Were New Labour’s cultural policies neo-liberal?

Hesmondhalgh, D., Nisbett, M., Oakley, K. and Lee, D. (2015) Were New Labour’s cultural policies neo-liberal? International Journal of Cultural Policy, 21(1), pp. 97-114. (doi: 10.1080/10286632.2013.879126)

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This article assesses the cultural policies of ‘New Labour’, the UK Labour government of 1997–2010. It takes neo-liberalism as its starting point, asking to what extent Labour’s cultural policies can be validly and usefully characterised as neo-liberal. It explores this issue across three dimensions: corporate sponsorship and cuts in public subsidy; the running of public sector cultural institutions as though they were private businesses; and a shift in prevailing rationales for cultural policy, away from cultural justifications, and towards economic and social goals. Neo-liberalism is shown to be a significant but rather crude tool for evaluating and explaining New Labour’s cultural policies. At worse, it falsely implies that New Labour did not differ from Conservative approaches to cultural policy, downplays the effect of sociocultural factors on policy-making, and fails to differentiate varying periods and directions of policy. It does, however, usefully draw attention to the public policy environment in which Labour operated, in particular the damaging effects of focusing, to an excessive degree, on economic conceptions of the good in a way that does not recognise the limitations of markets as a way of organising production, circulation and consumption.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Oakley, Professor Kate
Authors: Hesmondhalgh, D., Nisbett, M., Oakley, K., and Lee, D.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Journal Name:International Journal of Cultural Policy
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1477-2833
Published Online:23 January 2014
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in International Journal of Cultural Policy 21(1):97-114
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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