Culture After Covid

Mark Banks and Justin O’Connor

"The adverse impact of the pandemic on the arts and cultural sector is widely acknowledged. The collapse in income and employment comes on the heels of a decade-long decline in public funding and a growing precarity amongst cultural workers.

Whilst conditions for cultural workers should be a central concern, as livelihoods and careers, institutions and embedded knowledge evaporate, a return to a status quo ante is not feasible. Public policy for art and culture, a crucial part of our democratic contestations since the 1960s, has been eviscerated, along with so much of the infrastructure of social and cultural citizenship. This is not just the work of the Tory austerity drive but goes back to New Labour and a creative industries ‘imaginary’ by which they positioned themselves at the cutting edge of global modernity.

The challenge for cultural policy is to articulate a new cosmopolitan social vision, uncoupled from nationalist narratives, civilisational superiority or enlightenment hubris. Explicit opposition to the Right’s manufacturing of regressive ‘culture wars’ must be a given. The wider aim is to articulate the radical sense of a new communal luxury in which art and culture are part of the everyday, and cared for, possessed in common as part of social citizenship. It needs to re-enter and remake those institutions from which it has been ejected or left to starve."

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