The Economics of Cultural Policy

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Resource Type:. Research Abstract. Cultural Economics and Cultural Policies.

Bibliographic Information

Media Type: Report. Author: Peacock, Alan T. Date of Publication: Saturday, December 31, Resource: 0 bytes.

Social, Cultural and Economic Values of Cultural Goods

Creative Economies. Advocate Research Connect Lead. Who We Are Americans for the Arts serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Policy ambiguity in this respect is more complex than is the case with structural conditioning in so far as there are a larger number of discrete cases of ambiguity to consider, each of which gives rise to different explanations for why ambiguity is seen to be a reasonable policy preference.

These explanations can be crudely if rather superficially divided between those that seek to establish a theoretical explanation for the deliberate choice of ambiguous solutions to particular policy matters, and those that are more descriptive — often in a post-hoc fashion — of the reasoning that can be employed by policy-makers to justify the adoption of ambiguity. In these cases it is assumed that there is a conscious calculation of the benefits of ambiguity for actors in particular specified circumstances, and this can then form the basis for the making of larger generalisations about policy choice.

Such approaches depend upon the acceptance of not only the specific behavioural assumptions that underlie the analysis, but also upon the assumption that parsimonious explanations are preferable to more complicated ones. Neither of these, however, are foregone conclusions with the latter being particularly contentious see, for example, the arguments of complexity theorists on this point: Cairney, ; Gray , but this work does provide a set of frameworks for understanding ambiguity as a rational response to particular sets of environmental conditions 3 Which also serves to indicate the frailty of the dichotomy between behavioural and structural conditions as explanations of ambiguity.

The more descriptive approach to ambiguity as a deliberate policy choice is equally dependent upon the particular contexts within policy choice is being exercised Zahariadis, , 90 but is more concerned with the specifics of this choice ie. In this fashion it is possible to identify four distinct contextual reasons for the selection of deliberate policy ambiguity.

In such a case the expectation would be that the vaguer the policy framework that is established then the greater the scope for innovative approaches to the creation of policy would be made available. This can obviously over-lap with the issues generated by the allocation of functions and responsibilities between organisations and would be anticipated to lead to the same result of the creation of a diverse set of policy responses with subsequent concerns about uniformity and contradiction between organisations and within the policy sector as a whole.

However it can also be a positive means by which to avoid causing unnecessary political turmoil. This is not quite the same as the idea of structural conditioning in conditions of entrenched political and ideological preferences and is more concerned with differences of policy preference which may be quite distinct from ideological and political differences, even if the end result is much the same.

In these cases the argument is about policy content and anticipated policy outcomes rather than about whether the policy is in line with particular ideological and party preferences.

Using ambiguous solutions allows for a shifting of the focus away from the particular towards the general and thus changes the nature of the debate for all of the participants who may be concerned. Thirdly, where the policy issue itself has assumed a high level of centrality for political actors then the use of ambiguous policy contents can allow policy-makers to either deny responsibility for policy failure, or to claim responsibility for policy success.

The more ambiguous the policy is the easier it would be for core policy-makers to adopt either position — to claim responsibility for policy success or deny responsibility for policy failure — as and when may be politically required. In these circumstances ambiguity has the political virtue of making it difficult for critics to pin down precisely where policy failure rested while allowing success to be claimed regardless of whether it is justified or not.

The greater the ambiguity associated with a policy the more that unintended consequences can become important for policy-makers: positive results, whether meant or not, can always be claimed as being the inevitable result of putting policies into practice, and negative results, again, whether intended or not, can always be blamed on other actors. Thus, the more important the policy issue is, the more that ambiguity can be a helpful resource for politicians, particularly in those cases where there is a high level of policy uncertainty when the gap between intended and unintended policy consequences can be large as a result of a lack of definitive knowledge about policy contents, outputs and outcomes.

Economics of Cultural Policy | Harris Public Policy

Fourthly, in conditions where there is disagreement about the justification or rationale of particular policy choices then the creation of workable compromises can be achieved through the use of policy ambiguity. Thus, ambiguity allows for the supercession of incompatibilities between different forms of policy justification and can, therefore, provide an effective basis upon which to reconcile competing claims concerning the logic of policy choices Zittoun, , By leaving such an open terrain for action multiple actors can undertake multiple actions under the broad banners of social equity and support for artists that, presumably, everyone in society can agree with.

Clearly there are multiple versions of what makes ambiguity a plausible policy outcome in the case of cultural policy where each of the structural conditions and descriptive accounts outlined here can be seen to have relevance in terms of both the general policy arena and the particular policy case. Indeed, it could be argued 4 With what degree of seriousness rather depends upon how far the claimant wants the case to be pushed. If this is the case then the consequences of endemic ambiguity need to be considered to identify whether ambiguity has damaging results to put alongside the positive reasons that can be put forward to explain its presence in the policy sector.

In many ways the policy consequences of ambiguity are as much, if not more, to do with how it creates the conditions for debate as it is to do with the detailed content of cultural policies per se. In this respect the focus returns to the uses of policy language in the context of deliberately chosen or consequential occurrences of policy ambiguity. Almost by definition it would be anticipated that ambiguity will give rise to persistent argument and debate about the adequacy of policy definitions, policy contents, methods of implementation Matland, and evaluation, as well as about who the key policy-makers should be expected to be; and that the greater the degree of ambiguity that there is the more intense these clashes would be.

