Tag Archives: Cultural Economy

Scott, A. (2004). Cultural-Products Industries and Urban Economic Development: Prospects for Growth and Market Contestation in Global Context. _Urban Affairs Review_, 39(4): 461 -490.

In this article, Scott aims to address the real feasibility of placing cultural-products industries at the center of economic development policies, as has been increasingly common practice since the first generation of “place marketing and associated heritage-industry programs” (464) of the 1980s.

Today, says Scott, cultural economy industries are bound together by these three common features. They are:

  1. focused on aesthetic and semiotic content creation
  2. the more disposable income, the more industries’ products are consumed
  3. their presence encourages local agglomeration for production, which is then circulated into global markets.

About the functional points of industries: First, they’re “composed of swarms of small producers complemented by many fewer numbers of large establishments” (467). Second, the small producers tend toward flexible specialization and the large firms toward mass production, sometimes turning into “systems houses” (467), hubs of larger production networks. They conform to a contractual/transactional model with a heavy reliance on part-time/freelance labor, the instability of which leads to “intensive social networking activities” (467).

Cultural products industries operate best when their component parts cluster geographically. Globalization has in fact accentuated “agglomeration because it leads to rising exports combined with expansion of localized production” (472). Production may move elsewhere, creating “alternative clusters or satellite production locations” (473), such as Vancouver filming locations.

Partnerships between cities, facilitated by communications, also exist. Using the audiovisual industry as an exemplar, Scott hypothesizes “a much more polycentric and polyphonic global audiovisual production system in the future that has been the case in the recent past” (475), one that will get increasingly “enmeshed in [widening and decentralizing] global networks of commercial and creative interactions” (475).

Regarding developmental initiatives for the cultural economy, in cities where the cultural-products industries exist, the best policy comprises interventions “at critical junctures in the production system and the urban milieu to release synergies” (479). In cities without preexisting cultural production, there is often a revamping effort using “the relics of the industrial past” (479). Such initiatives, however, can unleash gentrification. In all cases, policy makers must know they have to reach out to the wider world’s consumer base.

“A vibrant cultural politics attuned to these issues will no doubt attempt to intensify the push to diversity while seeking to mobilize opinion in favor of a global cultural economy that promotes intelligence and sensibility rather than their opposites” (484).

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Scott, A. (1997). The cultural economy of cities. _International journal of urban and regional research_, 21(2): 323–339.

Allen J. Scott, PhD Geography from Northwestern University, is Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Geography at UCLA. He has spent the last several years focusing on industrialization organization and location, urbanization, the cultural economy of cities, and economic development.

In this paper he explores “the intertwined effects of capitalist production processes and the ever-increasing cultural content of outputs, and the ways in which these effects make themselves felt in the growth and development of particular place” (325). Moreover, he asserts that these effects will be complex and far ranging, exhibiting both Adorno’s (2001) bleak assessment of the flattening culture industry and a more optimistic one.

Scott opens, explaining place and culture are inextricably liked and not without tensions: place is “always a locus of dense human relationships” (324) and culture is incident to “place specific characteristics” (ibid) that distinguishes localities from one another. The postfordist cultural product economy affirms the supply side’s differentiation marketing strategy and the demand side’s fad-driven consumption. The net effect: flexible, specialized production by small firms enabled by technological breakthroughs and networked organization.

The most important upshot for this “productive-cum-competitive regime” (327) discussion: “large metropolitan areas…[are] rapidly becoming the master hubs of cultural production in a postfordist global economic order” (327).

There are three main points of the cultural economy:

  1. it comprises a wide variety of manufacturing and service activities
  2. its employment signifies its sheer size, which seems to be growing
  3. much of the cultural economy is located in major city centers.

Scott then explains the cultural-products industries can be summed up in the following five technological-organizational dimensions:

  1. the technologies and labor processes involve larger amounts of human handiwork and computer technologies
  2. production is generally arranged in small- and medium-sized, dense networks
  3. multifaceted industrial complexes arise from the smaller networks, which in turn require labor pools, thus reducing the risks for both workers and employers
  4. the complexes of cultural products industries are “invariably replete with external economies” (333), which leads to “the hypothesis that innovation…is likely to be a geometric function of the size and the relevant reference group
  5. agglomeration encourages new institutional infrastructures which can assist the local economy.

