We live in an age dominated by economic reason, not just the grinding necessity of working hard and making money in order to live but the very definition of social reality itself. To rid ourselves of reality-defining economic reason, libertarian socialist Andre Gorz (1989 ) has argued that reform is desirable: how wealth is produced and distributed should be changed and work for remuneration shared more equitably. Why? Would this boost growth? No, that is not the point. The point is to reduce economic servitude so that people can do things for their own sake, to express themselves and enjoy the company of others without calculation, which is one definition of cultural activity, as opposed to economic activity. Gorz's condition of post-scarcity equality, self-fulfilment and mutuality is Utopian and easily dismissed as unrealistic. Yet, its promise is glimpsed routinely in our free time when we do things just for fun.
What does it mean for cultural life when economic reason predominates? That is the key question for this book to address. It is a matter of policy. In the past, cultural policy has been rationalized in various ways, including the amelioration of 'market failure' for practices deemed to have a cultural value that is not reducible to economic value. While this rationalization persists residually, it has very largely been superseded by an exclusively economic rationale. In this sense, cultural practices are deemed worthy of public support because they are of economic value. Cultural policy has been rethought in such a way that it no longer requires a specifically cultural rationale. This is a manifestation of the pervasive dominance of economic reason today: to put it bluntly, naked capitalism.
Towards the end of his life, Pierre Bourdieu (1998a and b), the great sociologist of culture, became increasingly concerned about the dominance of economic reason in all spheres of life. He talked of how, 'in a period of neo-conservative reconstruction', an 'economic fatalism' had erected 'defining standards for all practices'. It represented 'a return to a sort of radical capitalism' that stressed 'efficiency' through 'modern forms