The Cultural Economy Moment: Reading Terry Flew’s Article

Terry Flew (2009). The Cultural Economy Moment? Cultural Science, Vol 2, No 1.

Terry is charting an expanded course for research in cultural economics.  (If I’m understanding correctly) His main points are:

There is no longer an effective way to separate culture from economic activity, especially in terms of “the information and knowledge economies, fostering creativity, embracing new technologies, and feeding innovation’ (Throsby, 2008: 229).  Most current discussions of economics and culture fail to account for this view in a way that moves research forward in a productive way.

He recommends 4 areas for collaborative interdisciplinary research to develop the discussion:

  1. Value of information – . . . “who has it, how it is distributed, how it is produced, and how it is used”.
  2. Value of networks – Networks are a primary means of coordinating behavior (along with hierarchies and markets) and also of coordinating ideas.
  3. Motivations for participation and collaboration in online social networks – . . . “an information-driven economy with digital technologies at its core places a premium upon non-market activities with non-pecuniary motivations, as it values a non-proprietorial approach to information as a metapublic good, with many implications for intellectual property, labour markets, the formation and maintenance of networks etc.”
  4. The relationship of culture to the wider economy –  “many economists and policy makers have not only failed to adequately register the rise and growth of the creative industries, but have failed to understand their changing relationship to economy and society”.

In summing up Flew says:

there is much potential for collaboration but . . . some serious rethinking has to be done in relation to the one-dimensional caricature of economic discourse that is found in many influential analyses in the field.


Throsby, David (2008) ‘Modeling the Cultural Industries’, International Journal of Cultural Policy 14(3), pp. 217-232.

Richard Florida needs John Hagel

Richard Florida needs John Hagel.  Florida and Hagel have been referencing each other recently (here and here) and that’s a good thing; at least I think it is for Richard’s ideas.  Florida’s work has been very popular, but has also received a fair amount of criticism.  The best founded of the critiques (in my opinion) refer to the generality of his data.  It is correlational and very general, you might say it paints a picture with too broad of a brush.

The issue is that we know two things:

  1. We know a bit about how individuals can be creative and
  2. We know how creativity and innovations correlate with clusters of people, but

We don’t know other things like:

  1. We don’t really know much about the network ecologies and interactions that drive this increased creativity and
  2. We don’t have specific experiments to demonstrate and validate any kind of intervention and
  3. We don’t know if there is a critical mass for clusters to spur innovations.

Enter John Hagel who’s concept of “pull” begins to specify some of the ways and mechanism that may be behind the effects described by Florida. I think the next step is to describe in detail how individual environments work to spur innovation.  Many of the interventions inspired by Florida have semed a little like shooting in the dark.  What is needed is a little more specificity in how things work.  Maybe not to a prescriptive level, but just so we understand what can be successful and in what ways.  There have been a number of projects inspired by Richard, and I believe that his ideas are valid, we just need more causal analysis and measures of success to drive things forward; and in the proper direction.