Proving the value of culture: on evidence, quality and the problem of commensuration: Dr DaveO'Brien

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Presentation given by Dr Dave O'Brien, City University, at the Crossovers conference in the Economic Development Resource Centre, University of Greenwich, 19th September 2012

Presentation given by Dr Dave O'Brien, City University, at the Crossovers conference in the Economic Development Resource Centre, University of Greenwich, 19th September 2012

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  • ‘Public policy cannot be developed by intuition alone’ JRF
  • See it in all kinds and across cultural sector e.g. resistance to Creative Industries discourse, or MA debate ‘our role is not to make a difference in people’s lives’
  • Antithetical to visisons of art esp. ‘routine’ and ‘standardised’ (although Benjamin useful here)
  • (in context of failure of this form of economics Engelen et al 2011)
  • Culture as a concept emerges 3rd Q of c18thalongside idea of ‘human’ as changable and improvableFor both Bourdieu, Bauman and Joyce (in my reading) Emergence of capacity to govern was bound up in emergence of the idea of the social. Thus society and its government are inextricable. If we see culture as coterminous (or at least hard to demarcate from) the social then it must follow it is bound up with government


  • 1. Dr. Dave O’Brien, City University, London‘Proving the value of culture: on evidence, quality and theproblem of commensuration’
  • 2.
  • 3. ‘Art for Art’s sake’ Luxford(2010:87) ‘art is separate from other spheres of human experience and that this autonomy conveys privilege, with the corollary, not advanced by all writers on the subject, that such privilege extends to those who make art. These ideas have proven sufficiently useful and provocative to give art for art’s sake a prominent place in over two centuries of aesthetic discourse, and to lodge the term, with a wisp of its underlying ideology, in the popular consciousness’ Range of associated ideas since 1804
  • 4. Culture’s distance from bureaucracy State is formed by as ‘routinisation of charisma’ via techniques of standardisation e.g. writing, time, maps. language Joyce 2008:8 Bureaucracy as concentration of various capitals that create mechanisms for domination (Bourdieu 1994) And the bureau is governed by instrumental rationality Bauman (2004) Culture is a representation of the particular against homogenisation and it is critical towards the status quo and its institutions (Adorno cited in Bauman 2004)
  • 5. Culture and the market (1) ‘Hostile worlds’ of art and commerce (Coslor 2010) interdependence of markets and art world (Velthuis 2005) ‘They said they would never allow their artistic priorities to be compromised by commercial objectives and that they did not let financial matters interfere with the way they conducted relationships with artists and collectors. At the same time, however, when they were casually describing their daily life world, including social interactions, prices surfaced prominently in their discourse’ (2005:2)
  • 6. Culture and the market (2) Markets only produces short term popularism Managerialsim founded on the market will give empty cultural forms, unlike previous relationship with management that strengthened culture ‘to subordinate cultural creativity to the criteria of the consumer market means to demand of cultural creations that they accept the prerequisite of all would be consumer products: that they legitimise themselves in terms of market value (and their current market value, to be sure) or perish’ (Bauman 2004:68)
  • 7. Culture, management andbureaucracy Culture inextricably linked to management and the birth of bureaucratic state (Bauman 2004) ‘culture’ metaphorically applied to humans was the vision of the social world as viewed through the eyes of the ‘farmers of the human-growing fields’- the managers. The postulate or presumption of management was not a later addition and external intrusion: it has been from the beginning and throughout its history endemic to the concept’ (Bauman 2004:64) Culture impossible to separate from the state and the attendant bureaucratic technologies which make the state possible (Bourdieu 1994)
  • 8. ‘if we consider that to support one person’s or groups’ culture is also to amake a decision not to support another’s, on what basis do we makethese decisions?’ Reality of current central govt is a zero sum game. Thereare not enough funds to go round, so how do we allocate them?’ Gibson(2008:14)
  • 9. Valuation methods Preference-based methods Subjective Wellbeing/Income compensation methods Counting attendances Measuring impacts:  Experiential  Economic  Social
  • 10.  ‘numbers have an unmistakable power in modern culture... [they] achieve a privileged status in political decisions, [yet] they simultaneously promise a depoliticisation of politics... By purporting to act as automatic technical mechanisms for making judgement, prioritising problems and allocating scarce resources’ (Rose 1991:673 cited in Townley et al 2003:1047) Sorka et al (2002) problem of getting accurate numbers even for public expenditure!
  • 11. Conclusion: What is value? Value as price Value as ethics Value as expression/identity
  • 12.  @drdaveobrien