Arts and Creative Industries and the City: Sweden

Arts and Creative Industries and the City: Sweden

Justin O'Connor will be giving two papers in Gothenburg and Stockholm in April.

On April 28, Professor Justin O’Connor will hold a seminar on cultural economy, cultural citizenship and the creative city in Frilagret in Göteborg.

“Since the 1980s cities have used art and culture to promote their image, regenerate older districts, attract tourists and creative professionals, and latterly, rolled into the creative industries as a new dynamic economic sector. There is no doubting the contribution all these approaches have made to the transformation of the urban landscape. But they have also provoked a growing crisis as to what exactly is the value of culture? Distinctions have been made between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’ value; or different levels of cultural, social, economic and environmental ‘impact’; or even new kinds of ‘public value’ measures which use quasi-markets to valuate cultural assets of programs. A great many policy documents have used these and other models to try to ”fix” the value of culture for public policy.

This talk attempts to sidestep these debates by revisiting, first, the idea of cultural citizenship and second, that of cultural economy. I will suggest that these two ideas should not be separated into the socio-cultural and the economic but need to be combined in a new agenda for urban cultural policy.”

In Stockholm Justin will be presenting to a seminar organised by Konstnärsnämnden (The Swedish Arts Grants Committee).

It is 16 years since the UK Government launched their ‘creative industries' agenda, in which the economic value of culture was to be inserted into the cognitive or creative economy. Culture, or creativity, or both were now to be part of the innovation system of post-industrial economies, a key source of competitive advantage against low wage manufacturing economies. 
The creative industries agenda has been routinely used and abused by the arts and cultural sector. For some it gets culture to the top table of policy, acknowledges the role of the non-subsidised sector in culture, and brings in the entrepreneurial energies of new actors with new technologies unencumbered by the elitism of the past. For others it has reduced culture to a purely instrumental role and cultural workers to human capital ‘input' into an innovation system geared to endless commercialisation. 
In this talk I want, first, to review the idea of creative industries and how the arts and cultural sector was involved in its elaboration and promotion. Second, I want to suggest that the creative industries represented an attempt to remove the tensions, or even the distinctions, between ‘culture' and ‘economy' which were central to the earlier notion of ‘cultural industries'. Third I will argue that rather retreat the economic or re-assert the ‘intrinsic value' of culture, a progressive approach needs to turn and face ‘the economic' itself, to redefine what we mean by that ‘economic'. Finally, I will try to outline a new critical approach to the cultural economy which allows us to both to acknowledge the economic dimension of culture in a different register to mainstream economics, and to retrieve some of the aspirations of an earlier cultural industries moment in the context of a vastly different global landscape. 


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