Finally, while cultural economies are densely agglomerated in their home cities, they are likewise global actors, “embedded in far-flung global networks of transactions” (334). Their success is thus dependent on local penetration and foreign, cultural access. Multinational corporations are no an essential ingredient in cultural production circulation.

“[G]eographically differentiated cultural production nodes are liable to be the rule rather than the exception” (335).

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Molotch, H. (1996). LA as Design Product: How Art Works in a Regional Economy. In _The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century_, A. Scott & E. Soja, eds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

In this chapter of Scott’s and Soja’s LA School exegesis on why the study of LA is relevant to all postmodern urban studies, Molotch explains it is the very essence of Los Angeles that permeates the city’s — and the world’s — commercial industry.

“Using Los Angeles as a case study, I investigate how local aesthetics…affect what businesses produce and market. Local art is a factor of production” (225).

Molotch discusses the intersection of high and low arts and its interpretation (e.g. Bertoia claims Nude Descending a Staircase as his inspiration for his steel rod chair), and LA’s diverse cultural makeup on creation. Since 1990, LA has been home to as many “creative occupation”-holding (Zukin, 1995) professionals as New York City.

LA’s characteristic playfulness, optimism, topography, and weather have all been brought to pioneering bear in the film, tourism, apparel, architecture, design, and automobile industries. These industries stay here, says Molotch, because there is inherent and irreplaceable value in their geographic association with LA. Moreover, since Southern Californians are so notorious for their lack of brand loyalty, this is a prime marketing testing ground for new products.

“The mistake is always to bracket art from production, and to think of the artistic, whether in material form or human, as defining the opposite of the practical” (264).

LA’s competitive advantage is based on its cultural production.

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Markusen, A. (2004). The distinctive city: Evidence from artists and occupational profiles. University of Minnesota: Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.

Ann Markusen, PhD in Economics from Michigan State University, is Professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis’ Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and Director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics. She is considered one of the foremost authorities on “creative placemaking” and has also taught at Rutgers, Northwestern, Berkeley, and the University of Colorado.

Tracking occupations in American cities, Markusen makes discoveries about the “distinctive” city, and the occupational and lifestyle trends of various artists, and gives recommendations for cities to articulate the arts to distinguish themselves from other municipalities.

Beginning with discoveries, cities “have not resurged at the expense of other second tier cities” (4) in recent decades. Some occupations trend toward major metros, others second-tier, others still avoid the second-tier, opting for cities bigger and smaller. A city’s size does not dictate the degree to which its economy is specialized or hierarchical, but distinctiveness does appear to be on the rise.

To study change over time, Markusen used the “occupational advantage” (7) measure in California cities and discovered the cities are becoming increasingly specialized. Regarding the artistic advantage: in the 1990s, artists showed a reversal in the decentralization trend, particularly in LA, New York, and San Francisco.

Reasons for the concentration of artists in these and other cities:

  1. sheer size, though “only at very high thresholds does the demand for elite arts activities show sensitivities to size of place” (11);
  2. demand might be higher in the traditionally elite cities because of the concentration of disposable income;
  3. the media and advertising industries are in larger cities and have a high demand for artistic labor pools;
  4. arts lure tourism dollars;
  5. cross-pollination and synergies across the various art practices;
  6. artists themselves are drawn to cultural amenities; and
  7. artists patronize other artistic works.

And now the factors that draw artists away from large cities to smaller ones:

  1. different types of artists prefer different locales;
  2. as they’re often self-employed, they are freer to move from city to city;
  3. their presence in a city is linked to the host-city’s sectoral strength;
  4. self-employment varies considerably across regions;
  5. because they’re often self-employed and “footloose,” artists are “paradoxically, capable of acting as stabilizers in a regional workforce” (18), often staying where they are and producing at the same frequency.

Conclusions:

  1. The notion that a city’s sheer size or personal wealth equates to artistic competence is unsupported.
  2. Sectoral strengths are linked to artistic clusters and migration patterns.
  3. Higher cost of living matters sometimes, sometimes not, in dissuading artistic presence.

So what can cities do to cultivate their distinctiveness? Cities should:

  1. play to their current strengths,
  2. “make more modest [arts] investments in smaller distinctive neighborhood-based arts complexes that will stabilize communities, home-grow artists, and create that…urban mosaic” (21);
  3. target the sectors that play up the distinctiveness;
  4. lure artists through amenities, arts education, social/housing benefits;
  5. subsidize artists’ spaces;
  6. link artists to each other; and
  7. rethink current arts investment strategies (read, megaprojects).

