corporate industries, the Development Council champions the University’s development programme through the inspiration and generation of philanthropic and sponsorship income.
This board consists of CEOs and Ex-CEOs of Sony, BBC, Abbey National, Tesco, and so many more businesses, hedge funds as well as government departments. It is commonplace to lament the privatization of education from both the student side (depoliticization, competition, high fees/student debt) and the teaching side (censorship, precarious jobs, service-character), however the CRI seem to play a particular role in this. While a focus on creativity means the breaking away from authoritarian models of teaching, the CRIs economically driven influence on education policy primarily means no “knowledge for knowledges sake” but that the efficient education of a creative workforce replaces pedagogy or curiosity- driven research. Education in this sense might be understood as a training for the exploitation of ones own ideas, rather than encouraging processes of subjectivation that link creativity with agency, criticality or sociality. This is of course down to teachers as well as program guidelines, but pressure on the former is growing.
Intellectual Property and education
While CI students themselves become instrumental to value production in the double sense of economic profit and of perpetuating cults of creativity, individualism and self- exploitation, it is only after the college years that the reality of precarious work and life kicks in. The pressing point remains how to pursue Open Source as a sustainable mode of practice and life within the current system, and how to counter the indoctrination with IP logic as a student or teacher, questioning the supposedly consensual acceptance of IP as inscribed in educational CRI discourse. Within university contexts in London, campaigns such as “Own-it” are key in producing this consent:
Within your business or your practice, you’ve probably created a wealth of in-house ideas, designs, music, writing, images – in short, ‘intellectual property’ – which can make you extra money, as long as you give it the proper legal protection. Own It will show you how .
“Own-it” is the “Creative London Intellectual Property Advice Service”, a campaign to teach CRI workers and students to properly copyright their work. The campaign is a collaboration between Creative London and the University of the Arts London (specifically London College of Communication) . The target audience is students at art and design colleges, whose benefit to (and success in) the creative economy depends upon their understanding and use of IP rights .
The most common notions by which to recognize CRI discourse (as a variant of the third type of culture outlined by Guattari) currently appear to be creativity, innovation, enterpreneurship, talent, skills, intellectual property, opportunity, knowledge transfer. They promise self- realization, via a discourse in which pleasure and freedom act as a disciplinary device. Below I refer to three of these notions and the way they are put to use in different CRI scenarios.
As many of the quotes in this paper make visible, the word creativity has its heyday within the context of the economization of ideas. In its (latin) origin it refers to a potential for growth. In the contemporary discourses around the CRI, it insinuates a potential that everyone has to bring about something new and other at the benefit of society at large, at the same time defining the outcome of this process as proprietary. To be creative refers to activities that contribute to the making of protocols which can be transferred into knowledge capital. Creativity hence does not necessarily signify a big, mysterious or artistic gesture nor a generous contribution or offer to society (with its connotations linked to maternity, nourishment, growth and collectivity). The association of creativity with self-expression, collectivity and benevolence is of course intentional and important for the desire production on which the CRI thrives. In real terms however, creativity marks a move that allows for the transfer of an aesthetic and intellectual configuration into a marketable product. It will have to be the production of something new or different. Originality plays a role in this, however not necessarily denoting authenticity but a trick that marks the intelligent use of ones own creative “resource”. As such, being creative is not necessarily a straightforwardly self-expressive act, but an individualized speculative and tactical action.
Linked to the notions of talent and innovation, creativity is a kind of everymans capital, reminiscent of the American dream or in any case of something egalitarian: everyone is an artist, and it only takes commitment and competitiveness to ascend within the world of creativity. While “talent” asserts less of an egalitarian viewpoint, it is precisely through the coupling of the exclusiveness of “talent” and the inclusiveness of “creativity”, that makes the CRI attractive. Creativity can be related to art, bohemia, genius, autonomy, creationism, collectivity, equality, essence and also capital and career, in any combination. It is a flexible idea for flexible people.
The context of the CRI makes a differentiated position on creativity necessary: defending it as a collectively accessible asset and which no one can definitely appropriate (potential for social and political subversion included), or praising it as a new kind of ore that can and should be discovered and extracted from human brains and communities for exploitation (promise of increasing wealth included). Of course such a clear cut definition seems implausible, because it would again lead to encapsulation and because socially and economically oriented ideas about creativity blend to various degrees, with accordingly many strategies and kinds of policy. Creativity is similar to culture in this sense, a profoundly reactionary concept since it can not really be separated from life, but is instrumentalized via the construction of a discourse that inscribes it in a specific realm such as that of the economic.
