How “neoliberal” are the creative industries?

Above: "Creativity" proved an attractive label for the business press in the mid-2000s. Source: Fast Company

Today I’m having a look an important recent paper by Stuart Cunningham and Terry Flew, entitled “Creative Industries after the First Decade of Debate” (it’s a paper published this year in the journal The Information Society 26: 1–11, 2010).

There’s no doubt that the “creative industries” debate is one of the most prominent in the cultural policy sphere. You might remember that in September last year I had a look at Toby Miller’s paper, “From Cultural to Creative Industries” [Cultural Studies, 23(1): 88 — 99]. In that paper, Miller examines the academic claims and policy rhetoric  of the various proponents of the creative industries idea, like Richard Florida and the QUT school, and attacks them for their “neo-liberal” ethos:

[The creative industries discourse] has offered humanities intellectuals already interested in cultural policy - often for reasons of cultural nationalism - the opportunity to go still closer to the heart of power, shifting their discourse to a comprehensively copyright-inflected one that focuses on the language of comparative advantage and competition.

Flew and Cunningham’s paper can be read as a direct riposte to this attack. Continue reading

What’s new in the journal Cultural Studies: Toby Miller on why “not all industries are cultural, and no industries are creative”

In this January’s issue of Cultural Studies, Toby Miller, one of the heavy-hitters of the field, weighs in on the debate about “cultural industries” versus “creative industries.”

Miller’s essay, entitled “From Cultural to Creative Industries” [Cultural Studies, 23(1): 88 — 99] is in response to an essay by Daniel Mato in the same edition, in which Mato argues that all industries are to some extent creative:

Mato rightly associates the idea of the cultural industries with Adorno and Horkeimer’s critique, and he is correct to point out that their concerns we much to do with standardized reception as industrialized production. Their critique of mass culture bought into the same anxieties as the right exhibited about the advent of public literacy  in many ways, the real concern lay in the word “mass” rather than the word “industry.” In part, this is to do with a longstanding issue of management  how to control populations. So the emergence of private, silent reading in the ninth century was criticized as an invitation to idleness. The extension through societies of the capacity to read had as its corollary the possibility of a public forming beyond a group of people physically gathered together. In the eighteenth century, Denis Diderot asked “who shall be the master? The writer or the reader?” With mass literacy came industrial turmoil.

Miller then embarks on a brief excursion through the history of the development of industrialised culture, taking a pssingg side-swipe at Adorno and Horkheimer’s suspicion of mass taste, to argue, contra Mato, that just because all industries create consumption goods and that consumption goods are fetishized objects of mass culture, doesn’t therefore mean that the car industry is inherently creative.   Continue reading