Wednesday, 24 October 2012

a labour struggle for distinction?

A follow up on my previous comment to @jenmcgregor:

I’ve tried follow up on others’ suggestion elsewhere to consider this a labour dispute, and to then position conflict within that. The following’s still more a map of concerns, but I wanted to post it now as I don’t know if I’ll be able to look at it again ahead of the 26th October Edinburgh event:

What’s going on involves a struggle for distinction amongst competing interest groups (which form ‘constellations of opportunity’) in them reacting to Scottish government restructuring (of which Creative Scotland is but a part) based on an international ‘creative industries’ (development/growth) policy script that’s contingent on local histories and contexts.
This policy script doesn’t act alone, rather Creative Scotland sits across and is responsive to different policy influences – as SAC was to e.g. Social Inclusion.
The disruptive transition of restructuring is also experienced by staff across Creative Scotland as an organisation itself – as not disentangled from collegial networks which manifested with/through the art form specialisms of SAC/ SS.
The state structure, that was necessary to protect certain interests, and which was responsive to and generative of those interests, is being recast – this was legislated for via the Public Services Reform bill (2010) and from which (as well as decades of private consultation, and as nurtured into being by bankers) Creative Scotland and its market definition was the outcome.
(The cultural ‘Leadership’ agenda perhaps takes a slightly different turn in Scotland; contra the notion of a ‘damaged cultural Scottishness’, it’s been formative in embedding a string of the Scottish political/economic elite in public institutions involved in state production of symbolic value – it’s state formation at work, in reassuring those class interests and tying them in with an independent Scottish state’s production. Though such a view hardly fits with the ‘class racism’ that we’re all lefties in the arts in Scotland — i.e. Étienne Balibar’s identification of the ignoring of class within ethnicity as if ethnic groups are not fractured by class like everyone else, arguing that the notion of class is ‘ethnicised’.)
These are state processes throughout which the distribution of power and authority is uneven, which is the basis of conflict.
The object of such conflict is the status quo and the consequences of change.
Lewis Coser defined conflict as‚ “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources”.
Randall Collins believes there are certain ‘goods’ that every group wants to pursue, including ‘prestige’.
Which is where I locate the recent self-selecting pronouncement on the parameters of “Scottish culture” – where worryingly we appear to be moving from faux-meritocracy (‘talent’) to a lodging of authenticity (‘Scottishness’).
Much creative labour is not simply excluded but actually absented from such an intimate construction of ‘community of belonging’, as a constellation of relatively-closed (though not static) ‘familial’ network enterprises – hence disciplinary notions of moral ‘disloyalty’. Whereas solidarity is a political process not a consanguine command.
These are the conflicts between inter-groups and intra-groups that are part of social life.
(Some of this is necessarily abrupt in its brevity – for a more nuanced definition of conflict, I found the short section of notes on Bourdieu here useful: “Bourdieu refuses that agents act according to explicit norms or rules, rather it is the shared conditions of existence which produce certain inclinations of practical action, where events are met in the world with certain inclinations and dispositions shaping the specific action undertaken.”)
So this is about the social and economic relations of cultural production, where different groups continue to have unequal power. Given these power differences, special interest groups compete over scarce resources of society – consciously/ intentionally or not, it is to gain advantages over others, including advantages of distinction. There are also, however, differences in power and opinions within and across each ‘group’.
These ‘groups’ are, rather, better described as not fully static but more dynamic and overlapping constellations formed around accruing cultural capital and labour opportunity; “products of rationalized social construction [that] lack [fully] social solidarity”.