Innovation – the successful exploitation of new ideas – is the key business process that enables UK businesses to compete effectively in the increasingly competitive global environment. The Department is working to stimulate a significant increase in innovation throughout the economy.
The link between creativity and innovation is often explained as innovation being an application of ideas, approaches or actions that creativity produces. In this sense, creativity is the mythical process of inspiration and cognition, while innovation is the copyrighting and marketing thereof. In recent UK government discourse however, innovation increasingly appears in relation to institutions, indeed as an institution itself, an almost mechanical procedure which government can give structure and assistance with. It is in this sense that I will read innovation, departing from CRI discourse. There seems to have occurred a linguistic turn around the millennium whereby “innovation” got firmly attached to the exploitation of ideas mainly in the CRI, ICT and science sectors.
Within the UK, the discourses conveying this as well as the policies effecting it have been present for some time, and notions like research, forecasting and futurecasting have been much linked to innovation, meaning the project of increasing business performance and profit through empiricist and speculative investigation. Within research culture at Universities, this use of the notion of innovation marks a shift away from humanist arguments about the value of culture and knowledge, moving from a pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of civil society to a performance- oriented view of knowledge as currency, and creatives, academics and scientists as the ones responsible for investing this ideas capital into innovative applications. Knowledge transfer is the cynical notion that describes this simple process of (extraction of ideas)- conversion of ideas into a packet or product- transfer or sale to another organization or business- (application to a market or community). The UK Department for Trade and Industries established this as a priority in its 2002 Review for New Public Spending Plans 2003-2006:
15.7 Commercial exploitation: universities and public sector research establishments are responding to the challenge of knowledge transfer. An expanded Higher Education Innovation Fund, incorporating University Challenge and Science Enterprise Challenge, will benefit from annual funding of £90 million by 2005-06 (including £20 million from DfES).
The “London Innovation” Initiative by the London Development Agency offers another example of how the key terms are put to use:
In order to increase innovation in London’s businesses we aim to:
* encourage competitiveness, creativity and enterprise
* increase knowledge transfer and innovation in business
* promote London’s universities as one of the Capital’s key global strengths
In the popular interfaces of CRI discourse (brochures, websites, advertisements), the notions of “creativity” as much as “innovation” still carry the aftertaste of ideals of freedom, autonomy and genius, while CRI policy discourse makes fairly clear that most of these terms, which have been appropriated from the cultural sector, are to be read as dispositifs or apparatuses that guide the extraction of economic profit, corresponding to clear sets of procedures, but holding no claim to being meaningful beyond this application. With a definition of creativity as something quantifiable that comes in pounds or points, research, innovation and creativity are currencies in the knowledge economy that buy access to survival and profit (via funding and investment). Without reference to this capital, no creative enterprise or individual will succeed in the upper strata of the CRI. It is only available to those that have already firmly placed their creative capital on the market, through university education or other ventures.
Together with creativity, the notion of talent offers a viable approach to recruiting for participation in creative enterprise and/or consumption of semiotic products. An interesting case study with respect to this is former UK minister of culture Tessa Jowells paper (or manifesto) on “Government and the value of culture” from May 2004, in which the notion of talent is somewhat central.
Struggling to establish an argument for the value and hence public funding of “complex” cultural forms, Jowell distinguishes more challenging and deeply enriching/ touching art forms from entertainment, however apparently without wanting to reproduce set distinctions between so-called low and high culture or art. It seems she mainly talks about art when she says culture, and indeed her paper is a document pertaining to arts policy. This could be read as a proposal to go back to the first encapsulation of “culture” as described by Guattari, and perhaps it is also because public funding for art has a troubled history and fairly small acceptance margin in the UK, whereas culture seems more legitimate a term to cherish. Jowell launches a complex and somewhat unfortunate rhetorical manoeuvre aimed at the makers and judges of UK cultural policy:
[…] We need the mechanisms in place so that a child with a talent will be able to take that talent as far as they wish to go, bounded only by the limits of that talent, and not constrained by their social and economic circumstances. If they decide to take their talent as far as it can go, we need the means to support them in this. Many of the building blocks are in place, many more are still to be put there. But only by accepting that it is a child’s right to be given the means by which to engage with culture will we be able to move forward. By accepting culture is an important investment in personal social capital we begin to justify that investment on culture’s own terms.
