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Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

Money matters. Chapter 6 analyses the role of economic resources, economic capital, in access to cultural jobs. It focuses on experiences of unpaid work. Unpaid work seems to be endemic to cultural occupations, both as a route to getting in and getting on.

Part of the reason cultural workers are willing to put up with low and no pay for their labour are the joys and pleasures that come from cultural work. At the same time, the chapter shows how what seems to be a shared experience of cultural work is important to keeping low and no pay a type of norm for cultural occupations.

In fact, the shared experience is stratified by age and by class. Class and age reveal very different experiences of unpaid work. Older creative workers were much more likely to have the creative freedom described by their younger, middle-class origin, colleagues.

Middle-class origin younger people experienced positive aspects of unpaid work. For those with the right sorts of resources associated with middle-class origins, it gave them creative freedom, as well as routes into high-profile work. For those without such resources it was often just exploitation.

in Culture is bad for you
Abstract only
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

We usually think of culture as a good thing. Arts organisations and governments tell us that culture has a range of benefits for individuals and for societies. This is in addition to the value of culture for its own sake.

However, culture is closely related to a range of social inequalities. There are inequalities in the workforce for cultural occupations. There are inequalities in the audiences for arts and culture. Culture also plays an important role in relation to how social inequality reproduces itself.

This chapter introduces the book, its core argument and themes, and structure. It shows the importance of studying cultural occupations, as a framework for understanding culture and inequality. It also highlights the relationship between the workforce and the audience, demonstrating the consequences of the barriers to diverse and equal representation that is central to the analysis in the rest of the chapters.

in Culture is bad for you
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

Cultural audiences are marked by significant inequalities. Almost every artform, aside from film, is attended by only a minority of the population. We see significant differences in levels of attendance and participation by class, gender, and race, with geography, age, and disability also influential in shaping the minority who are heavily engaged in formal culture. In contrast, everyday culture is much more popular.

This division is part of how the very idea of culture is marked by inequality. Hierarchies and what ‘counts’ as culture for the purposes of surveys reflect long-standing struggles over what is, and what is not, given legitimacy.

Hierarchy and inequality are clear in the intersectional analysis offered by the chapter. This show that even within the minority of the population who are highly engaged in culture, cultural occupations stand out. Our artistic, literary, media, and performance workers are by far the most committed to culture. This, again, reflects a distance between cultural occupations and the rest of society.

Finally, the chapter shows how these inequalities are present irrespective of the type of data, whether ticketing or survey, used for the analysis.

in Culture is bad for you
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

Media and policy discussions sometimes make it seem as if there was a golden age for social mobility into cultural occupations. This chapter interrogates that idea. It shows how social mobility has been a long-standing problem for cultural occupations. First the chapter discusses the key theories of social mobility, differentiating the academic and policy uses of the term.

It then uses the ONS-LS dataset to track social mobility into cultural occupations over time. In the early 1980s someone from a middle-class origin had about four times the odds of entering a cultural job, as compared with working-class origin people. These chances were almost the same in the early 2010s.

The static rates of social mobility into cultural jobs suggests three things. First, that cultural occupations share some social mobility issues that are common in other elite professions. Second, that rather than things getting worse in recent years cultural occupations have perhaps always been exclusive and exclusionary. Third, there is a clear need to understand the mechanisms driving this long-standing problem.

in Culture is bad for you
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

Cultural occupations are marked by significant inequalities. This chapter uses data from the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey and the Longitudinal Study to analyse patterns and trends in the cultural workforce. It shows significant exclusions of women, people of colour, and working-class origin people from key cultural occupations. Overall the workforce is not representative of the rest of society.

Moreover, using a range of other datasets, we see that the workforce in the cultural sector is unrepresentative in a range of other ways. The values and attitudes of the cultural workforce are very different to many other occupations in society. Their social networks reflect contacts with other people in cultural occupations, suggesting social closure of the workforce. Finally, our cultural workers recognise inequalities preventing certain social groups from succeeding. However, they are also committed to hard work and talent, meritocracy, to explaining success. Even where inequalities are recognised, this suggests cultural occupations may be slow to change.

in Culture is bad for you
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

The chapter presents the first analysis of gender and cultural occupations that uses data from the ONS-LS. The analysis pinpoints key moments where women leave the labour force for cultural occupations. In doing so this sets up a more general discussion of gender discrimination.

The academic literature has demonstrated that a variety of gender-based discrimination exists in cultural occupations. Policy and practitioners have focused on parenting. The chapter analyses the impact of parenting, showing how it is a crucial moment for women leaving cultural occupations, but also that it is not the only explanation for gender discrimination.

Women experience discrimination as individuals, suggesting the need for structural solutions to these problems, solutions that have to come from organisations. As the chapter’s analysis of interview data shows, the shared experience of parenting as a problem for individuals obscures the inequalities that characterise cultural occupations.

in Culture is bad for you
Abstract only
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

Senior men are in positions of power and can change the cultural sector. Much of the academic literature worried that they would not recognise inequality and would therefore be slow to act.

This chapter demonstrates how senior men now understand inequality in cultural occupations, and are able to give nuanced analysis of gender, class, and racial inequalities. They are skilled at ‘inequality talk’.

However, this understanding of inequality may not produce change. This is because senior men’s understanding of their own career successes do not take inequalities into account. Moreover, by embracing structural accounts of gender, class, and racial inequality in cultural occupations, senior men play down their ability, as individuals, to challenge and change systemic problems.

Just as with the rest of the book’s analysis, shared experiences hide the impact of inequality, in this case the positive benefit for those who fit the somatic norm of cultural occupations.

in Culture is bad for you
Abstract only
Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien, and Mark Taylor

The conclusion draws together the overall themes of the book, looking at individual experiences of inequality, the problem of shared experiences that obscure structural inequalities, and the long-term and long-standing nature of inequalities.

The conclusion defends the book’s project of making inequalities visible in order to tailor appropriate solutions. Making inequality visible suggests the need to develop appropriate theories of inequality and culture. The book concludes by thinking through what strong and weak theories of culture and inequality might look like, and what solutions they might suggest to the problems we have made visible in our analysis.

Ultimately the conclusion restates the value of culture, and the need to challenge inequality so that everyone can experience the way that culture is good for you.

in Culture is bad for you