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This paper attempts to turn the 'impact debate' back on economics
  ASSESSING THE CULTURAL IMPACT OF ECONOMICS What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn't know the market place of any single thing. Oscar Wilde:  Lady WindermereÕs Fan (1898) The title of this chapter is intentionally provocative. Turning the tables on four decades of  pursuing cultureÕs economic impact so as to make a compelling case for its value, it tries to assess not only the consequences of such an effort but also why it was deemed necessary and how we might think ourselves out of it. In addition I suggest that in trying to move on from the binary scenario of WildeÕs Ôvalue of nothingÕ, we need to be extremely cautious. Alongside the hypocrisy and the complex strategies of distinction there were some very good reasons for cultureÕs distrust of the economic. Indeed, culture as such  might be defined largely in terms of its parallel emergence with that of the economy as such . So when we hear Ð as we have over the last decades of creative economy rhetoric - that culture and economics have put aside their differences and are now happily married, we need to know whether or not this is in fact simply Theodore AdornoÕs (1977) Ôreconciliation under duressÕ. I wish to make a start from Eleonora BelfioreÕs (2012) spirited critique of the United KingdomÕs New Labour cultural policies. In arguing for the validity of a certain kind of  Ôdefensive instrumentalismÕ she tries to move the debate away from Ôintrinsic valueÕ, or as it is commonly put by those who have little grasp of art history, Ôart for artÕs sakeÕ. The notion of intrinsic value was pushed into the UK policy arena by John Holden (2004; 2006), who distinguished the ÔintrinsicÕ from both the ÔinstitutionalÕ and the ÔinstrumentalÕ. The ÔinstrumentalÕ was social and economic uses; the institutional was the kind of trust and esteem, or public value, built up over the years by cultural institutions. ÔIntrinsicÕ referred to the value unique to culture, its aesthetic value or individual enjoyment. The notion of intrinsic value has come under some sustained attack. Economists and  policy pragmatists have seen it as not measurable and therefore incommensurable and therefore not available for realistic policy debates (see OÕBrien 2012). For others, and Belfiore in general follows this line, the assertion of intrinsic value against instrumental value in this particular way Ð and as we shall see there are other ways of conceiving the ÔintrinsicÕ other than as ineffable or purely subjective pleasures - can easily end up by  being a very narrow, even solipsistic, view of the role art and culture can play in society. Belfiore reminds us of the long history of arguments put forward in favour of the  beneficial social and political role of the arts. By Ôdefensive instrumentalismÕ she refers to those historical occasions when the arts needed to be defended against those who thought they may have undesirable effects. In so doing, those writers who took up the challenge developed a range of ÔinstrumentalÕ arguments, which, whilst initially springing from a defensive impulse, nevertheless   provided a rich store of arguments about the contribution the arts could make to individual and social wellbeing. This is a Ôpositive instrumentalismÕ and it has, according to Belfiore, a 2,500-year-old history, going back to the ancient Greeks. BelfioreÕs paper takes aim at the rise, under the UKÕs New Labour government, of  justifications for arts and culture based on social and economic ÔimpactÕ. In one respect  New LabourÕs emphasis on economic and social usefulness can be seen in a 2,500-year tradition of such pragmatic claims: the notion that the arts have a function to fulfil in society (though views of what that function may or ought to be are, of course, varied) and that, alongside purely aesthetic considerations, the perceived success or failure in fulfilling that function is central to the attribution of cultural value , has been with us for a very long time (Belfiore 2012, 2-3). However, having set New Labour within this august tradition she then writes: this account does nothing to explain the widespread perception, in the cultural  policy field, that todayÕs form of instrumentalism has brought about a dramatic and radical change to the established relationship between government and the  business of supporting the arts (Belfiore 2012, 3). This is a Ôradical shiftÕ, a new kind of instrumentalism that has brought about Ôa traumatic and dangerous break with how things used to beÕ (Belfiore 2012, 4). This is not an  argument about philistinism - funding for culture under New Labour rose, and the broad  patterns of that expenditure remained the same (cf. Hesmondhalgh et al 2014) - it was the form and nature of the justification that changed. That is, the problem is not that social and economic objectives were ascribed to culture, but that these results, or ÔimpactsÕ, could be measured against a set of metrics and performance indicators that purely by themselves could make the argument for culture. The problem then was in part tactical and in part political. Belfiore suggests that the emphasis on measureable impacts might have some  justification in an era when metrics are increasingly becoming the norm. Using such metrics to assert the social and economic value of culture may well have been useful in a crowded policy space - Belfiore calls this a kind of rhetoric aimed at gaining the ear of government - but ultimately it failed to assert the positive value of culture. It remained defensive. Not articulating the positive values of culture meant that when there was a change of government and unpropitious economic circumstance (as at the time of the  paper, and since) there could be no grounds for opposing the spending cuts that were imposed open it. The tactics failed because they relied on: [É] the cult of the measurable (embodied in the systematic imposition of targets and performance indicators in public service delivery and the promotion of an Òaudit cultureÓ); and the myth of ideology-free policy making through the commitment to evidence-based policy (Belfiore 2012, 5).  Belfiore argues that Ôideology-free policy makingÕ is ideological - in that it turns what should be questions of value into technical questions of measurement: [É] the exquisitely ideological question of making the (political) case for the arts has been translated into the rather more technical (and therefore apparently neutral) issue of arts impact assessment, with the focus firmly on the methodological problems of evaluation rather than on thorny questions of cultural value, and the  political   problem of how to address the as of yet unresolved issue of widening access and participation to the publicly supported arts (Belfiore 2012, 5). She suggests that this emphasis on impacts has stopped us having the debate on cultural value in an age when high/low, amateur/professional and subsidised/commercial have  been blurred (Belfiore 2012, 3). I would concur with much of this; however, I think the  problem needs to be framed differently. Are we to see New Labour (or at least its cultural department) as na•vely duped by its own belief that evidence-based policy and impact measurements would make the argument for culture? Is the ideology of ideology-free policy making, along with the Ôcult of the measurableÕ and Ôaudit cultureÕ, anything other than a passing fad, or symptomatic of a much deeper crisis in cultural policy? The notion that this is a Ôtraumatic and dangerous break with how things used to beÕ, set within an argument for 2,500 years of  positive instrumentalism surely suggests the latter. What then is the root of this problem?
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