She adopts “mechanistic” as well as social democrat (her being a labour minister) metaphors to make her point, in conjunction with a host of notions that overlap with neoliberal CRI discourse, and the celebratory tone of someone arguing within a context they know to be somewhat hostile to their ideas. In the UK, it seems that culture departments have to struggle with the overbearing presence and affirmation of national identity via sports- the relations between the state, the arts sector and CRI have changed much in recent decades, largely due to growing Cultural Industries and CRI. After a system of arts subsidy that mainly benefited the prestigious and national arts organizations (the patrician elite that is blamed to have dominated over cultural production in the UK for so long) had been put in place by the Arts Council of Great Britain after 1945, in order to promote “British Culture”, the UK under the Conservatives cut arts subsidy and encouraged private sponsorship. From the 90s onward, when the arts field had already been considerably commercialized, the Arts Council England (under Labour) adopted a more socially and diversity-driven arts policy, increasingly engaging the arts as “third sector” through which to compensate for the retreat of a welfare state, while continuing to encourage corporate support. In turn, the arts had been under attack for being elitist, and later on, populist- the “access vs. excellence” debate. While Jowell advocates a more excellence-driven approach, she laments the instrumentalization of art for social purposes as well as the popularization of art as a loss of quality and real engagement. She speaks of culture in order to avoid association with “high art” and also to allow for association with “national culture” etc. She is defending arts policy against too much of a market oriented approach, as is the case with CRI. It is likely that 2004 was a strategic moment for her to launch such an argument, as CRI policy was becoming more and more of an issue influencing cultural policy. Her vocabulary borrows from various discourses to make her approach appear more plausible:
Jowell sets up her argument through a mix of notions: exploration; self-confidence; opportunity; investment; challenge; access; excellence; success; genius; investment; transcendence (the transcendent thrill of great art); complexity; human potential; acquiring a sixth (artistic) sense; aspiration (and poverty of aspiration as the sixth giant form of poverty that needs to be tackled), before getting to her point:
12. Too often politicians have been forced to debate culture in terms only of its instrumental benefits to other agendas – education, the reduction of crime, improvements in wellbeing – explaining – or in some instances almost apologising for – our investment in culture only in terms of something else. In political and public discourse in this country we have avoided the more difficult approach of investigating, questioning and celebrating what culture actually does in and of itself. There is another story to tell on culture and it’s up to politicians in my position to give a lead in changing the atmosphere, and changing the terms of debate.
13. Offering improved access to culture for what it does in itself is a key weapon in fighting the sixth giant, as I have called it. But for it to be effective in this way we have to understand it and speak up for it on its own terms – not a dumbed down culture, but a culture that is of the highest standard it can possibly be, at the heart of this Government’s core agenda, not as a piece of top down social engineering, but a bottom up realisation of possibility and potential.
Jowell then moves on to talk about fulfillment; indirect benefits of art; transformation; access; ladders of opportunity; benefit; achieving change by […] giving access to resources and possibilities; trend; elite; pushing boundaries; attraction; culture in its own terms; culture as heartland; equality of opportunity; fairness; future audiences; building blocks; moving forward; excellence; culture and identity; the individual; community; nation; population transfer; globalization (multiculturalism as the acceptable face of globalization); invention; justice; talent; ambition; etc.
Jowell refers to modernist as well as pre-modernist discourses (indirectly to the Frankfurt school, directly to John Ruskin and Otto Klemperer) but hardly to postmodern or contemporary culture and art theory and practice (off-mainstream movements, institutional critique, new media, digital culture, film, television, radio, creative industries, etc), and while arguing against elitist cultural policy, the “complex” cultural forms she argues for cannot be but associated with a certain bourgeois and antiquated idea of what art is; painting, literature, classical music are the examples she cites. While arguing for complex culture because it matches our complex age, she still seems set on the idea that the modern and analogue is as complex as it gets and finally also that arts should make a ground for national identity, another dangerously conservative idea.
