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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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Scott, J.C. (1998). _Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed_. New Haven: Yale University Press.

James Scott, Ph.D., Yale University, is the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and is Director of the Agrarian Studies Program. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science, Science, Technology and Society Program at M.I.T., and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism.

This book is a “case against the imperialism of high-modernist, planned social order” (6). Scott advocates that local knowledge (metis, knowledge that comes only through practical experience) is necessary for any plan’s success. In studying sedentarization, Scott found the state tries “to make a society legible” (2) for taxing, conscription, and against rebellion. Modern European statecraft’s dedication to rationalization has had major impacts on society and the environment. In some cases, these reason-led planning schemes have been major disasters, including China’s Great Leap Forward, Russian collectivization, compulsory villagization in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ethiopia are “among the great human tragedies of the 20th century” (3). Less dramatic are the agricultural schemes and the new cities of Brasília and Chandigarh.

“Legibility is a condition of manipulation” (183).

However, when there are disasters, they require this “pernicious combination of four elements” (4):

  1. “administrative ordering of nature and society” (4)
  2. “high modernist ideology” at the state level, namely, an overweening belief in modernity, science, reason. This view is wholly uncritical of modernism and when challenged, retreats into projects of “miniaturization”
  3. an authoritarian state that uses its total power for the scheme’s implementation
  4. a “prostrate civil society that lacks the capacity to resist these [the authoritarian state’s] plans” (5)

Ironically, the tragedies of high-modernism were so in two ways. First, the modernists were profoundly arrogant and hubristic. And yet, second, their motivations were well-intentioned; they wanted to make the human condition better. Modernist experts thought they were much more informed than they really were, as well as much smarter than their truly knowledgeable and competent subjects. They consistently sought aesthetic order, and this dimension consistently wound up substituting, per Jacobs (1961) visual order for the real, social thing.

Scott hails Jacobs for her thoughts on diversity and local social knowledge. Evoking her and metis, he makes the following recommendations (345):

  1. “take small steps”  – move, observe, act advisedly
  2. “favor reversibility”  – if you can’t reverse the intervention, you can’t reverse its effects
  3. “plan on surprises” – design in flexibility
  4. “plan on human inventiveness” – assume people can improve on things with eventual knowledge gained

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