“To complicate matters further, different individuals enter these groups with differing levels of access to resources. Those with the greatest resources tend to have a larger say in group activities. Consequently, minorities form that feel underrepresented and powerless to compete with majoritarian views and methods. (Too often, these minorities reflect the same minoritarian structure found in culture as a whole). … Oddly enough, the worst-case scenario is not group annihilation, but the formation of a Machiavellian power base that tightens the bureaucratic rigor in order to purge the group of malcontents, and to stifle difference.” Critical Art Ensemble, ‘Observations on Collective Cultural Action’ – Variant, issue 15, Summer 2002
So we can see that it’s a conflict based on inequality of existing power relations – an understanding necessarily backed-up here by CAE. Groups and individuals advance their own interests, struggling over control of societal resources.
The resulting social disruption of these groups’ intra- and extra-relations is but one manifestation of latent conflict serving to create a new balance of authority. (Even in attempting to reassert old ties.) This is an ongoing process. It concerns incremental social change in adjustment to shifts in the underlying balance of constellations of power.
‘Destabalisation’ of what are perceived as too-closed constellations of interest, as is being pursued via CS, is thought to ‘stimulate innovation’ in the economy.
Whatever the actual international experiences of this neoliberal competitive ‘solution’ to perceived stagnation, paradoxically CS does actually identify a very real set of conflicts in inequality of cultural provision – one which remains contrary to the ‘status quo’-framing of politics as merely a managerial task involving the identification of consensus.
The State is not some neutral organ that equitably represents everyone’s interests. When the business of the state was more fully that of those cultural brokers and producers who are still in a relative position of authority to aggregate and voice disaffection, it also facilitated a particular dominance in means of cultural production.
In that sense it can be considered a conflict over property rights – a right granted by the state to authoritatively exercise sovereignty over property: to exclude others from it or to regulate them in its use. That property which is socially significant establishes a relationship of domination and subordination among people. So it can be considered a conflict over relations of authority at the state level; a struggle over state power and control of property rights.
(Re Nicholas Garnham: “the cultural industries are seen as complex value chains where profit is extracted at key nodes in the chain through control of production investment and distribution and the key ‘creative’ labour is exploited not, as in the classic Marxist analysis of surplus value, through the wage bargain, but through contracts determining the distribution of profits to various rights holders negotiated between parties with highly unequal power.” Which is why the W.A.G.E. campaign remains highly partial and so limited.)
There is no neutral, explanatory position; no objectivity and detachment of ‘disinterestedness’ – it’s about actively defending advantages or contesting disadvantages (real and perceived).
Such conflicts and power struggles are everywhere; something that always conditions human existence and interaction.
Suffice to say here, neoliberalism is a programme that gained its strength from various alliances, ranging from the economic and political fields, to the academic and cultural fields.
What we experience then is that we are caught in the midst of various forms of neoliberal enclosure and restructuring, which is seen by competing individuals, networks and agencies to offer openings for a range of agendas seeking to gain purchase on institutional structures/ bureaucracies.
In our experience, it is precisely these meshing of egoistic interests that effaces any significant debate of the underlying antagonisms (conflicts) in Scotland’s cultural policy and provision — how it significantly differs from, say, Sweden’s earlier, more social democratic policy before its own neoliberal restructuring. It even acts to efface the previous conflicts before this round of restructuring – as if the discriminative collegial basis of art form specialisms isn’t what current restructuring is reactive to!?
How do we call it out for all of us to see?
To claim the disruption currently experienced as merely, or even primarily, ‘managerial’ is to limit what potential positions we may take up with regard to it. It would be to separate these processes of conflict and transformation from ‘political imagination’ – that is, from our consideration of the organisational forms, objectives and specific issues of the economic struggles of our precarious labour.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

