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Nicholas Garnham The Cultural Industries

2442 words - 10 pages

Nicholas Garnham

Nicholas Garnham worked in television before starting his academic career. He worked for the BBC, serving as film editor from 1961 to 1964 and then director and producer from 1964 to 1968. His credits as a freelance Director/Producer include Through the Eye of a Needle, Border Country, In Search of Paradise, and The British Museum. He also served as the Governor of the British Film Institute (BFI) from 1973 to 1977.

Garnham teaching at the Polytechnic of Central London (now Westminster University), where he established his name as an expert in the political economy of communication and communication regulations. Today, he is Head of the Media Studies School of Communication and Director of the Centre for Communication and Information at Westminster University and a member of the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy.

Garnham published a version of this paper in Cultural Studies 1.1 (1987). In it, he introduces a neglected dimension of cultural formation within cultural studies, i.e., the constitution and the formation of cultural industries, the intensification of cultural distribution, and therefore access to audiences and what contribution cultural studies can offer to policy making. We do not often see this level of analysis studies of cultural consumption (p. 2).


1. introduction

In conceptualizing the cultural industries as central to any analysis of cultural activity and of public policy, we stand against a whole tradition of idealist cultural analysis. This tradition--Raymond Williams critiques it in Culture and Society (1958) and other works--has defined culture as a realm separate from, and actively opposed to, the realm of material production and economic activity (p. 54).

By and large, public cultural policies have evolved from within that (idealist) tradition. Public intervention in the form of subsidy is usually justified on the grounds (1) that culture possesses inherent values, of life enhancement, which are fundamentally opposed to and in danger of being damaged by commercial forces; (2) that the need for these values is universal, regardless of class, gender, and ethnic origin; and (3) that the market cannot satisfy this need.

The "creative artist" occupies a central place in this ideology. This person's aspirations and values--stemming from unfathomable sources of genius, inspiration, or talent--are the source of cultural value. However, situating the arts at the center of the cultural universe no longer means showering them with money, but we should define the policy problem as one of finding audiences for their work, rather than the reverse.

2. my project

I make the case that most of those people on the left who have challenged this dominant view of culture as elitist have tacitly accepted the remaining assumptions of the tradition they reject. This accounts for their limited success in shifting the...

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