Jowell argues that culture has value in and of itself- a statement that does not say much since it does not refer to a specific interpretation of culture. In terms of Guattaris three concepts of culture she invokes to the elitist (“complex”) and the collective type, to argue against the dominance (but not existence) of the popularized, audience- driven third type. She effectively suggests that if it has to be driven by a market, “culture” could do with a bit more of a type one and two approach- sophisticated and fostering a sense of national excellence, minus the patrician elite. This proposal of a newly differentiated synthesis between the three types of culture, in the context of the UK in 2004, suggests a move away from the dominant rationale of access. I take it to suggest two things: to keep cultural and specifically arts policy separate from CRI policy, and to re-regulate it a little. Judging by UK cultural policies as of mid-2007, where the Arts Council has just lost a third of its entire budget to the Olympic games planned for 2007, it is not clear that Jowells speech has had much of an impact on cultural policy – if such policy can at all be distinguished from CRI policy in this context. Her successor as minister of culture is James Purnell, who was formerly minister of Creative Industries.
5. Conclusion: Responding and relating
There increasing awareness of the economization of ideas and their transmission and the role CRI may play in this. At least on the left, critical analysis and discourses appear to hold promise for the development of respondent and differentiated strategies and initiatives in the field of “culture”. Since welfare and job security are on the decline all over the globe, questions of countering commercialization and precarization become more pressing- and responses perhaps more radical. It seems increasingly important to operate strategically within as well as outside of institutions and workplaces, following up and building on experiences, organizational models and networks that aim to establish different ways of operating within the field of semiotic production and education. People from divergent fields are bound to recognize the similarities of their struggles and the need for joint initiatives and campaigns that open new possibilities for working, sharing and learning.
With respect to precarious living, it is clear that within the CRI – as with most freelance labour- organizing workers is particularly difficult, as these jobs are characterized by unstable and/or unregistered employment, and a high level of individualization. Campaigns that make visible the exploitation of the people in question are extremely hard to operate, because pointing to the root causes of their problems clashes with what is acceptable as critique in most public as well as private frameworks. However, more initiatives are coming into place and new strategies are being devised for understanding and organizing such an intangible workforce, and making links between struggles in fields as diverse as design, sex work, cleaning, teaching, etc. The 2007 DCMS report on CRI says that CRI employs 1mio people in themselves, while 800.000 work in creative professions. If this means that 800.000 people fade in and out of CRI as freelance workers, there is enormous need and potential to address the living conditions and aspirations of such people.
Art for art’s sake – the creative industries are peopled by creative talents who themselves get pleasure and utility from what they do. They are ‘called to their art’. One upside from the business perspective (although it attracts complaints of exploitation) is that their ‘reservation’ wages – the lowest they are prepared to work for – are lower than the marginal value of what they produce, making labour particularly cheap.162 A downside is that the ‘talent’ care deeply about how the creative work is organised, which may discourage concessions or compromises to management.
2. Discourse and Practice
Fostering a discourse around culture that is disconnected from the rhetoric of Corporate-National vocabularies might prove impossible. The language surrounding open source, alternative organizational models and informal networks partly feeds on the buzzwords of big business and policy, or has in turn been taken up by those. The exchanges and blurring zones between economically and socially oriented discourses is perhaps the best point to illustrate that there can not be a one-way flow or definitive appropriation of ideas. Neither CEOs nor activists can prevent the seepage or translation of their ideas into other fields. Adornos comment that no form of culture can resist commoditization in the long run rings true, but I might add that nothing is resistant to hacking either.
The point is to question and act, not to look for apology: how to say “access” and “tolerance” differently seems a difficult problem, and it appears to me that responses will come out of practices (as much as theories) of organization, and the micropolitics of relation and communication. Another kind of discourse will not compensate for exclusion and hierarchy, because notions of openness, creativity, learning and sharing take on meaning only when answered by corresponding ways of meeting, speaking, working, questioning and sharing. All these terms are used by big business and state agencies for pursuing CI growth. One strategy in this context might be the appropriation of “bullshit”-calling, a technique from the field of management, which could be applied to both neoliberal as well as our own discourses.
The turn towards the “creative” can be seen as a positive development in several respects (see the debates around the “new class”), despite of the extreme danger it bears. It seems that certain policy makers are also responsive to issues surrounding these problems, and also that local communities campaigning for rights, against gentrification, etc. might have a role to play in shaping the way a corresponding movement or policy could go. Perhaps a further analysis of these discourses and practices, both as left and right employ them, can serve to reinvest some of them with meaning, making them tangible and translatable to other practices and fields . I suspect it depends on the way we interrelate discourse and practice, deal with issues of transmission, organization and visibility that might bring about awareness and change. Largely this will depend upon the way in which we establish and affirm our different ways of interacting instead of focusing on the visibility of our counter- discourse.