scratch communication competencies

(updated - Sat 20 Oct, 20.09)

A response to:
A Right Stooshie and the Question of ExcellenceBy jenmcgregor

Artists' Open Space (26 October 2012)
There's a continuing danger in allowing structural reorganisation to be framed as merely 'miscommunication' -- as "communication difficulties" where "Creative Scotland’s senior team wanted to improve its dialogue with the sector and to be viewed as open and responsive" (Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, in Note of Meeting Held on 7/8/12, with the Cultural Alliance ) -- and thereby also any 'solution' to it as merely 'improving' management competencies, as can be seen by the letter of appeal to the CS board and its subsequent response.

It has instead been more constructively (and uniquely) referred to by @ABissett as "what was taking place was not simply a complaint being registered, but an industrial dispute unfolding". 

On it being about conflict, not misunderstanding, as Copenhagen Free University prophetically put it back in 2001:
"With a tradition of truce and consensus politics in Danish society the aesthetic disciplines have been predominately playing along the lines of the state in the reproduction of cultural values. The state […] is convinced of the 'single' common good that can come from the integration of the aesthetic disciplines in the nation's general production of value. Both in terms of cultural and monetarian capital, that is.  Synchronously the state is encouraging all, including the cultural producers, […] to behave with social responsibility and, in general, expects people to express themselves and promote individualised subjectivity. This strategic double bind is the technology of power -- a technology for creating and controlling the voices present in society. Conflicts are explained as misunderstandings and mediated through the panacea of 'dialogue'. - The Committee of 15th July, 2001/Henriette Heise & Jakob Jakobsen
More specific still in problematising a de-politicised, salutary notion of 'dialogue':
“The post-political … describes a space of political operation structured by choices relating to micro-political procedures, administrative apparatuses and technocratic management. Operating wholly within the shrunken coordinates of neoliberalism, political agency is constrained to nothing more than a shadow play where decisions can only tinker with the edges of a system whose core ideological structure remains inviolable”.  - Adrian Lahoud, Post-traumatic Urbanism, Architecture in the Aftermath 
And so as to identify the traps if we are not careful:
"...Rose’s post-structuralist analysis offers the connection between discourse and the ability to create governable subjects. Here, discourse is more than language but rather it denotes a way of acting and behaving. […] this opens up the possibility of exploring how discourse becomes the means of shaping behaviour and that specifically it becomes feasible to create “categories of public that are produced for the purposes of participation”. […] the future is expressed as a consensual understanding; it does so through emphasizing the value of local participation as steering policy. […] As a plethora of studies have shown […] participation, particularly where it is initiated through state-led practices, operates at different levels from the tokenistic to scenarios in which there is a real redistribution of power [...] Realisation of empowered participatory governance […] is the exception; clearly, pre-existing centres of institutional power, urban governments, will be reluctant to devolve decision-making powers substantively. Further, to do so would be to undermine the legitimacy representative modes of democratic practice are able to claim. If politics is the negotiation of conflict, the post-political formation is defined around its antithesis, that politics is a managerial task involving the identification of consensus. Limiting participation to relatively ‘shallow’ forms of democratic engagement averts the problems of conflict." - Ronan Paddison, 'Protest in the Park - Preliminary Thoughts on the Silencing of Democratic Protest in the Neoliberal Age'

As I previously posted in December 2011 on the service delivery model of provision:
With Creative Scotland's continuing opacity, unfolding contradictions (no cuts/ cuts) and informational asymmetry (including drip-feeding rumour of uplifting a few FXOs to Foundation status, since dismissed), to date as practitioners we have mostly tended towards focusing on Creative Scotland's largely unfamiliar (to us) 'language' of Service Delivery while perhaps not yet naming it as such - in part because exploration has taken us to this point of recognising it.In the absence of a cogent explanation from Creative Scotland of the fundamental changes it is effecting and why, our focus on Creative Scotland's unfamiliar language and its alienating effects has been understandable as one of the few (in)tangibles we have.One concern emerging, though, is in appealing to Creative Scotland for it to moderate this language as being the same thing as a change to the new model of provision itself and the Scottish government objectives that underlie it. Again, in part, this may be because we have regularly experienced changes to the lexicon of funding with incremental changes to provision models - e.g. 'Social inclusion' - but nothing as abrupt and all encompassing as what we now experience. (And for this reason comparisons with provision in England may be erroneous.)It may now be time to get to the crux of where that language comes from, what system it is of and what is meant by it, which appears to lead us to analyse what was/is meant by "single purpose government" in Scotland and its assumptions surrounding economic growth at any cost.What is becoming evident is that what we are being subject to is less of a 'national cultural strategy' and more of a 'national service agreements' 'service delivery model': [more]

Sunday, 14 October 2012

a lot more than, 'We told you so'

Considering what gets lost, forgotten, submerged or devalorised in these struggles for distinction, it's timely to re-post work many of us have contributed to in recent years in coming to understand of our conditions of labour.

Developments - In the final version of our 2008 artists' briefing paper ahead of the bill (linked below) we didn't sufficiently highlight that a key antagonism with an organisation set up in this way might be with its necessity to self-promote - reducing its tenure from SAC's 5 years to 2 has evidently amplified this perceived need. Elsewhere we've made this conflict clear regarding ALEOs (e.g. Glasgow Life). It would be useful to update the paper and to make those connections across scales and forms of cultural governance.

The future of the arts in Scotland (2008)
an artists' briefing paper

People should not ask why, but only say because.
Public submission to parliamentary committee discussions of Creative Scotland and the Public Service Reform Bill, from Variant magazine

Some resources:

The harnessing of creativity for urban growth agendas...
or, doing differently. develop critical understanding and to broaden public discussion about 'Creative Industries' as a key aspect of contemporary policy that is presumed to address inequality.

From Funding To Franchise (Workshop)
What does the end of Flexible Funding mean for artist-run spaces in Scotland?

We think those affiliated with artist-run activity may have a different perspective on how and why to approach what is happening than other larger funded institutions. For example, in the consideration and understanding of 'value'. For all the possible gloom of the situation we are hopeful to approach this also as an opportunity to collectively consider what we really think and what we really want, and all the differences we positively hold. To see if there is a will to take this forward with a considered and genuinely creative momentum.

Art + Labour Links

Struggles for Distinction…

The definitions of the bill, "task Creative Scotland with making real and bringing to fruition the value and benefits of the arts and culture in Scotland. The value and benefits referred to in the Bill include . . . also benefits in terms of unlocking creative and entrepreneurial potential . . . Creative Scotland might do this, for example, by encouraging commercial banks to better understand the economic potential of the arts and culture."

