Tag Archives: place as “locus of dense human interrelationships”

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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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Minor Field, Research Fields