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Currid, E. (2007). How art and culture happen in New York. _Journal of the American Planning Association_. 73(4).

Using recent scholarship on the great value creative capital provides to postindustrial economies (Florida, 220; Lloyd, 2006; Markusen & Schrock, 2006) as her starting point, Currid explores the exact mechanism by which the creative industries operate and thrive in New York. Subsequent to 80 in-depth interviews with cultural producers and gatekeepers found primarily through snowballing, Currid determined that “being there” matters in material ways. Attendance at nighttime and industry events increases opportunities for collaboration with other artists, obtaining work, and establishing support systems.

Social network further provides artists with “peer review,” “flexible career paths,” additional forums for selling their artwork, and straight-up inspiration. Finally, locating in New York offers easier access to others, media promotion outlets, and association with the New York brand.

Currid notes the system’s darker side comprises an overemphasis on socialization, corruption in the approbation and promotion process, a skewed expectation of success subsequent to media presence, a too-close link between creativity and commerce, and the increased expectation of advanced degrees among artists.

Her recommendations are of the stand-aside variety: allow cultural producers to form their own creative spaces, create pro-cultural nightlife zones, provide low-cost housing in creative communities as sanctuaries in likely-to-gentrify neighborhoods (Currid doesn’t say this here, but artists are directly linked with the gentrification of their chosen neighborhoods), and support the cultural economy as a whole both through pro-work grantmaking and punishing industry transgressions.

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Zukin, S. (1995). _The Cultures of Cities_. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Here Zukin has compiled a book of essay about the rise of the symbolic economy, brought on by the concurrent decline of cities and expansion of abstract financial speculation, and the themes we must consider when discussing cities: the use of culture as an economic base, the articulation of culture to privatize and militarize public space, and how the power of culture is related to the aestheticization of fear.

The five essay chapters include: (1) “Learning from Disney World,” which details the multinational’s symbolic economy and its oft-copied visual strategies of coherence, tableaux, compression, condensation, invisibility, and facades. (2) “A Museum in the Berkshires,” which explores economic cultural strategies in historic, post-Fordist districts and the inherent contradictions. (3) “High Culture and Wild Commerce in New York City,” which covers several initiatives since the mid-50s’ decision to make New York a cultural destination and the city’s qualified dedication to the arts, often breaking down over issues of land, labor, and capital. (4) “Artists and Immigrants in New York City Restaurants,” a seminar-derived piece exploring both how restaurants are themselves cultural sites, as well as the rigidities of ethnic and social divisions of labor. (5) “While the City Shops,” a departure from the traditional postmodern critique of the consumerist economy and an investigation into how the shopping street is a site for overcoming alienation and building community. In “Remembering Walter Benjamin” (253), Zukin affirms, “shopping streets lead us toward a material analysis of cultural forms” (254), that they are linked not just to globalization, but to immigration, recession, continual adaptation, and reuse of the built environment for retail shopping.

Zukin ends the book reminding the reading there is no one transcendent culture, but that cities do share the symbolic economy, therefore, we must ask whose representation of whose culture is being enshrined in which institutions when cultural strategies are formed.

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Wherry, F.F. (2011). _The Philadelphia Barrio: The Arts, Branding, and Neighborhood Transformation_. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Frederick Wherry, PhD in Sociology from Princeton University, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is both a cultural sociologist who researches markets, as well as an economic sociologist who examines the motivating meanings in and from the market place. He has studied markets in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Philadelphia to better understand how cultural identity affects and improves opportunities within the global and local contexts.

In this book, Wherry holds that community stakeholders (local residents) can transform their neighborhoods through creativity and sweat equity, thus enhancing a neighborhood’s economic vitality and symbolic reputation/distinction (Bourdieu, 1989). The neighborhood in this case is Philadelphia’s Centro de Oro, or as was known from the mid-80s, “the Badlands,” a neighborhood beset by media’s binary narrative of “problem solvers” or “trouble makers” since the mid-80s. These nonmaterial constraints helped negatively shape not just how outsiders perceived the neighborhood, but how the neighborhood perceived itself. “Theirs is the story of how arts and culture contribute to neighborhood change” (21).

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