I think the danger is in assigning value judgments in contradiction to what CS is tasked by Scottish government to do.

While we complain about the 'how' we also need to be asking about the 'why'?
"So, as we say that this ideology is failing, I beg to differ. I actually believe it has been enormously successful, enormously successful, just not on the terms that we learn about…"
Generally, I sense an indifference to how things really are, and why that may be so.

How to account for our repeated undermining of the very democracy we claim we seek?

Maybe it's a question of the processes by which whose creative labour gets valorised, whose is defended and expanded, and whose devalorised in our struggles for distinction?

If folk had acted against their seeming immediate self-interest when there was the chance to make a more fundamental difference, in better forming the bill towards more democratic and less economistic ends, instead of carving out exception for themselves, then it's less likely we'd be here right now.

I suggest we're caught in the midst of various forms of neoliberal enclosure and restructuring, which is seen by competing individuals, networks and agencies to offer openings for a range of agendas seeking to gain purchase on institutional structures/ bureaucracies. 

It's this meshing of egoistic interests that effaces any significant debate of the underlying antagonisms in Scotland's cultural policy -- how it significantly differs from, say, Sweden's earlier, more social democratic policy before neoliberal restructuring. 

We won't even collectively acknowledge such basic tensions between us in our inability to depict the present. So how do we call it out for all of us to see, and how do we overcome our own protective self-interests when solidarity has always been a political process?

We're only 'victims' in this if we deny the personal opportunism that led us here as we try to continually game the system to our own advantage -- jealously and meanly guarding microscopic secret knowledge from those outside of our own particular constellations of opportunity.
"While it is possible in theory to abstract out the moral from the instrumental and the conscious from the habitual, in practice behaviour is often shaped by mixed motives and influences. If we do consciously decide on a course of action it is often both because we feel it is the right thing to do in itself and because it happens to have beneficial consequences for us.  . . . One of the most important contributions of cultural studies has been in analyzing how judgements of taste are related to the social position of actors and associated with struggles for distinction."

mid-October 2012 press round-up

Arts chief admits problem
Phil Miller - Herald, Arts Correspondent, SATURDAY 13 OCTOBER 2012
The chairman of Scotland's national arts funding body admitted in a conciliatory letter it has a major problem in its dealing with artists.

A misguided letter from our 'leading' artists and writers
Kenneth Roy - Scottish Review, 11 October 2012

Leading artists demand urgent talks with Creative Scotland over funding
Phil Miller - Herald, Arts Correspondent, THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER 201
Scotland's leading artists have demanded urgent talks with the country's arts funding organisation after more than 200 names were added to a letter condemning the quango

Culture Secretary tells Creative Scotland to sort out criticisms
BRIAN FERGUSON - Scotsman, Thursday 11 October 2012
SCOTLAND’S culture secretary has demanded her flagship arts quango sort out mounting criticisms of the way it is being run - the day after its chief executive vowed he would not be stepping down.

No accounting for finance hypocrisy
Robin McAlpine - Reid Foundation, Oct 10, 2012
It’s not just that Sir Sandy Crombie is so utterly ridiculous in his defence of Creative Scotland, its that he reveals the utter hypocrisy at the heart of public police in Britain

Head of Creative Scotland refuses to quit
Under fire: Chief executive Andrew Dixon
BRIAN FERGUSON - Scotsman, Wednesday 10 October 2012
THE chief executive of ­Creative Scotland has vowed to remain in the job despite the ­barrage of criticism levelled at his ­organisation.

Leading artists unite to condemn funding body
Phil Miller - Herald, Arts Correspondent, TUESDAY 9 OCTOBER 2012
MORE than 100 leading artists have called for a radical shake-up of Scotland's art funding body in an unprecedented letter.

‘Damaged at the heart’: artists pull no punches over Creative Scotland
BRIAN FERGUSON - Scotsman, Tuesday 9 October 2012
A HUNDRED of Scotland’s leading artists have launched an out-spoken attack against the government agency in charge of the cultural sector.

Rift deepens between Scottish artists and Creative Scotland, as despairing open letter is published
Charlotte Higgins on culture blog - Guardian, Tuesday 9 October 2012
A hundred names from the Scottish arts establishment – including Ian Rankin, Douglas Gordon and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – have expressed their dismay at Creative Scotland's policies with a heartfelt open letter

Artists plan mass meetings amid concern over Creative Scotland
Phil Miller - Arts Correspondent, The Herald, WEDNESDAY 3 OCTOBER 2012 
SCOTLAND’S artists are to stage mass meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow next month after disquiet over the policies of Creative Scotland, the national arts funding body.

