Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

Institute of Communications Studies

Cultural Policy under New Labour

This AHRC-funded research project, led by Professor David Hesmondhalgh, Professor Kate Oakley and Dr David Lee, commenced January 2012 and seeks to explore how cultural policy is shaped. More specifically it asks:

What have been the major forces shaping cultural policy during the three Labour administrations of 1997 to 2010? How might we understand the relations between economic, social and cultural goals of cultural policy ‘after neo-liberalism’?

The contested concept of neo-liberalism  has been central to contemporary debates about government policy and politics; yet only sporadically has cultural policy research engaged with debates about neo-liberalism, and still less with ideas about changing modes of neo-liberal government. While the links between cultural policy and other forms of social goods, such as health, education and so on have been debated under the rubric of ‘instrumentalism,’ less attention has been paid to the politics which shapes these understandings and to the similarities and differences between cultural policy and other forms of public policy. The project seeks to bridge the divide between political and social analysis of public policy on the one hand, and cultural policy analysis on the other, by providing an explanatory account of UK cultural policy between 1997 (the election of the Labour government) and 2010.

Our research focuses on three sub-sector areas of cultural policy: copyright, creative industries and arts. The research will use two key methods: discourse analysis of policy documents; and policy network analysis employing empirical and qualitative research.  It will use these methods using in-depth case studies across the three domains.

It also engages the broader think tank, policy and artistic community by involving a board of advisors in its management. These include Lord David Puttnam, former government advisors Ruth MacKenzie and John Newbigin, industry specialists Tom Campbell, Graham Hitchen and Andy Lovatt, and arts consultant Hilary Carty.

The research will come to an end in December 2013 and will culminate in the publication of a monograph and a series of academic journal articles.


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