24 June 2022

In recent years there has been pushback against the reduction of art and culture to their economic impacts or
being turned into ‘industries’. Debate has centred on how we should (re-) balance the cultural and economic,
attention focused on how we might better value the former. But what about the ‘economic’? Do we know what
its value might be?

In the last fifteen years mainstream economic orthodoxy has been challenged on many fronts, from feminists,
ecologists, First Nations and Post-colonial thinkers, through heterodox and dissident economists, to older
Keynesian and Marxist theorists – all now confronting a different, post-neoliberal age.

One such challenge to gain increased traction has been that of the Foundational Economy Collective. Rejecting
the fetishization of GDP-led growth, they foreground those parts of the economy that provide the
infrastructure, services and everyday needs of the majority of citizens. Breaking with models of growth that
have eroded our public services, accelerated inequalities and impoverished our sense of citizenship, the
Foundational Economy sets out a practical model for a radical reformism focused on providing for essential,
basic needs for everyone.

Since 1994 art and culture have been told that becoming ‘creative industries’ would lead to a seat at the
government table and the resources commensurate with its new importance. Though this has failed dismally
the cultural sector lack a language to go forward. Might the Foundational Economy point to a new way for the
sector to think itself as part of public policy? In this lecture Justin O’Connor will outline some of the challenges
and possibilities opened up by this post-neoliberal economic agenda.

Download the working paper here

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