CUL TURE, CAPITALISM AND CRITIQUE
This concluding chapter addresses questions of cultural value and economy from a critical perspective. Cultural policy is conceived here as a contested terrain both in terms of its public manifestations and latent conditions of existence. Decisions are made about what to do in circumstances where underlying forces shape actualities and possibilities. For example, the public debate over 'dumbing down' may raise important issues for cultural policy but it has little to say about the political economy of culture. Questions of value should, of course, be debated. Yet, such debate often fails to penetrate the economic and political determinations of culture, which in our day are largely those of neo-liberal globalization. A critical and reflexive cultural policy analysis, then, needs to engage in public debate as it is constituted and also to go beneath the surface to examine structures and processes that may not be immediately evident. It should ask awkward questions, the kind of questions that the powerful prefer not to be asked. Agendas that are set by capitalist and narrowly governmental interests must be interrogated with regard to how they frame, include and exclude issues of public interest.
In what follows I shall survey prevailing terms of cultural debate in the 'Western' world of mature capitalism and crumbling social democracy, the role of capitalism in cultural economy across the globe and the grounds for critical and reflexive research on issues of culture and policy in general. The point is not so much to reach definitive answers to questions of cultural policy that are already on the table but to consider how best appropriately critical questions might be formulated in an exploratory framework. In this sense, the approach is dialogic: it is open-ended, aimed at generating debate rather than closing it down; and directed towards encouraging critical and reflexive research on cultural policy in the public interest.