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Art and culture are supposed to bring society together. Culture is bad for you challenges the received wisdom that culture is good for us. It does this by demonstrating who makes who and consumes culture are marked by significant inequalities and social divisions.

The book combines the first large-scale study of social mobility into cultural and creative jobs, hundreds of interviews with creative workers, and a detailed analysis of secondary datasets. The book shows how unpaid work is endemic to the cultural occupations, excluding those without money and contacts. It explores unequal access to cultural education and demonstrates the importance of culture in childhood. The book looks at gender inequalities, analysing key moments when women leave cultural occupations, while men go on to senior roles. Culture is bad for you also theorises the mechanisms underpinning the long-term and long-standing class crisis in cultural occupations. In doing so it highlights the experiences of working-class origin women of colour as central to how we understand inequality.

Addressing the intersections between social mobility, ethnicity, and gender, the book argues that the creative sector needs to change. At the moment cultural occupations strengthen social inequalities, rather than supporting social justice. It is only then that everyone in society will be able to say that culture is good for you.

Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien and Mark Taylor

in London. As we are going to see in this chapter, she is not typical of those working in cultural occupations. As a result, she didn’t know a career in theatre was possible; she felt alienated and that colleagues looked down on her; and she believed she didn’t have the language to say what she was thinking in this environment. Her class origin is important here. In later chapters we’re going to explain how social origins influence some people’s feelings of belonging in cultural occupations, and others’ feelings of alienation; we’re going to look in detail at

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

a clear tension between her work and her future family life. In this chapter we are going to highlight a key moment when women seem to be dropping out of cultural occupations. We saw in Chapter 3 that across creative occupations there are gender imbalances. Film and television have a striking absence of women; museums and galleries have fewer men. There are numerous reasons for these differences. In this chapter we’re going to look at the impact of having children. It is important to stress that the academic literature not only focused on motherhood, but has

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

cultural occupations and cultural industries is highly unequal. 7 To ‘make it’ in a cultural job you need the sort of economic, social, and cultural resources that are not fairly shared within society. 8 Who consumes culture reflects social inequality. 9 The audience attending artforms including theatre, classical music, opera, ballet, jazz, and exhibitions is a minority of the population. 10 Participation has similar patterns. Painting, playing instruments, singing, dancing, writing, and performing are only done by a minority of the population. The way we define

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

, and we took over music, and film-making. Suddenly there was this tsunami of working-class people who were just going, ‘We’ve got a voice’, and people listened to us. Lisa was in her mid-fifties when we met her. A White, working-class origin woman, she had a long and successful career as a writer and theatre maker. In many ways she was a perfect illustration of social mobility into cultural occupations. Lisa’s recollections of the social and cultural changes during her career connect directly to the data we’ve just seen in Chapter 6 . There we saw our older

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

being out of place. Not only is there the worry that, in their case, the visual art world is not for them and they do not ‘fit’. There is also their fear that somehow this will be discovered, and they will have to leave. This sort of testimony opens up a broader discussion about cultural occupations. This discussion is about whether these occupations are, or are not, welcoming spaces for particular social groups. This question is the subject of this chapter. As we will show, cultural occupations can be unwelcoming and, in some cases, hostile. This is another

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

discussing in this book. As we can see in the quote that opens this chapter, even though Howard was committed to meritocracy in the arts, he was still aware of barriers to success. In general, ‘the getting, giving the opportunities to the people is the hardest thing’. More specifically, Howard was aware of the struggles that his Black colleagues have faced, that ‘their input is not seen’. Howard was a senior leader in a key cultural occupation, taking decisions that shape what gets made. His type of position, the leadership and decision-making roles in cultural and

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

importance of ‘cultural capital’ as a part of how we account for social inequalities. Cultural capital helps to explain how some social groups are better than others at navigating our highly competitive and complex social world. This is especially true in those parts of the social world constituted by elite educational and professional institutions. These include schools and universities, or specific occupations such as law, medicine, accountancy, and, of course, cultural occupations. 7 There is a huge literature on cultural capital. 8 It is a term that has been

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

similar sorts of commitment, pride, and vocational worth. The juxtaposition of unpaid work with narratives of joy and love is how we start our analysis in this chapter. It points to a defence of creative labour even in the face of, for many, exploitative conditions preventing them from gaining access to creative jobs. Foregrounding unpaid labour can obscure how creative workers also love and enjoy their occupations. The story of work in cultural occupations is not only the story of no pay, precariousness and exploitation. It is important to remember this point. It

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

will see that not being a heavily engaged cultural consumer is the norm for much of the English population. To develop our discussion of inequalities in the workforce, in cultural production, we’re also going to take a detailed look at people working in cultural occupations. We’ll see how cultural workers are very highly engaged, both in terms of their attendance and in terms of the range of artforms they are interested in. Just as with networks, attitudes and values, and the class, race, and gender basis for the workforce, the consumption patterns we see for

in Culture is bad for you