Culture and Crisis, Crisis in Culture - structures and contexts of power and labour in the field of cultural production

TitleCulture and Crisis, Crisis in Culture - structures and contexts of power and labour in the field of cultural production
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Morgan, T.
Affiliation (1st Author)Dublin City University
Section or WGPolitical Economy Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodePES3a
Slot Code (Keyword)PES3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleCultural Work and Labour
Submission ID5617

The professional field of cultural production may be conceptualised as situated within an overarching field of power and capital (Bourdieu, 1993).  This ‘dominant’ field is in crisis.  The mechanism of crisis can precipitate a phase of ‘creative destruction’, where redundant modes of production are interrogated, disrupted and dismantled.  This creative destruction subsequently encourages efforts to find alternative avenues to production, stimulating a culture of innovation as professions attempt to find new solutions to existing difficulties.     However, there exists a parallel crisis in cultural production, not only framed by the acute economic and financial crisis, but one that has been evident since the 1980s.  This involves a rise in the attention paid to ‘culture’ within broader social thought and critical theory.  Therefore, any ‘cultural turn’ can only be conceptualised as intrinsic to the rise of the capitalist system, rather than an adjunct feature peculiar to a ‘late’ or ‘post-modern’ capitalism (Preston: 2001, Jameson: 1984).   Increasingly, culture is produced, distributed, and consumed via a complex technological, social, and economic infrastructure, by a growing number and range of actors, and gatekeepers, using diverse networks.  This is made possible by deepening social divisions of labour and technological infrastructures.  These divisions in turn frame the lived experience, the expressive opportunities, and the material incentives confronting professions engaged in the production of culture.   This system has implications for the production of cultural goods, and labour within the field of cultural production.  Adam Smith suggested that in a commercial-based society the production of knowledge would become just like any other form of labour.  Smith was both describing and prescribing that the function of the artist, no less than that of the intellectual, is to ‘prepare for the market’ his or her own particular ‘species of goods’, which will then be ‘purchased, in the same manner as shoes or stockings’.  This utilitarian view of the function of cultural production has persisted to more contemporary discourses that mark the aforementioned ‘cultural turn’.  While such an approach to schematising culture has its benefits, it is also critiqued for this utilitarian stance to the production of culture, suggesting that it is in no way more ‘special’ than Smith’s shoes or stockings.     This paper analyses the structures and contexts of power concerning the production of culture.  It outlines the ‘cultural turn’, its connections to the rise of neoliberalism, and its implications for the production of culture.  Drawing on research conducted in Ireland, it outlines the key aspects of the field of cultural production and situates them to the broader zeitgeist of ‘crisis’.  It pays particular attention to (1) the key features of the field, including the scope and remit of the field and its reward systems, the conditions of production, roles, functions and self-identities; (2) daily work in the field, including the use of ITCs, the rise of the precariat, changing macro-level factors, and ‘remix culture’; and (3) policy matters, including a case study of ‘rebranding’ Ireland through culture, broader policy implications and media foregrounding of the field.

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