As such, a key consequence of policy ambiguity is that it opens the policy sector to a great deal of internal debate between proponents of different positions, with this being exacerbated by the high levels of policy uncertainty and the existence of problematic preferences that are inherent within it.

Ambiguity can be a means to avoid having to deal with the deeply-held and deeply-felt positions that policy actors have adopted and, as such, the idea that there will actually be a means to fully resolve these differences is probably unrealistic, as ambiguity deliberately avoids the idea of resolution in favour of a much more fluid notion of policy. Thus, the arguments can change, and the policy fashions can alter, but there is unlikely to be any definitive solution to continuing cultural policy concerns and interests, even if workable compromises in the justificatory sense proposed by Boltanski and Thevenot [] are achievable.

For core policy-makers this is not likely to be seen as a major problem is so far as ambiguity allows all of the actors concerned to stake a claim to at least some of the territory of cultural policy, without the core policy-makers having to definitively come down on the side of one set of actors or another, or one policy proposal rather than another.

Indeed, again, this is part of the point of deliberately choosing ambiguous policy solutions, where the ability to avoid having to make definitive choices is the point of the exercise. Thus a general policy aim may be reachable through a variety of means, and via a number of different paths that utilise different sets of actors for different purposes, and a deflection of debate and argument to a concern with these may be preferable for core policy-makers to detailed debate and argument about the specifics of the general policy itself. These consequences, in turn, give rise to a number of distinct policy results as the outcome of attempting to deal with the establishment of multiple sites for argument that arise from the ambiguities of cultural policy.

These results, again, do not necessarily resolve the problems of policy ambiguity but they do contribute to further complexities in managing the subject by creating further arenas for disagreement to be expressed in, whilst being equally indeterminate as subjects for concern.

The result of policy instrumentalisation, however, is not simply the creation of further policy dissension, but also the establishment of the conditions for further questioning of the legitimacy of the specifics of the individual policies that are then produced. In this context the establishment of forms of policy specificity does not resolve the issue of ambiguity but, instead, helps to reinforce it — the provision of a clear target to be shot at through having a specific policy would allow for the creation of clear categories for policy evaluation of outputs and outcomes, and a desire to avoid this can lead to a retreat to ambiguity as a means of diffusing policy debate.

The empirical accuracy of this claim for the cultural sector is open to question at the moment, although see Kangas et al, A further result of these debates about policy practice is that the underlying rationalisations of, and justifications for, policy choices become increasingly fraught as the practical consequences of policy ambiguity become evident. For policy-makers an avoidance of debate about these issues can be invaluable — particularly in circumstances where they are unclear to the policy-makers themselves.

This will be most marked when ambiguity has been chosen as a deliberate policy strategy as a means to avoid having to make definitive choices between competing solutions in conditions of policy uncertainty, when conflict avoidance is a positive benefit.

Unfortunately a desire to avoid conflict does not mean that it is actually escapable, and ambiguity in itself not only does not remove the conditions for conflict it actually provides the grounds for the creation of continuous conflict. This may appear to be an example of a non-virtuous circle of policy dissatisfaction — with disagreement over policy contents leading to disagreement over policy justifications, leading to further disagreements over policy contents and so on — but, again, this may be preferable for policy-makers to the unpalatable requirement to provide definitive answers to policy issues that do not actually prove to have definitive solutions available for their resolution.

Again, policy disagreement as a displacement activity for having to deal with irresolvable problems can be a bearable price to pay in these circumstances. The endemic presence of ambiguity in cultural policy can be used to help to explain a number of features of the policy landscape that forms the sector, not least the difficulties that appear to exist for the creation of clear, specific, policies that can be accepted by the majority of participants in policy-making without dissent. This derives from the assumption that there are multiple and divergent expectations about what cultural policy can, and should, be aimed at, and that there is no method by which these expectations can be drawn together into a coherent, and cohesive, policy whole.


Such an assumption should be examined in more detail even though the current evidence would serve to indicate that it is not a ridiculous one to hold. The end product of this dissensus is that cultural policy can be commonly expected to display the characteristics of: a lack of policy clarity probably the majority of them, although empirical evidence to support this assumption is really needed ;the presence of problems in developing effective mechanisms for policy implementation and evaluation; a lack of effective top-down control of policy by policy-makers; and an open-ness to contestation by a large number of actors both internally and externally to the policy sector.

In those cases where policy specificity and clarity are established it is also expected that such policies will be subject to even greater levels of conflict than those where a greater or lesser degree of ambiguity is present. A proper evaluation of the claims that are made in this paper is really needed, with this evaluation covering both the logic of the argument that has been put forward and its empirical adequacy.

The Economics of Culture: Tapping into its Potential for Development

As such not only is a coherent set of research questions required but also a development of the underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions upon which the argument is based. As such this paper identifies a framework for examining the assumed wide-spread existence of ambiguity within the cultural policy sector. Oppgrader til nyeste versjon av Internet eksplorer for best mulig visning av siden. Hopp til bunn-navigering. English Norsk. Frigi tilgang.

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Engelsk sammendrag. Abstract The peculiarities of cultural policy as a policy sector give rise to many difficulties for policy-makers — particularly the creation of poorly-defined and confused policies — stemming from the essentially-contested nature of the core concept with which it is dealing. Why be Ambiguous? Saying this does not, however, explain how a linguistic issue becomes a matter of practical policy concern: to provide such explanation it is possible to divide the basis for practical policy ambiguity between two effective underlying motivational causes: Structural Conditioning, and Deliberate Choice.