Culture is not an industry

Reclaiming art and culture for the common good

By Justin O'Connor

Culture is not an industry
Hardcover +
  • Price: £14.99
  • ISBN: 9781526178060
  • Publish Date: Feb 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £14.99
  • ISBN: 9781526171269
  • Publish Date: Feb 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £14.99
  • ISBN: 9781526171252
  • Publish Date: Feb 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    Culture is at the heart of what it means to be human. But twenty-five years ago, the British government rebranded art and culture as 'creative industries', valued for their economic contribution, and set out to launch the UK as the creative workshop of a globalised world.

    Where does that leave art and culture now? Facing exhausted workers and a lack of funding and vision, culture finds itself in the grip of accountancy firms, creativity gurus and Ted Talkers. At a time of sweeping geo-political turmoil, culture has been de-politicised, its radical energies reduced to factors of industrial production. This book is about what happens when an essential part of our democratic citizenship, fundamental to our human rights, is reduced to an industry.

    Culture is not an industry argues that art and culture need to renew their social contract and re-align with the radical agenda for a more equitable future. Bold and uncompromising, the book offers a powerful vision for change.


    'Imaginative culture - art, stories, decoration, styles - is how we anticipate the future and feel our way into it: our antennae. Treating culture as an industry subject to the crude rules of neoliberalism doesn't make any more sense than treating healthcare the same way. Justin O'Connor's brilliant book argues for a holistic, ecological vision of culture in which it is seen as an essential part of the maintenance of a functioning society.'
    Brian Eno

    'Culture is not an industry radically remakes the case for culture and cultural policy in the twenty-first century. Rejecting the trend for culture's depoliticisation and the illusions of the "creative industries", O'Connor proposes a dynamic new approach where culture is recentred as foundational to citizenship, democracy and a new kind of economy.'
    Mark Banks, Professor of Cultural Economy, University of Glasgow

    'A passionate and well-argued "corrective" that seeks to rebalance the cultural scales away from the economic to a larger sense of social purpose. The book's central argument is that we must reclaim art, give it place and recognition in all and every society that wishes to live well and without fear. I'll buy that.'
    Josephine Burns, Co-Founder of BOP Consulting

    'In an era of culture wars and governmental disdain for "mickey mouse degrees" and anything that can't have a price tag placed on it, and in the aftermath of the millennial era when post-industrial towns were supposedly transformed by giant sculptures, Justin O'Connor makes a brave and important argument that culture - high and low - is important for its own sake.'
    Owen Hatherley, author of Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances

    'The way we talk about culture in society has become narrow and stale, concerned only with economics or questions of representation. This book offers us a broader critique that does not neglect these questions but deepens them. With scholarship, wit and a clarity of thought, it promises to reset the cultural conversation in the years ahead.'
    Kate Oakley, Professor of Cultural Policy, University of Glasgow

    'Justin O'Connor restores culture to its rightful place as the embodiment of meaning. He shows how it is a public good that needs to be treasured and nurtured, not just, or even mainly, an industry. He throws down the gauntlet to the prevailing dogma and points to ways that culture can be better valued. Not as a tool of industry or politics - but the essence of our humanity and a pillar of any successful society.'
    Julianne Schultz, Professor Emerita, Media and Culture, Griffith University

    'O'Connor's book is a hugely important cultural act in itself, lifting our sights beyond the "damaged present" and imagining new foundations with culture at the heart of a renewed democracy and a collective future reoriented around the common good.'
    Dan Hill, Director of Melbourne School of Design


    Introduction: culture and democracy
    1 Creative industries
    2 Culture goes missing
    3 Necessity or luxury?
    4 Culture and the social foundations
    5 Cultural infrastructures
    6 Culture and economy


    Justin O'Connor is Professor of Cultural Economy at the University of South Australia. His books include Red Creative: Culture and Modernity in China (2020) with Xin Gu and Reset: Art, Culture and the Foundational Economy (2022).

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