The news feed from the Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries at City, University of London

The Workshop on Cultural Economy: Twenty Years After

In January, some fifty or so academics, representing cultural studies, finance studies, management and organisation, cultural geography and social theory, among other disciplines, convened at City, for a symposium co-hosted by the Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries and the Journal of Cultural Economy (JCE).

The anniversary event marked twenty years since “the workshop on cultural economy” at the Open University. It invited some original participants to reflect on that earlier moment, in dialogue with longstanding fellow travellers, newer contributors and critics, who convened across four panels: the first reflected on the historical circumstances of the original workshop; the second on cultural economy as a way of intervening in the economy; the third focusing on the cultural politics of finance; the fourth on the legacies of 1990s “enterprise culture”.

Video recordings of all papers can be viewed at the JCE website, here. The event was also livestreamed and captured via a Twitter discussion, using the hashtag #CultEcon20.


In retrospect, the original workshop has emerged as one foundational moment in the cultural study of economic life. The key themes back then were the growing importance of cultural industries – such as music, fashion, advertising and lifestyle journalism ­– and the service sector, paralleled by new strands of managerialism and financialisation, at the tail-end of the twentieth century. Part of “the cultural turn” in social sciences, cultural economy emerged from a disciplinary soup of cultural analysis, management theory, economic geography, and science and technology studies. Moving away from broad societal and macro-economic scales, participants sought to describe and explain the meanings, discourses, processes and interactions involved in such changes at a micro-level. This approach set some of the terrain for subsequent studies of markets and consumption, entrepreneurship and management, finance, debt, risk, insurance and so on. The well-regarded JCE is one such legacy of this mix.

This time around, conversations stressed what has happened (or failed to happen) since. What “real-world” impacts might cultural economy research justifiably pursue (e.g. in policy or consultancy)? To what extent has such research suffered from a lack of “diversity”: in institutional conditions of knowledge production, in choices of research objects and subjects, and in the thematic concerns it prioritises? What is the role and status of the “critical” academic in this: as teachers, intellectuals, advisors and managers? Is there the need, or indeed the desire, for a strategic reconciliation between cultural economy (as a theoretical approach) and the creative economy as (an evolving empirical field).

This marks out the contours of a research agenda that can be taken forward both by researchers at the Centre and contributors to the journal. On these grounds, CCI Research Fellow Dr Toby Bennett, who organised the workshop, has been invited to join the editorial board for the journal. Dr Bennett has authored some summary and provocation pieces, which can also be viewed on the JCE website:

    1. The Workshop
    2. Cultural Studies’ Economic Legacies

The list of contributors on the day included:

  • Syahirah Abdul Rahman (Sheffield)
  • Toby Bennett (CCI, City, University of London)
  • Clea Bourne (Goldsmiths)
  • Felicity Callard (Birkbeck)
  • Joanne Entwistle (CMCI, King’s College London)
  • Liz McFall (Edinburgh/JCE)
  • Angela McRobbie (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths)
  • Fabian Muniesa (Paris Ecole des Mines)
  • Sean Nixon (Sociology, Essex)
  • José Ossandón (Copenhagen Business School)
  • Andy Pratt (CCI, City, University of London)
  • Philip Roscoe (St Andrews)
  • Don Slater (London School of Economics)
  • Jennifer Smith Maguire (Sheffield Hallam Business School)
  • André Spicer (Cass Business School)
  • Simon Susen (Sociology, City, University of London)

The event was generously co-funded by the Journal of Cultural Economy and Department of Sociology at City, University of London.

Toby Bennett • February 19, 2020

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