New Book: ‘Culture is bad for you’

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7 Oct 2020 NewsPublication

New Book ‘Culture is bad for you: inequality in the cultural and creative industries’ co-authored by Mark Taylor

Living with Data’s Mark Taylor, alongside Orian Brook and Dave O’Brien, have recently published ‘Culture is bad for you: inequality in the cultural and creative industries’ (Manchester University Press). In it, Mark and colleagues examine the intersections between race, class, and gender in the mechanisms of exclusion in cultural occupations. They argue that exclusion from culture begins at an early age, and despite consistent beliefs among people working in the sector that the main things driving success are talent and hard work, women, people of colour, and those from working class backgrounds are systematically disbarred.

While highlighting culture as “a central part of what it means to be human” the book explains why we also need to be cautious about culture and puts forward a powerful call to transform the cultural and creative industries. The authors demonstrate how almost all art forms and cultural activities are marked by inequalities, encompassing who initially gets hired, people’s experiences of working in the sector, and the ways in which people participate and attend different forms of culture. 

Through engaging with a wide range of secondary data sources, a custom survey of around 2,500 people working in the cultural and creative industries, and 237 in-depth followup interviews, the book talks readers through the different ways inequality can rear its head addressing the role of culture in childhood, the problem of low and no pay in the industry as well as specific issues related to age, gender and ethnicity. Ultimately, the authors argue that while the inequalities that characterise both workforce and audience remain unaddressed, the positive contribution culture makes to society can never be fully realised. 

In this way, “cultural occupations must change. They must change if society is to freely enjoy the benefits of culture, and participate fully in cultural consumption and production”. At the moment, however, the book argues that cultural occupations are not doing this and are instead “part of the mechanism by which society continues to be unequal” leading to the claim, and title, of: Culture is bad for you.

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