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


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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4416-4
  • Pages: 384
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £11.99
  • Published Date: September 2020
  • BIC Category: Economics, finance, business & management / Media, information & communication industries, Sociology, Society & social sciences / Sociology: work & labour, Social classes, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Cultural Policy, Social discrimination & inequality, Society & social sciences / Social classes, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Discrimination & Race Relations, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes


Culture will keep you fit and healthy. Culture will bring communities together. Culture will improve your education. This is the message from governments and arts organisations across the country; however, this book explains why we need to be cautious about culture.

Offering a powerful call to transform the cultural and creative industries, Culture is bad for you examines the intersections between race, class, and gender in the mechanisms of exclusion in cultural occupations. Exclusion from culture begins at an early age, the authors argue, and despite claims by cultural institutions and businesses to hire talented and hardworking individuals, women, people of colour, and those from working class backgrounds are systematically disbarred.

While the inequalities that characterise both workforce and audience remain unaddressed, the positive contribution culture makes to society can never be fully realised.


'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, author of My Name is Leon

'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 labour 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 accessibly 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, 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 stand-up comedian

'Culture is Bad for You is a welcome and necessary addition to the literature on cultural production and consumption. In a period when there is growing interest in inequality in the creative sector and beyond, it provides both an accessible and comprehensive overview of what inequality looks like in cultural fields.'
Patricia A. Banks, Journal of Cultural Economy

'This is the most vital book in cultural affairs I have read in years.'
Michael Rushton, The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society


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 What about the men?

11 Conclusion


Orian Brook is an 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 at the University of Sheffield

Culture is bad for you

By Orian Brook, Dave O'Brien, Mark Taylor

Paperback £11.99 / $17.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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