Cultural economy

What do I know about? Only what I think it means – which always gets me into trouble!
“The term ‘cultural economy’ tries to outline the ways in which the economic interrelated with the cultural. The term refers to how cultural meanings are embedded in economic life. We cannot explain how economic practices are co-ordinated without understanding the cultural meanings behind the actions.” (TOWARDS A CRITIQUE OF CULTURAL ECONOMY)
The critique linked above, by Dr. Balihar Sanghera, names two major weaknesses of “this representation of culture and economy (or production and consumption)” which are
1)it “accepts ‘the market’ as a central mechanism in the economy” and
2)it “fails to provide a reasonable criterion for judging a successful cultural economy.”
In relation to the first critique, that of silence concerning market effects on human values and social practices, I think certain language and social interaction methodologies can provide a bridge by working “up” from the microsocial, e.g., by providing empirical grounding.
In support of the second critique, Dr. Sanghera argues against the crude assumption that “a successful cultural economy maximises cultural meanings, lifestyles and identities, just as a successful corporate economy maximises profits and output.” I am hesitant regarding this claim, if only because of my unfamiliarity with the literature, but also because it is hegemonic: ideologically – the critique is merely the dialectical opposite of its object. The examples make this clear by posing unquestioned (unquestionable?) moral standards.
If cultural economy is to be a useful theoretical tool for “political and moral critique of the market’s place in the economy” it must equally provide the basis for a political and moral critique of the culture’s place in the market.
The meanings of cultural economy given by Dr. Sanghera suggest a communicational view (note added emphasis):
“It indicates that economic activities are embedded in cultural meanings. Meaning is manipulated through language, representation and discourse so that economic practices carry particular meanings and construct certain identities; e.g. students are not using education, but consuming it.”
“It refers to how ‘culture’ is important to doing business…more goods and services as seen as ‘cultural goods’ in that they are deliberately written with particular meanings and associations &emdash; aestheticisation of products. Advertising, design and marketing are cultural intermediaries. Importantly, culture structures the way people think, feel and act in organisations &emdash; cultures of production” (emphasis in original).
No disagreement, however I would extend the first to the second, particularly in regard to the moral sphere. Morality and ethics are also embedded and manipulated through language, representation and discourse – how the morality of the market is constructed, maintained, and/or changed through the action of communication needs to be assessed from within its sphere of influence, not just critiqued from a place ostensibly outside.
Appadurai‘s Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy: “The central problem of today’s global interactions is the tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization.”
The Cultural Economy: A Call for Spatialized ‘Production of Culture’ Perspectives .
The Cultural Economy OF Capitalism.
Upcoming conferences: Re-thinking cultural economy, by ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change.
Mapping the Cultural Economy in the Euro-Mediterranean Region.
Books: Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life.
The Blackwell Cultural Economy Reader.
eBook: Cultural Economy.
Applied: OpenHeritage: Enabling the European Culture Economy.
in Michigan.

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