Dave O'Brien Cultural Policy

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Presentation by Dave O'Brien of City University to the Cultural Intermediation Project Continuity Day, 27 September 2013

Presentation by Dave O'Brien of City University to the Cultural Intermediation Project Continuity Day, 27 September 2013

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  • ‘Public policy cannot be developed by intuition alone’ JRF
  • Creation of self via cultural workCultural intermediation as ambivalent
  • These are phases of justification for funding cultural sector and how its been measured
  • (esp UKCC)
  • Why would policy care + have idea of deficit if, in fact, non-consumers are from range of social groups? Why force them if they don't have taste for it? Suggests need for social analysis, often escapes cultural policy.


  • 1. Dr. Dave O’Brien, City University, London
  • 2. Core themes  Modernity, Government and Governmentality  Cultural Consumption  Cultural Work  Cultural Regeneration  Cultural Value
  • 3. Reflexivity and the social life of methods  Reflexive turn in social science and the constitutive role of methods  Law and Urry (2004) Social science methods make worlds  Political Science constructions of public opinion (Espeland 2001)  Economic constructions of GDP, population, value (Law and Urry 2004)  So what cultural policy will methods make possible?
  • 4. General problems of cultural policy  Data collection, statistics and evidence are a longstanding issue in the cultural sector  Reflects the problems of defining culture (e.g. Gray 2006, Miles and Sullivan forthcoming)  And defining what cultural policy is for
  • 5. ‘the sector is hindered by its failure to clearly articulate its value in a cohesive and meaningful way, as well as by its neglect of the compelling need to establish a system for collecting evidence around a set of agreed indicators that substantiate value claims’ Scott (2009:198)
  • 6. What is the aim of government policy? ‘The fundamental reason for national and local government action is based on the economic principle of market failure. Market failure can occur for several reasons, but when it does occur it means the market will under value the benefits of engagement leading to an under supply of culture and sport. Therefore the market alone cannot be relied on to produce a socially optimum level of supply………. It is not sufficient, however, just to identify in principle that a market failure may exist: evidence is required (DCMS 2010:6)’
  • 7. Four phases in UK(?) cultural policy  Ars gratia Artis 1940s-1970s  Breakdown of consensus 1970s  Making an economic and social impact 1980s- 2000s  The decline of impact and the rise of value mid 2000s-present
  • 8. But are these ‘impacts’ the real value of culture? 'Mozart is Mozart because of his music and not because he created a tourist industry in Salzburg or gave his name to decadent chocolate and marzipan Saltzburger kugel. Picasso is important because he taught a century new ways of looking at objects and not because his painting in the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum are regenerating an otherwise derelict northern Spanish port. Van Gogh is valued because of the pain or intensity of his images and colours, and not because he made sunflowers and wooden chairs popular. Absolute quality is paramount in attempting a valuation of the arts; all other factors are interesting, useful but secondary. ‘ (Tusa 1999, cited Reeves 2002:36)
  • 9. Is there a ‘Liverpool Model’  Yes  Creating a narrative of the city  The catalytic effect on partnerships and leveraging further projects  Creating a shared policy aim across public and private sectors and their communities  Creatively productive, even (especially?) the opposition!  However....  Not £753.8m of impact  Or £1billion of regeneration projects  And the place specific nature of Liverpool’s ECoC  Role of Impacts08  Narratives of multiple impacts have stayed in the minds of public and policy-makers: the holy grail?
  • 10. The £800m case…. ‘The statistics surrounding the outputs and outcomes are included elsewhere and as impressive as they are the two key measures are the almost 8:1 return on public investment and the improved confidence of its people. The latter being any city’s most valuable raw material. For every pound spent there appears to have been a measureable eight fold impact on the local economy. The confidence of the people has improved not just because it had a fantastic year long festival of world class cultural events, but because they realised that great things could be done in their city. That great things had been done in their city and that great things could be done again in their city. And they could do them.’ http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/PhilRedmond- VisionStatement.pdf
  • 11. ...and the influence on policy  ‘What is also clear is that the concept of “multiple impacts” has moved from the research arena—introduced to Liverpool initially through the Impacts 08 study — into a promise for the policy arena. This dislocation of narrative from evidence is all the more problematic because it appropriates the language and approach of evaluation and science, validating itself in the public policy sphere by doing so.’ Cox and O’Brien (2011:6)
  • 12. Policy and participation  ‘Deficit’ model within arts and cultural policy  Linked to narratives of social exclusion and transformative power of the arts  ‘the deficit model of participation, which views non- participants in legitimate culture as an isolated and excluded minority is misplaced’ (Miles and Sullivan 2009:19)  And non-consumption is common (Chan and Goldthorpe 2007)  Suggests policy has a misguided assumption and needs new aims!
  • 13. The dispositions of the creative class  Attitudes of openness and diversity (linked to their omnivorousness)  Individualistic  Meritocratic  Elite visions of themselves as new forms of distinction  Actually reflective of the closure of professional society and stasis of social mobility
  • 14. What does this mean for cultural intermediation?  The problem of evidence  Tensions between government and communities  Questions of power relationships  Who gets to intermediate what?  What does it mean to be modern?
  • 15.  @drdaveobrien  Dave.obrien.1@city.ac.uk