Beyond the manifesto: a new deal for the arts
November 9, 2018
Kieran Curran has written an important essay in the online journal New Socialist, that suggests how the Labour Party manifesto of 2017 might be extended and improved in its commitment to culture. Sophie Hope and Owen Kelly look at different aspects of his article and discuss the possibilities inherent in his proposals.
Before recording the podcast they read a blog post at Verso Books, in which Avi Sivanandan argued that:
the more Labour tries to hold Capital in thrall by withholding its labour, the more Capital moves towards its emancipation through yet more information technology, yet more labourless productive regimes, yet more recourse to the captive labour force in the periphery. The relations of production, that is, have changed with the changes in the level of the productive forces: information (in the sense of data fed to computers, robots, etc.) increasingly replaces labour as a factor of production; Capital no longer needs living labour as before, not in the same numbers, in the same place, at the same time; Labour can no longer organise on that basis, it has lost its economic clout and, with it, whatever political clout it had, whatever determinacy it could exercise in the political realm.
He went on to ask a series of questions important to anyone advocating cultural democracy:
In an age of “designer capitalism,” as Robin Murray terms it, who “shapes” our lifestyles? Who still sells us the ideas that sell us the things that we buy? Who lays out for us “the landscapes of popular pleasures”? Should we not be suspicious of those pleasures which, even in a post-Fordist era, tend to be turned out like hamburgers, mass-produced and mass-oriented? Should we not, instead, find pleasure in being creative in ourselves and in our relationships with others now that we have got the time to be creative in? Can a socialism of the twenty-first century survive which does not develop landscapes of creative leisure for people to be human in?
Sohie Hope and Owen Kelly discuss whether, rather than worrying over much about what the Arts Council of England does or doesn’t do, we should spend time addressing these points, and working towards developing the kind of initiatives that Kieran Curran’s article points towards, and Avi Sivanandan’s essay suggested are necessary, if we wish to move forward.