Tilting at windmills

In full: The letter to Creative Scotland

Read the open letter from Sir Sandy Crombie


Documentation of my immediate (brief) response to the letter and subsequent exchanges at:

Sir RBS called upon to save the great and guid of 'Scottish culture' from wrecking external influence, the irony.
So let's look at the parameters set by Scottish government for Creative Scotland to work within, or was the expectation that this was just intended for lesser people:
"11. The functions in paragraph (c), however, go further and task Creative Scotland with making real and bringing to fruition the value and benefits of the arts and culture in Scotland. The value and benefits referred to in the Bill include not only personal enjoyment of aesthetic quality and the enjoyment involved in cultural participation, but also benefits in terms of unlocking creative and entrepreneurial potential and enhancing well-being and community pride. Creative Scotland might do this, for example, by encouraging commercial banks to better understand the economic potential of the arts and culture.12. Subsection (1)(d) gives Creative Scotland functions in relation to the application of creative skills. This paragraph allows Creative Scotland to support persons engaging in creative enterprise. This could be applicable generally but there is also a grouping of industries referred to often as the creative industries where it may be particularly relevant. These industries include: advertising; architecture; crafts; design; designer fashion; film; interactive leisure software; music; performing arts; publishing; TV and radio; and visual arts.
13. It will be for Creative Scotland to judge how to support activities in these areas where they involve the application of creative skills to the development of products and processes."

So some initial reactions to this appeal to the CS board:
"designed to set artist against artist and company against company in the search for resources" - and in that respect CS differs from SAC how, or just not their experience of it? Are we actually starting to see the naming of the loss of privilege here?
How is a letter that's so evidently seeking to regain perceived privileges-lost not also doing what it accuses - a demarcation of winners and losers by dint of the 'not us', in the parameters of "Scottish culture" it sets and excludes with? Worryingly, are we moving from faux-meritocracy ('talent') to a lodging of authenticity ('Scottishness')?
Re a "lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture" - a seeking to re-establish the previous order-of-things so as to make it disappear from view again...?
It's curious what puddles of cultural capital pool - an assertion of visibility in and of itself, we self-pronounce as "Scottish culture" is also its function: 'SNP - you are legitimated by something called Scottish Culture, of which we self-announce as the guardians. If you don't restore our privileges, we will declare our non-confidence in your shepherding of Cultural Scottishness, which would embarrass you, and damage the real agenda of this government vis-a-vis independence.'
"The arts are one of Scotland's proudest assets and most successful exports. We believe existing resources are best managed in an atmosphere of trust between those who make art and those who fund it."
- "assets", "resources", "managed", "exports"; could they make up their minds: the integration of the aesthetic disciplines in the nation's economic production of value... or not? And 'The Games Industry' emerges to complete the creative economy script.
On the seven points, briefly:

1. genuinely acknowledge the scale of the problem;

A problem for whom? For ALL those now less secure? -- back to Naomi Klein's 'those who think neoliberalism has failed... it hasn't'.

2. affirm the value of stable two to three year funding for small arts organisations;

They're not 'small' organisations, they're an already reduced number of former-FXOs -- those outwith this magic circle have just been invisible-ed, setting "artist against artist and company against company in the search for resources".

3. end the use of business-speak and obfuscating jargon in official communication;

"assets", "resources", "managed", "exports" -- once again this substitute fixation on 'language' but not what it is of -- sends us back to a strategy of explaining it away as 'competencies' not 'conflict', 'personalities' not 'politics', for to name it would lead beyond CS to Scottish government, who are after all being asked to save 'us' for this now external other that's harrowing 'Scottish culture'.

4. revisit CS policies with an eye to social and cultural as well as commercial values;

They're not CS policies, CS is blanketed by many and differing Scottish government policies, so I guess "genuinely acknowledge the scale of the problem" will only go so far in its maintaining of the bad apple narrative.

5. collaborate with artists to re-design over-complicated funding forms and processes; 

Why? Where else in the public sector would you be allowed to collude on such an intimate level with a select handful of likely-recipients on the tendering process? Nowhere is diversity, equality, democracy, difference, conflict mentioned in this self-interested pitch. Once again, 'communication' is foregrounded and a positive consensualism invoked; it's to be understood as just a managerial task whereby such 'shallow forms of democratic engagement averts the problems of conflict'. As if the public scope of the CS bill and what it does as regards power in public communications is reducible to tinkering with forms!

