A conference Cultural Economy: The Next Generation explored the possibilities of a new policy agenda for the cultural economy in Australia. The event was held at the Monash Law Chambers last month.
Organized by Justin O’Connor, Shane Homan and Mark Gibson in the new School of Media, Film and Journalism, it set out to challenge the narrative of the ‘creative industries’ where culture was reduced to its economic impact.
The easy “win-win” links between culture and economy were no longer so straightforward in a post-GFC, climate-changing world.
“Rather than seeking ‘economic impact’, a radical agenda for the cultural economy might re-assert its ethical-political imperative to challenge the injustices and dysfunctions of the ‘economic’,” Professor O’Connor said.
“The conference looked at how new approaches to the cultural economy might help us reframe cultural policy for the next decade.”
The cultural economy can be defined broadly as that set of practices, institutions and ‘imaginaries’ involved in the production and consumption of culture. The notion of cultural economy achieved three things.
First, it expanded the focus of cultural policy to include the wider systems within which cultural production and consumption take place.
Second, it suggested cultural as well as economic values be emphasised in policy objectives and outcomes. Third, it articulated ethical and cultural values relevant to how we organise our economies.
Keynote speakers for the conference were Professor David Hesmondhalgh, from the University of Leeds, and Marcus Westbury, from Renew Australia.
A final session heard contributions from Tom O’Reagan and Graeme Turner from the University of Queensland, long-time participants in these debates around Australian cultural economy.
The overwhelming sense at the conference was that the ‘creative industries’ moment had now lost its energy, becoming more of a problem than a solution.
In particular the lines it draws between art and culture and ‘commerce’ has become counter-productive.
A strong, diverse and innovative cultural economy in Australia, one capable of engaging confidently with the new giants of the Asia-Pacific, demand that we think seriously about a new approach to cultural economy would not just ask what kind of culture we want to produce – but what kind of economy we want to help us do this.
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