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Making Culture Count 2-4 May 2012, Melbourne Thriving on measurement? Articulating ‘cultural value’ in a policy context Dr Eleonora Belfiore Associate.

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Presentation on theme: "Making Culture Count 2-4 May 2012, Melbourne Thriving on measurement? Articulating ‘cultural value’ in a policy context Dr Eleonora Belfiore Associate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making Culture Count 2-4 May 2012, Melbourne Thriving on measurement? Articulating ‘cultural value’ in a policy context Dr Eleonora Belfiore Associate Professor in Cultural Policy, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick, UK ( and @elebelfiore on Twitter)

2 Structure Paper articulated in four sections: 1)Some general thoughts on measurement in relation to the arts and culture and & its centrality to the cultural value debate. 2)On the limits of measurement: are we expecting too much from the exercise? 3)An argumentative approach to cultural policy 4)A few examples from Britain

3 Why do we care about measuring arts & culture?  Increased concerns for transparency and accountability in the public sector  Necessity to spend wisely (e.g. on “what works”) in times of austerity  Is “measurement fetishism” the best way to ensure the arts and culture thrive?

4 A clarification… This is not going to be a whinge about the evil of measurement… … But we need a critical reflection on why measurement is seen to be key to “making culture count”… Is measurement the only way? Is it the best way?

5 A few bad ideas we can do without:  The arts and culture are special – normal rules don’t apply  Commitment to measurement = philistinism  Arts and culture as ‘passive victim’ of a culture of measurement Let’s be critical of “measurement fetishism” but let’s also reject some common assumptions

6 Anti-measurement rhetoric The arts as victim of measurement "The arts stand naked and without defence in a world where what cannot be measured is not valued; where what cannot be predicted will not be risked;... where whatever cannot deliver a forecast outcome is not undertaken.“ John Tusa (1999) Art Matters

7 More assumptions to be ditched  The effects of engagement with the arts (and consequently, the value that might accrue to the public from such engagement) are UNMEASURABLE A distinction needs to be made between measurability and commensurability  Measurement has meaning purely as an advocacy tool (and that’s why we need it)

8 A few helpful questions:  Not just ‘How to measure?’ but also ‘Why measure?’  Is it really the case that measurement = accountability  Is measurement the best solution to the financial sustainability problem?  Can the arts and culture thrive on measurement alone?

9 Looking behind/beyond measurement  What does the ‘measurement fetishism’ obscure?  What role does evidence really play in decision-making?  There is more to policy making than evidence and accurate measurement  Why is the ‘measurement fetishism’ so resilient?

10 The ‘argumentative approach’ In order to understand the reality of cultural policy making we need to:  Reject the prevalent linear understanding of policy formation  Shift to a rhetorical understanding of the policy process as based on argumentation and deliberation

11 Policymaking and the ‘rationality project’  Emphasis on a view of policy analysis as neutral scientific endeavour aiming at provide an objective guidance for action (evidence-based policy-making)  Faith in rational decision making as a guide to policy making  Nice fit with the ‘economic rationalism’ that is so central to neoclassical economics  Aim: “... Of rescuing public policy from the irrationalities and indignities of politics, hoping to make policy instead with rational, analytical and scientific methods” (Stone 2002)

12 Two corollaries:  Political and controversial issues have been reformulated in technical terms (the post- ideology myth and the ‘what matters is what works’ discourse)  Promotion of a linear model of the research/policy nexus (despite the fact that research often follows policy decisions, hence the label policy-based evidence-making)

13 The problem: The true (political) nature of policy is obscured: “The policymaking process is a political process, with the basic aim of reconciling interests in order to negotiate a consensus, not of implementing logic and truth. The value issues in policy making cannot be settled by referring to research findings” (Weiss 1977, 533).

14 Towards a rhetorical model of the cultural policy process  The ‘argumentative turn’ in policy analysis  Central role of language in policy-making:  Majone (1989) “[w]hether in written or oral form, argument is central in all stages of the policy process.” and “[a]rgumentation is the key process through which citizens and policymakers arrive at moral judgements and policy choices”  “facts and values are so intertwined in policy-making that factual arguments unaided by persuasion seldom play a significant role in public debate” (p., 8).