6. ensure that funding decisions are taken by people with artform expertise;

As we can understand from Finland, this is perhaps what CS, or at least its rhetoric, is actually there to tackle, to 'smash the art form silos'; the closed networks and hierarchies of access and communication supposedly hindering the growth of markets -- that CS brings with it it's own cronyism in the absences of its asserted marketisation is another discussion.

7. establish an effective system of dealing with complaints as swiftly as possible.

Ok then let's name the 20%+ staffing reduction as a CUT in public spending on the arts in Scotland. The Public Services Reform bill that calved CS also did away with numbers and specialisms of Ombudsmen (perhaps not unrelated to the water privatisations), merging areas, hindering regulatory oversight, but that's also an issue of Scottish government...


Re: Could you do a "lite" version for muppets such as myself?

I'll try.

In 1994 the Scottish Arts Council launched 'Towards a National Cultural Strategy'. Fast forward through lots of large consultancy fees to today…

Creative Scotland is the reorganisation of Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council, but much more besides, following the model of a europe-wide creative industries policy. It's not the same everywhere but we can recognise it as not being unique either. So other countries' experiences might be important in understanding what's going on now in Scotland. CS is also affected by other policy areas of government -- just as the Arts Councils had to previously address themselves to 'Social Inclusion' policies.  

Underpinning this current reorganisation is the assumption that Scotland's institutions are not competitive enough, and that they are the reason for stagnation.

What's needed therefore is some 'flexibility' and ‘innovation’ in the system -- the freedom for the state to experiment with different ideas of institutional organisation in practice. This generally gets shortened to 'entrepreneurialism'; the magic bullet to stagnation. 'Entrepreneurialism' is necessarily attributed positive attitudes, values and behaviours, and so it follows that all else must be bad!

Though not all institutions are to be shaken up. The large National cultural bodies had already been removed from under the wing of the Scottish Arts Council. And cultural activity named as 'Traditional Arts' have been bundled together and exempted from the market competition everyone else must now enter into.

The idea of competition is to 'positively' disrupt what are perceived as too static 'networks of privilege' -- what people here in the comments have referred to as 'the establishment'. 

This disruptive competition is supposed to allow for wider 'market' access to those resources thought previously held too tightly by this establishment. 

What's needed then is a different set of gatekeepers to dislodge the existing ones and free everything up, and so Creative Scotland will oversee 'tendering processes', 'franchises' and 'central commissioning' of services.  In the name of market freedom inevitably we see and experience increasing state centralisation. This marshalling, though, uniquely chimes with the forthcoming independence referendum.

The significant change is the shift to a 'service delivery' model -- Creative Scotland was made in the Services Reform bill. That's about a realignment of culture as regards enhancing the economy. 'Creatives' are considered a flexible labour pool with complementary talents, that is highly mobile and can respond quickly to business opportunities. If we're to believe the bullshit.

Much of what we're witnessing here is coy counter-argument from those who present themselves as the custodians of 'Scottish culture' -- the establishment, if you like. It revolves around those organisations and their associated structures or networks trying to regain the access and the privileges accorded them before the Creative Scotland bill disrupted it. So fundamentally it's about power.

But consistently we hear that this 'isn't political' and few arts organisations wish to approach the bill as having framed in legislation the shifting economic approach I've outlined above -- even when the head of CS board is Senior Independent Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. (At least in England voices were raised against Bazalgette, responsible for Big Brother, chairing ACE.)

Instead, decision making is seen as a question of professional expertise and not of political position taking - polite argument revolves around competencies, not conflict, and there's a self-flattering misunderstanding across 'the arts' generally that Creative Scotland is solely or even primarily there as an arts funder, even when CS insists it's 'investment' when it does.


Thanks Peter.

I'm going to disagree though -- but not with your criticisms of that pre-crash development script of 'entrepreneurialism'.

I don't think for the most part there is a clash of values.

It's dislodged privilege that's now being reacted to -- with some great exceptions!

I don't think it's all inattentiveness either, with the above proviso.

If it was approached as a clash of values on the scale you suggest, and I welcome your framing of it as such, then how does replacing CS management make any difference to a legislative definition of "the value and benefits of the arts and culture in Scotland" as "encouraging commercial banks to better understand the economic potential"?

In some ways I think it's habit. 

It's a very understandable continuity of the gaming of the system concerning the bits that are seen as directly affecting 'them' -- it's politicking. The strong motivation for keeping it 'personal' and not naming it as 'political' as you have done is, I suggest, to avoid any resulting awkwardness when it comes to filling the ousted CEO's shoes.

So I see very little overall desire to address the politics of it in the round -- which is how we got the "arts for arts' sake" fudge in the bill. That this 'fix' sits within and is affected by the stronger economising direction of the bill is what's now being felt. 

