CULTURE IN THE AGE OF ECONOMIC RATIONALITY. Discussion about the relationship between culture and economy in Slovenia – provoked by a group of younger economists Their position: (1) the market economy is a universal criterion for assessing any activity in society
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(1) the market economy is a universal criterion for assessing any activity in society
(2) all other spheres of social life are expected to justify their existence using a kind of econometric introspection (a test of their own economic rationality = benefits for society as a whole)
(1) tax payers and society as a whole will benefit from the activity in question
(2) investment of public funds in a particular project is better (more profitable) than investment in some other project
(1) no public investment as such qualifies as worthwhile (for example, on the basis of expert assessments);
(2) it may become worthwhile only in relation to another (real or hypothetical) competing subsidy or investment
[culture should offer convincing arguments (meaning acceptable to economists) proving the benefits of culture for society as a whole, and for the economy in particular]
= a late response to a process that began in the USA in the mid 1960s,
later spread to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain
and gradually to west European countries.
The pioneering work in the field of cultural economics:
In the meanwhile – studies about the impact of culture on the economy have become extremely popular
Twenty Years of Economic Impact Studies of the Arts
During the 1970s and the 1980s:
Studies about the economic impact of culture flourished especially in North America.
Cultural councils in the USA and Canada began to offer simple do-it-yourself manuals and software that could be used by cultural organizations to calculate their “economic impact” on the environment in which they operate – a town, a region or the like, e.g.:
(1) cuts in public expenditure and
(2) simultaneous strengthening of the private sector.
(1) considerable reduction in subsidies received from the state budget
(2) immediate need to compensate the lack of resources through market approaches
“commercial films are as much art as non-commercial ones”
“an artist’s reputation is made in the market”
and the like.
(1) to provide “hard” (numerical, statistical) indicators
(2) by doing so, to convince the economists and politicians that investment in culture was
The aim of the “impact” studies was to convince those who had power that subsidies for culture produce so-called multiplier effect.
Why this conclusion is important?
It shows that the study of the economic impact of culture:
(1) the methodologically unacceptable “shortcuts” used in collecting and selecting data
(2) attempts at “self-interested” interpretation of statistically aggregated data
(3) simplifying /one-sided understanding of cultural production
(1) a product not of political economy, but rather of “politicized” economy
(2) an uncritical instrumentalization of economic studies for political purposes
(1) Their methodological (non)credibility, such as:
(2) Impact studies are inconsistent with the nature of the arts
= structural problem of these studies because:
“The arts have an economic dimension, but that dimension does not constitute the essence of the arts. Economic arguments for the arts do not emerge from the central philosophy or strength of the arts – their creativity, their ability to challenge, for example – but rely instead on central features of a non-arts discipline.”
In a debate in which the key argument is economic “rationality,” the struggle is bitter, and the winner is one who can convincingly prove that:
Yet it is a question whether in such a struggle it is truly possible to offer arguments sufficiently solid as to protect culture from the economic “rationality” of other, more profitable sectors?
- sociology and its specialized branches (the sociology of culture, the sociology of work, urban sociology etc.)
- cultural and arts history
- communications studies
- aesthetics and many more
“Art and culture are not means to economic ends (as advocated by ‘economic’ impact arguments), but the economy is a means to artistic and cultural ends.”