In its own image: New Labour and the cultural workforce

Oakley, K. (2011) In its own image: New Labour and the cultural workforce. Cultural Trends, 20(3-4), pp. 281-289. (doi: 10.1080/09548963.2011.589709)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


The argument of this paper is that one way to examine the legacy of New Labour's cultural policies, including its development of the creative industries, is through an account of the cultural workforce it has created. The idea of “creative industries” embodied a set of assumptions about the changing nature of work which had been central to New Labour's reinvention during its years in the wilderness under Margaret Thatcher. Dubbed “post-Fordist socialism” by Thompson, the premise of many creative industry support initiatives was that the kind of work they provided was inherently progressive, combining demand for high skills with notions of self-expression and determination, in a workplace that was no longer hierarchical, but collaborative, flexible, even fun. Yet empirical evidence from the New Labour period suggests that the assumptions of inherently progressive work are largely unfounded. The cultural labour market remains polarised by gender, ethnicity and social class. Despite high levels of graduates, wages were low, and combined with the practice of unpaid “internships”, and highly informal recruitment practices, class-based exclusion, often reflected in ethnicity, was a defining feature of the sector. The paper thus provides both a historical account of New Labour ideas about work and how they shaped public policy, and a contemporary account of policy initiatives around workforce entry. Its aim is to interrogate the assumptions and limitations of New Labour's “creative workforce”, and through this, its wider policies on work, culture and social exclusion.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Oakley, Professor Kate
Authors: Oakley, K.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Journal Name:Cultural Trends
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1469-3690
Published Online:02 November 2011

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record