Creative Industries and the Politics of New Labour
This thesis examines the development of policy towards the creative industries in the UK in the period 1997-2008. It argues that this can be seen in the light of New Labour's understanding of the knowledge economy, an understanding that influenced its development of education and social policy, as well as economic policy. It thus provides a unique insight into New Labour politics in general. The thesis asserts that New Labour's account of the knowledge economy was a deterministic one, which took its cue from what it believed to be long-term social and economic trends. In this, it is consistent with other critiques of New Labour politics, which argue that it can be seen as a development of prevailing neoliberal ideas (Hay 1999; Thompson 2002; Finlayson 2003; Clarke 2004); but in this case, I argue, it is a variety of neoliberalism that is heavily influenced by institutionalism (Bevir 2005). The importance of institutionalist ideas can be seen in the emphasis in creative industries policy on networks, characterised by social and ethical norms, as opposed to a neoliberal focus purely on marketisation. New Labour produced an essentially benign account of the knowledge economy; the creative industries were capable of producing 'good work', which offered opportunities for highly skilled labour. In addition, because of its links to popular culture, they could offer inclusion through work, for those deemed socially excluded. I argue that this account continued throughout the period under examination, despite mounting evidence, discussed in several of the publications below, that the creative industries produce labour markets that are highly unequal in terms of race and class. It is in attitudes to the labour market that the failures of New Labour's creative industries policy can be seen most sharply. The roots of that failure, and what it tells us about New Labour's creative industries policy, is the subject of the thesis.
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