There was opportunity to do something about it at a fundamental level at the time of the bill, but instead we're here as the fudge didn't work too well.

To take the position that CS is something externally inflicted is to deny agency. It's to deny the self-interest and the politicking in the processes that got us to this juncture. A worn narrative of injured or embattled Scottishness just doesn't cut it. But if we're pointing fingers, I'd be keen to hear more about the betrayal in the Scottish government's bundling up of Traditional Arts for exemption from competition…

As I outlined in the comment above, these changes are not new and not unique, and I'd like to add it's not sudden either.

A discussion about equality in cultural provision would be very welcome!



I think we're in agreement over the broad concerns.

I agree we shouldn't mistake symptoms for the problem -- such as the distraction of tinkering around the edges with "artists' forms". I'd like to take it more seriously than that, which is also not to dismiss those experiences, some of which I share.

I also agree concerns need to be addressed across policy fields; that the re-creation of a few pockets of relative comfort won't suffice -- I acknowledge that previously describing this as 'privilege' is something of an exaggeration and that there's a lot of unevenness of experience within this.

The general assumption is that the disruption that's being contested is somehow a failure and not something more purposeful. The Naomi Klein "Ideas have consequences" reference in my comment above is that:

"So, as we say that this ideology is failing, I beg to differ. I actually believe it has been enormously successful, enormously successful, just not on the terms that we learn about…"

As I try to outline above, there's a fairly common international cultural policy script and CS is a 'self generated solution' reflecting this script. One that represents decades of consultants' graft on the bill, an agitation which never ceases.

That CS CEOs are perceived as being brought in from 'outside' really reaffirms the problem as this script presents it -- static, closed-off networks etc -- to which disruptive competition is supposed to be the answer.

I no more agree with this dated market fallacy as any kind of 'solution' than you do.

It does though identify a set of conflicts in cultural provision, something contrary to the letter's framing of politics as a merely managerial task involving the identification of consensus.

So I don't agree that there is a left-field set of shared values or that this is what the letter reflects.

As to self-determination, 'culture' is a fully devolved area but yes, it sits within and across and is responsive to rafts of policy fields. 

Here's something I co-wrote over the summer that addresses assumptions of a 'oneness of will' and the exclusions necessary to maintain that construct of 'Scottish culture' as we see in the letter:


Thanks Harry

"If both old networks of privilege and the marketised faux-solution to them are broken ideologies, how else do we envision national-scale arts funding taking place? In a way that supports plurality, dissent, &c., and a way that allows artists to make a living from their art? Can we do that within anything like contemporary Scottish politics?"

I think they're all important questions that are not asked enough. 

The 'cultural democracy' argument linked above might inform a coming to understand the implications. I reserve my differences from some of what's proposed, as a participant in its production, but hope people find what it raises constructive.

I also think once we start to consider public space in terms of power, mediated communication and democracy, then there's so much informed consideration to draw upon -- e.g. Clive Barnett, 'Culture and democracy: media, space and representation' (Edinburgh University Press, 2003).

That is, in spite of the continuing "academic absenteeism" of our constrained HE system.

What might equality in cultural provision look like, or at least something travelling towards it? 

We might add, and who's going to ask that?

And as you say, can anything other exist within contemporary Scottish politics?

I'd certainly like to hear those questions seriously addressed.


Thanks Tam, I think

CS is itself the manifestation of policy and the mechanism through which policy is projected. Yes, CS has more agency than that, and how to account for that agency in the ways it interprets, focuses and implements policy? CS is shaped by and also shapes policy. But shadow boxing the CS executive does not address the underlying actions and motives of government(s) and civil service that CS performs to, or the legal framework in which it has to do so which the bill relandscaped.

Creative Scotland is doing what Creative Scotland is set up to do -- as has already been seen to happen in e.g. Finland, via an international travelling set of policy concerns, and which, if we could take the time out of our own particular self-interests and constructions of victimhood, we could learn from. 

This is neither new nor unique. Such issues of neoliberal restructuring have been addressed by our northerly neighbours, yet it seems we even struggle to name it here. Why?

By addressing structure and agency it's hoped we might address the substance of change and not fixate on froth. But choices were made at the time of the bill, just as they're being made now, to ignore such an approach.

I'm not concerned with trying to seek out a bit of a better comfort zone for myself within the current settlement, as this gaming of the system is in effect how we got to this juncture.

If folk had acted against their seeming immediate self-interest when there was the chance to make a more fundamental difference, in better forming the bill towards more democratic and less economistic ends [instead of carving out exception for themselves], then it's less likely we'd be here right now. 

