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Culture & The Economy: John O'Hagan: The arts and the wealth of nations
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Culture & The Economy: John O'Hagan: The arts and the wealth of nations



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  • 1. THE ARTS AND THE WEALTH OFNATIONS: THE ROLE OF THE STATE John O’Hagan Trinity College Dublin, May 2012
  • 2. Outline of TalkFive separate ‘wealth’ benefits1. National/Regional Identity2. Social Cohesion/National Prestige3. Experimental/Innovative Work4. Option Demand for Future Generations5. Economic spinoffs
  • 3. Wealth Benefit 1: National/Regional Identity• The arts contribute to National Identity; ipso facto the State should fund the arts• All benefit hence all should pay, through the State• But, concept of national identity can be divisive and exclusive (Zolberg)• Arts do not contribute to national identity, at least no more than sports, media, religion, etc (Globerman)• National identity though can contribute to a sense of belonging, social cohesion and mutual understanding• And the arts can play a crucial role in this: but so can other activities
  • 4. Wealth Benefit 2: Social Cohesion and Prestige• Connected to Argument 1• ‘The arts, especially drama, one of the principal means by which a society binds itself together and transmits it beliefs and standards from one generation to another’ (Weil)• But, this social ‘glue’ role can be, and is, played by mass media, religion and commercial arts as well (Weil again)• Linked also to national prestige or sense of well-being• Arts critical to this: ‘few people would be happy if their country became known abroad as a cultural wasteland, a nation in which Mammon had put beauty and art to rout’ (Baumol and Baumol)
  • 5. Wealth Benefit 2: Social Cohesion and Prestige (continued…)• Continued from previous slide• As with wealthy individuals: arts patronage used as a symbol of success• But this applies also to sports such as horse racing or football or golf• National prestige not necessarily linked in any way to identity• Linked though to social cohesion• Besides, distinctive ‘Irishness’ often the key to national success and prestige: and the arts unique in this respect (e.g. Irish literature, historic monuments)• But, this does not imply necessarily a role for state funding: unless it also enhances social cohesion
  • 6. Wealth Benefit 3: Experimental/Innovative Work• An agent for change with regard to established authorities, values, institutions and truths (Weil)• Part of general innovative, or R&D function• Many benefits for example to commercial TV/film from live drama• Concert hall and theatre, orchestras and drama groups, the ‘laboratory’ for composers and playwrights• These also a ‘testing’ ground for new performing talent for commercial sector
  • 7. Wealth Benefit 4: Option Demand for Future Generations• Applies with particular force to built heritage and museums• Once destroyed not available for future generations; present generation may be prepared to pay for its preservation• But what is benefit to future generations? Rests fundamentally on earlier national identity/distinctiveness argument• And national identity a public wealth benefit, and should be funded by state
  • 8. Wealth Benefit 5: Economic Spillovers’• State monies devoted to employment creation; why not in the arts as well?• Direct employment: not special• Tourist attraction (e.g. Temple Bar, literary trails, heritage)• Key contributor to creative city concept (Florida); spin-offs for other employment• But, sports facilities (e.g. good golf clubs) or nature (e.g. Killarney) or good pubs/restaurants play same role?• Also, commercial arts: West End, Temple Bar, Rock concerts
  • 9. Wealth Benefit 5: Economic Spillovers’ (continued…)• Continued from previous slide• Unique and distinctive nature of the state arts though might be the ‘key’: golf can be played anywhere?• Hence no conflict necessarily between the national identity and economic spillover roles in practice
  • 10. Concluding Comments• Distinction between private and public wealth benefits critical• Latter outlined above, with the main emphasis on possible national identity benefits• Existence of such benefits not really disputed; key issue is the scale of these• Distinction between commercial and state arts sectors also important• Former like any business sector but may have economic spill-over effects, like for example IT sector• Hence key part of industrial and tourism policy