How the Creative Economy became part of everyday discourse.

The Network for Oratory and Politics was proud to present the annual Major Lecture delivered by Professor Philip Schlesinger, Professor of Cultural Policy in the School of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, University of Glasgow. Philip Schlesinger is an expert on all aspects of media culture and its role in modern society. Currently leading and contributing to several major research projects on British film policy, on the creative economy and on the digital challenge to modern media, he has held a string of professorships in Scotland, the UK and abroad, and has a list of publications longer than most (find them here). What is special about Philip’s work is that he is not simply an academic observer of the modern media and its impact on culture, but is himself engaging in current policy through his external responsibilities such as Member for Scotland on Ofcom’s Content Board and his consultancy projects for a string of national and European institutions such as the Home Office, the Scottish Parliament and the European Institute for the Media.


Philip’s lecture tied in with the current Network seminar series on audiences of political oratory in its discussion of the creation and spread of the term ‘creative economy’. He traced the term from its political and academic beginning to its current, and almost ineradicable, presence in policy terminology, cultural agency foundations and dictates, and the vocabulary of those engaged in the production and discussion of cultural products.

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So what does ‘the creative economy’ mean? Philip Schlesinger argued that this phrase is a now orthodox take on the value of culture as primarily economic and as something that can be measured for the benefit of policy makers and agencies involved in cultural production. It started out in the middle of the 20th century with the attention of left-wing policy makers to what they called the ‘culture industry’, which quickly developed into plural (‘cultural industries’) and, in 1998, was altered into the ‘creative industries’ catalogued in the hugely-influential policy paper ‘Creative Industries Mapping Document’ (1998).

Interestingly, this policy paper became highly influential not only in its country of origin, the United Kingdom, but also abroad and it helped politicians and policy makers to set national and global agendas for the ‘creative economy’ in a global competition for wealth arising from culture and cultural product. Today, the EU has put all its cultural programmes under the umbrella term ‘Creative Europe’, and there is even a Global Creativity Index which ranks and maps countries according to value of their ‘creative economy’.

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Today, this term and its attendant policies, agencies, and indeed thought-world influences not just policy makers or producers of culture (if we can call them that), but university courses, company internships, personal relations in the ‘cultural industry’, and funding for academic and non-academic research and cultural expressions.

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Philip Schlesinger’s main point, apart from tracing the creation and development of this term, was this all-pervasive orthodoxy may not create better culture or more wealth, and his lecture finished by looking ahead to the future: can we free ourselves from this term and orthodoxy, should we put something in its place and what might that be? The audience took its cue from this point and the lively Q&A brought up a number of different perspectives on these questions.

A recording of Philip Schlesinger’s paper is available here.

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