Cultural economy: A critical review

C. Gibson
Lily Kong, Singapore Management University


This article reviews work on 'cultural economy', particularly from within geography, and from other disciplines, where there are links to overtly geographical debates. We seek to clarify, different interpretations of the term and to steer a course through this multivalency to suggest productive new research agendas. We review and critique work on cultural economy that represents a relatively straightforward economic geography, based on empirical observation while theoretically informed and driven by debates about Fordism and post-Fordism, agglomeration and cluster theory. Some of these ideas about cultural economy have proven attractive to policy-makers and we map a normative script of cultural economy, with its prescriptive recommendations for economic development, which we then critique. Turning from this normative cultural economy, we move to a more theoretical discussion which reinterprets the cultural economy in light of debates on the culturization of 'the economic' in research praxis. We conclude that better acknowledgement is needed of the contradictory uses of 'cultural economy', but point nevertheless to the value of this multivalency as long as we reflect on the multiple contradictions, and interpretations. With many current absences in work on cultural economy, we suggest various agendas waiting to be addressed. © 2005 Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.