Review by Hugh Adams
(Comedia / the Department of Canadian Heritage / UNESCO with support from the World Bank, Stroud, 2001. ISBN 1 813667 03 5 £10.00 [£13.09 incl. p&p*])
Title: promising; scale: modest; appearance: sober; production: well-supported. So, why so expensive? Culture and development are words requiring definition and definition, really in no sense, characterises this book. Some stabs are made at the ‘c’ word but not really the ‘d’. “The importance of c in all our lives has grown immensely … c is far more than entertainment … c allows us to learn and develop as people” and (breathtakingly) “in the second half of the twentieth century c has increasingly come to be seen as crucial to human development”. The book aims to be “a basic introduction to some of the connections between culture and development, opening up questions and debates rather than providing final answers”. In the second of those it succeeds.
Lots of cultural economics fibres, lots of assertions (some of the ‘we all know what we mean’ variety).The song is old: of the economic importance of the arts and cultural industries, of quantifiable and measurable indicators of performance and therefore of immense attractiveness to ‘us’. An emphasis on the desirable linkage of ‘culture’ with ‘cultural auditing’ is depressing; the cost of auditing is never quantified, either in economic or spiritual terms. The lack of an audit “tool ... sensitive enough to be appropriate and robust enough to be useful” remains an ambition.
Meanwhile profits accrue, not to makers and shapers but those operating in Conference World and on the productive cusps of academic disciplines; in the absence of precision tools the seam will never be exhausted nor the mine close!
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