15 Evidence is and always will be value-based and value-laden Greenhalgh and Russell (2006) propose to reconceptualise policymaking as a social drama centred on argumentation:  “a real, enacted story in which all concerned, whether they want to or not, become actors” (p. 37).  Evidence is “rhetorically constructed on the social stage so as to achieve particular ends for particular people”, and its production, selection and employment in public debates should be considered as “moves in a rhetorical argumentation game and not as the harvesting of objective facts to be fed into a logical decision-making sequence” (p. 34).

16 Rejecting the pretence that policy analysis can ever be an objective ‘scientific’ endeavour “Drawing on social constructivism, postempiricists employ interpretative and discursive methods to show that politics and policy are grounded in subjective factors, and, in the process, demonstrate that the “objective” findings reported by rational techniques are as often as not the product of deeper, less visible, social and political presuppositions” (Fischer 2009, 120).

17 Why all the poor measurement & dubious statistics in cultural policy? Instrumentalism as rhetorical strategy Dubious evidence fulfils a rhetorical function in the sense that that it has persuasive power. Exorbitant claims for the transformative powers of the arts or their economic impact, dubious cultural statistics and other suspicious forms of ‘evidence’ are produced because they are perceived to have rhetorical strength.

18 Is it about evidence at all? Chris Smith, ex Secretary of State for Culture, 2003: “… I acknowledge unashamedly that when I was Secretary of State, going into what always seemed like a battle with the Treasury, I would try and touch the buttons that would work”. “So, use the measurements and figures and labels that you can, when you need to, in order to convince the rest of the governmental system of the value and importance of what you’re seeking to do. But recognise at the same time that this is not the whole story, that it is not enough as an understanding of cultural value”.

19 A different understanding of what evidence is… Majone 1989: “[e]vidence is not synonymous with data or information. It is information selected from the available stock and introduced at a specific point in the argument in order to persuade a particular audience of the truth or falsity of a statement”. Consequently, “criteria for assessing evidence are different from those used for assessing facts”.

20 The argumentative model in action A case study from Britain: ‘Defensive instrumentalism’, the cult of the measurable and the myth of ideology-free policy making in New Labour’s cultural policies

21 Variations of instrumentalism  Instrumentalism is in fact 2500 years old  Most Western theories of art can be defined as ‘pragmatic’ (Abrams 1953): they all look “at the work of art as a means to an end, an instrument to get something done, and [tend] to judge its value according to its success in achieving that aim”.  Instrumental arguments always had a defensive character/ were used to ‘make the case’ for the arts

22  Older forms of instrumentalism aimed at paving the way for a constructive articulation of cultural value and the social and political function of the arts  In New Labour’s version, instrumentalism has retained in its protective dimension, but the defensive moment leads to nothing beyond itself  The ‘cultural value’ debate (and the unhelpful intrinsic/instrumental dichotomy) ‘Defensive instrumentalism’ (or instrumentalism the New Labour’s way)

23 The ‘cultural value’ challenge  ’Defensive instrumentalism’ is not synonymous with philistinism  But the difficulties in articulating the values on which policies are based raises problems of accountability and transparency  The cult of the measurable as a strategy of legitimation and as a way to bypass the problem of the articulation of the ‘case for the arts’  De-politicization of the cultural value debate

24 The long reach of Defensive Instrumentalism A 1980s revival: Economic impact is back in fashion:  “Cultural Capital: A Manifesto for the Future” for the You can Bank on Culture campaign - March 2010 Blurb below title: “Investing in Culture will build Britain’s Social and Economic Recovery”

25 David Shrigley’s video for the Save the Arts campaign

26 In an artist’s own words… Wolfang Tillmans’ answer when asked “What’s the best argument you can put forward for not cutting the arts?: “It makes sense on an economic level. Britain doesn’t have much to export but the creative industries are a huge export industry. I don’t want to sound too economical but that is the only language this government seems to understand”. Articulating cultural value…

27 Concluding thoughts  Paradox of crisis of confidence alongside increased funding levels  A sector that is more comfortable with talking about ‘value for money’ than money for values  A rhetorically weak position and the unresolved issue of making a compelling argument for the sector (which no amounts of measurement – whether rigorous or not has been able to ‘fix’)  A vulnerable status in a time of recession and cuts

28 A new stage in the commodification process?  When market logic is transformed into “a universal common sense” (Bourdieu & Wacquant 2001), is there any space in public policy for values beyond economic value?  Reframing the value debate and reclaiming from the econocrats  Acknowledge that devoting public resources to the arts and culture is not a matter of evidence… it is a matter of politics and values!

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