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This paper sets out to challenge the dominant narrative of the creative economy as a new option for developing countries. The much-vaunted growth rates proclaimed by UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Programme have slowed, and are seen to apply to a particular kind of manufactured good, as well as being overwhelmingly dominated by Asia, and especially China.
This paper tries to unpick the dominant creative economy model of entrepreneurship, creative human capital and open market opportunity and suggests that – other than in East Asia – it is business as usual for the Global North.
The creative economy not only fails to deliver its promise of development but has profound consequences for local cultures, caught up in an ever more global web of exploitation driven by the new digital platforms. We need to return to the earlier concerns of 'culture and development' now fully aware of the downsides, as well as the potential, of cultural economies in an uncertain global landscape.
Justin O’Connor is Professor of Cultural Economy at the University of South Australia, and Visiting Chair at the School of Cultural Management, Shanghai Jiaotong University.
Previously he was professor at Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Between 2010 and 2018 he was a member of the UNESCO 2005 Convention ‘Expert Facility’, and is currently engaged in an Australian Research Council research project on the changing role of that convention in the new global landscape.
He is currently co-writing a book called Red Creative: Culture and Modernity in China.