This raises the question of how one talks back to power effectively and when one does so -- anonymity still being a very real concern to many. As well as how to openly represent our own self-interest and vantage points to each other in coming to do so. We're only victims if we deny the personal opportunism that led us here as we try to continually game the system to our own advantage.

I'm on a number of e-lists where my co-participants who are signatories to the letter decided not to share more widely their knowledge of their 'opportunity' to sign. The ranks were closed to those outside of their own particular constellations of opportunity whilst mustering effort to ensure 'their folk' were reflected. It's a familal paternalism that's in denial of the exclusions it enforces; one that makes invisible its chosen forms of governance. It's this weary "‘becoming clandestine’ of skills … jealously and meanly guarding microscopic secret knowledge" that weighs down on me when CS claims an intention to crack-open 'art form silos'.

There's no comfort zone on offer for what many of us do neither in the old settlement any more than there is in the new. But as the Finish experience demonstrates, there isn't a secure zone either for those seeking security in traditional forms of patronage -- the game's fundamentally changed (at the level of the bill) and it's not in my or others' interest to try to get it back as it was, not least when what it seems is being mooted is an even lesser resurrection of selective elements than that; to tinker at the level or re-securing closed social systems which abet in my own and others' exclusions.

Generally, I sense an indifference to how things really are, and why. We are, then, caught in the midst of various forms of neoliberal enclosure and restructuring, which is seen by competing individuals, networks and agencies to offer openings for a range of agendas seeking to gain purchase on institutional structures/ bureaucracies. In our experience, it is precisely these meshing of egoistic interests that effaces any significant debate of the underlying antagonisms in Scotland's cultural policy -- how it significantly differs from, say, Sweden's earlier, more social democratic policy before neoliberal restructuring. How do we call it out for all of us to see, and how do we overcome it when solidarity has always been a political process?

If we can't collectively acknowledge such basic tensions between us in our inability to depict the present, then I strongly suspect any rallying would encounter subduction of difference for primarily promotional ends for the benefit of a few over the many.

Our approach has been less the promotion of a Scottish Pavilion, less celebrity endorsement of brand success (emulating CS's own predilection for reflected glory) where decision making is seen as a question of expertise and not of political position, but instead something more grounded in appreciating political difference in establishing capable policy that can "critically account for the way 'power is exercised upon and through practices of mediated public communication'".

Much of what's written here I'd already posted to those e-lists before they went on to prove my concerns as well founded and compound my and others exclusions.


Besides Sandy Crombie (Standard Life, RBS) is it a coincidence that Ewan Brown, former-banker complicit in demutualisation and deregulation of financial services, was placed in charge of overseeing Creative Scotland Ltd and its metamorphosis?

What of the changing ethos and financial emphasis of the cultural sector that’s come with the concentration on the FIRL sectors (finance, insurance, real estate, and legal) from which ‘leaders’ increasingly move to manage the arts. Notably, at a time when greater emphasis has been placed on the centrality of ‘leadership’ (via Clore Foundation etc.) something the letter perpetuates.

Ewan Brown (Lloyds TSB) was chairman of the company set up to establish Creative Scotland when it had no regulatory oversight, along with Chris Masters (Wood Group) and current board member Peter Cabrelli (HBOS).
“As Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland, I do not currently regulate appointments to the board of Creative Scotland. The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill is making its way through parliament. It has, I understand, reached stage 2. If the Bill succeeds in its current format, appointments to the board will fall under my regulatory remit. … Given that the Bill has not yet passed, I can state categorically that I will have no regulatory oversight of this appointments process.”Karen Carlton, Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland, MWB Business Exchange, 9-10 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.
The dominance of this habitus from which appointments are conjured is experienced from the National Galleries to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. With such appointments come a particular set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and tastes that collectively, if we’re being polite, we might term a shared ideology.

To what extent is the increasing dominance of the FIRL sector and the influence of their working practices of concern? On what basis should we raise questions and challenge the legitimacy of the decisions being made at present, to have very clear analyses of what the nature of the problems are and what possible exits there are?

This from Susan Rice (former-chairman and chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland, managing director of the Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland) who chairs the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Forum “to ensure the city’s pre-eminence on an increasingly competitive global circuit for such events”:
“…These days, she warns, nobody should assume they will get a grant just because they had a grant before. ‘Any arts body should have a board guiding it to think about contingencies. The severity of cuts might mean the demise of some organisations and that would be very sad. There again, others might be in a better position to trim their programmes and still keep going, even expand creatively’.”“I’m not one of the bad ones, so why should I deny that I’m a banker?”Susan Rice is an enthusiastic patron of the arts.FACE TO FACE: Susan Rice interviewed by Anne Simpson, 15 Aug 2010