Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication

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Research Group: Justin O’Connor on Postcapitalism and the Cultural Economy

Clothworkers’ North, Room 1.17, All Welcome 

Justin O’Connor, Professor of Cultural Economy at Monash University (Melbourne) will be giving a seminar on Postcapitalism and the Cultural Economy.

Abstract: Critiques of the creative industries abound, just as research into their various dimensions – work, policy, location etc. – has proliferated. In this paper I want to take a different tack. Though often reduced to a neo-liberal cultural policy turn of New Labour, the ‘creative industries’, and the cultural industries which that term re-designated, also grew out of an optimistic engagement with a range of economic. social and cultural developments whose ‘imaginary’ was often positive and progressive.

Many critics of the creative industries (including myself) have subsequently engaged in a mea culpa for a misplaced optimism. This paper will identify some of the grounds for this optimism, misplaced or otherwise, but its primary focus will be on how we might approach these issues in the coming decade. Alongside the widespread despondency around the shift to a populist right in Europe, USA and elsewhere, there has also been a growth in future-oriented thinking about what comes after capitalism. I am less concerned here with utopian thinking per se, rather with more grounded analyses of tendencies within capitalism that might indicate that it is already being replaced, at least in certain zones.

Postcapitalism has been used to describe this, and I will look at J. K. Gibson-Graham, Paul Mason and others accounts here. I will attempt to apply this to the cultural economy in order to suggest a different take on what is happing here, one different from the SME-oriented, entrepreneurial, knowledge-economy narrative within which this ‘sector’ has been inserted in the last 20 years. I will also look at attempts to outline different future scenarios for post-capitalism, such as Peter Frase’s Four Futures again suggesting how the cultural economy might be viewed in this light. Finally I will try to suggest what these different approaches might hold out for a different narrative and policy framing for the cultural economy over and above the current slough of despond.

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