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Creative Industries and Economic Evolution

By Jason Potts, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., Cheltenham, 2011, 227 pp., ISBN: 978-1-84720-662-6

Creative Industries and Economic Evolution is an extremely interesting book offering a new way of looking at the arts, culture and creative industries from the perspective of evolutionary economics. The evolutionary economic approach abandons the market-failure model of welfare and subsidy, and introduces a market-process model of innovation dynamics and economic cultural co-evolution. What does this actually mean? The book argues that the arts, cultural and creative industries sectors are economically significant and interesting because, as part of the innovation system, they are a mechanism of economic evolution. The 'dynamic value' argument in the economic evolution is the underlying economics. As the author says, "This does not diminish or sully the many positive externalities of the arts, cultural and creative industries sector to personal or national identity, to community cohesion or humanistic integrity, or even social justice. But these are not the most interesting things about the arts, cultural and creative economy from the evolutionary perspective: for that we must look to the role of arts, cultural and creative industries in terms of their contribution to the process of economic evolution". Creative industries are in important ways on par with science and technology, also a significant force of economic evolution. Still, science and technology mostly deal with the manipulation and development of new material forms and the economic opportunities this creates, while the arts, cultural and creative sectors deal with the human interface, with the new ways of being and thinking and interacting, as well as with the human side of change. The difference is also reflected in the fact that science and technology are mostly on the supply side, while the cultural and creative sector operate mostly on the demand side.

For a long time this has not been the predominant view of the arts and cultural sectors. Instead, the production of arts, culture and creativity has often been viewed as somehow special, separate, ineffable; too important to be left entirely to the market. Such a view led to a protectionist approach, trying to protect this ‘exceptional’ sector behind walls of cultural-elite administered public funding bodies.

This book expresses an anti-protectionist view of the author, arguing that the market failure and protectionist approach is flawed since it is built on a fundamental misconception of the economic value of the arts and cultural sector. Protectionists value culture as an asset to be preserved and maintained and possibly shielded from the market. By doing so, they overlook the role of the arts, cultural and creative industries in the dynamic process of evolutionary change. This view makes this book extremely interesting, especially given that the view is clearly and scientifically argumented.

The new view offered in this book focuses on the human capital of creativity, novelty generation, new interpretations and meanings, and all of the creative skills and abilities that enable humans to continually change and adapt to changing ecological, social, technological and economic environments.

Such a view is expressed throughout all sixteen chapters: Introduction; Cultural Economics vs Economics of Creative Industries; Young, Creative and Extremely Rich; Evolutionary Economics of Creativity; Creativity Under Competition and the Overshooting Problem; Creative Labour Markets and Signaling; Identity Dynamics and Economic Evolution; Social Network Markets; Creative Industries Over an Innovation Trajectory; Fashion and Economic Evolution; Capitalism, Socialism and Culture; Four Models of the Creative Industries; Creative Clusters and Innovation; Novelty Bundling Markets; Creative Industries and Economic Development; and Conclusion.

The book is also a good source of references on this subject and will prove essential for researchers and students of creative industries, cultural economics and evolutionary economics. Although written in an academic manner, which in some points may cause difficulties in reading for a more general public, it is worth putting some effort into trying to understand it, since the text could be very useful for artists as well as cultural workers with a protectionist approach to the arts and culture. It certainly offers another, more dynamic and progressive view of the sector. This highly recommendable text could have concrete impacts on changing not only public policies but also on changes in old fashioned reflections on the arts and culture, which could lead to evolutionary innovations, possibly introducing changes that could affect general human progress.

To find out more or to obtain the book, please contact: Marston Book Services Ltd., 160 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX 14 4 SD, United Kingdom, tel.: +44 (01235) 465500; fax: +44 (01235) 465555