The popular music industries

How newspapers are adapting to the digital era

Authored by: Scott Brook

The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415706209
eBook ISBN: 9781315725437
Adobe ISBN: 9781317533986


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A key claim of creative labour studies is that cultural workers are defined by a primary value commitment to creative autonomy, one that we might describe as ‘auteurist’ in so far as it derives from the Modern figure of the literary author (Miège 2011: 87–88; Hesmondhalgh 2007: 67–70). The auteurist model highlights the cultural worker’s commitment to both aesthetic and professional modes of autonomy, such as work routines that provide opportunities for self-expression, personal development and independence from supervision (Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2010: 62–67). While this thesis is widespread in the social sciences, in the context of cultural industries research it is distinctive as it serves a normative critical purpose. As such, it reflects a broadly Marxian critique of modern work as a source of worker alienation and a positive project of identifying those aspects of creative work that hold out the promise of a more authentic work relation. We might say that creative labour research in fact shares ‘the artistic critique of work’ that exists amongst the workers it studies, even as it supplements this critique with a social critique that highlights the distributional inequalities within a sector that has conspicuously low levels of collective organisation. (On the ‘artistic critique’, see Boltanski and Chiapello 2005.) At the same time, the thesis is also used to explain the existence of those ‘vast reservoirs of under-employed artists’ that are central to the functioning of the cultural economy (Miège 1989: 72). Quoting from David Hesmondhalgh, Bernard Miège writes that structural industry features– such as employment practices that favour growing a reserve of underemployed workers, or forms of intellectual property management that economically disadvantage content producers– are insufficient as explanations for why individuals would persist in such poorly renumerated labour markets, and that it is due to ‘professional ideologies of authorship and creativity’ that cultural workers are willing to ‘trade in financial reward and security for creative autonomy’ (Miège 2011: 88; see also Hesmondhalgh 2007: 207).

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