Culture is bad for you

Inequality in the cultural and creative industries

By Orian Brook, Dave O'Brien and Mark Taylor

Culture is bad for you


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4416-4
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £11.99
  • Published Date: September 2020
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Social classes, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Discrimination & Race Relations, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes, Economics, finance, business & management / Media, information & communication industries, Society & social sciences / Sociology: work & labour, Social discrimination & inequality


Art and culture are supposed to bring society together. Culture is bad for you challenges the received wisdom that culture is good for us. It does this by demonstrating how who makes culture, and who consumes it, are marked by significant inequality and social division.

The book combines the first large-scale study of social mobility into cultural and creative jobs with hundreds of interviews of creative workers and a national public engagement project. Addressing the intersections between social mobility, ethnicity and gender, the book argues that, as currently organised, the creative sector damages us all as it strengthens the structural inequalities that it imagines it tears down. The book demonstrates that cultural jobs are the preserve of the most privileged, a 'creative class' in society, and always have been - there was no golden age for social mobility in culture. Culture is bad for you is a powerful call to radically transform who gets in and who gets on in Britain's creative class.


'If you've ever felt on shaky ground describing your experience of inequality in the arts, if you've ever wondered if it's really true that some people are excluded from participation in cultural production and representation, if you'd like something to wave in the face of naysayers who think the cream always rises to the top, this is it. Culture is bad for you. This book does more than it says on the tin.'
Kit de Waal

'The Janus-faced character of culture lies at the core of this wonderful new text. The big and diverse world of culture and entertainment brings joy, health, connection, and catharsis to billions, but often at the expense of the talented few who labor to produce it. Culture is Bad For You is a sweeping, empirical investigation of what it takes to "make it" as a British culture producer, but also of the forces that "break it:" unequal access for people with fewer resources. Essential reading for citizens, policy makers, employers, artists, and fans - and for those who study them.'
Jennifer C. Lena, Columbia University

'As Raymond Williams long ago argued, culture is all around us, and it is ordinary. Brook, O'Brien, and Taylor show us that ordinary culture is bad for us. It is bad for us as workers, as consumers, and as a society. This excellent book will be the go-to source on the extraordinary inequality in the creation and consumption of ordinary media for a long time to come.'
Clayton Childress, University of Toronto Scarborough

'Provocatively titled, carefully argued, and accessible written, Culture Is Bad For You demolishes our cherished myths about culture. The vaunted cultural industries are not open or egalitarian. Culture has never been meritocratic, neither today nor in some mythical golden age. Culture excludes, pop culture as much as posh culture. An enlightening read for all producers and consumers of culture - that is: all of us.'
Giselinde Kuipers, Professor of Sociology, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium

'If we truly believe that culture is a force for good in our communities and our lives, we need to urgently address our own shortcomings when it comes to inequality around who gets to experience, and who gets to make, art in this country. The data and testimonies in this important book are just the ammunition we need.' James Graham, playwright and screenwriter

'Vital reading for anyone working in culture and interested in equality - this book gives us the reasons to make change, the actions are up to us. Take action.'
Stella Duffy, Co-Director Fun Palaces

'Culture Is Bad For You is a sobering, enraging picture of the creative industries and the inequalities at their heart. Using data, case studies and sharp analysis, the result holds to account a culture that isn't just a reflection of a rigged society - but an engine of it. For anyone who works in British culture, or cares who does, or simply values true equality of opportunity, this is essential reading.'
Danny Leigh, journalist for the Financial Times and the BBC

'There really is an arts emergency, the reality of the class crisis is shocking but this book shows how we can do something right now to change things.'
Josie Long, writer and a stand up comedian


1 Introduction
2 Is culture good for you?
3 Who works in culture?
4 Who consumes culture?
5 When does inequality begin in cultural workers' lives?
6 Is it still good work if you're not getting paid?
7 Was there a golden age?
8 How is inequality experienced?
9 Why don't women run culture?
10 How can senior men help?
11 Conclusion


Orian Brook is AHRC Creative and Digital Economy Innovation Leadership Fellow at the University of Edinburgh

Dave O'Brien is a Chancellor's Fellow in Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Edinburgh

Mark Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods (Sociology) at the Sheffield Methods Institute, University of Sheffield, and is AHRC Leadership Fellow (Creative Economy)

Sign up to our newsletter
and receive 30% off all future book orders

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout