Culture is on the Rise - Why?
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Theories of Cultural Participation and Empirical Evidence

Terry Nichols Clark[1]

University of Chicago


Peter Achterberg

Erasmus University Rotterdam


Clemente Jesus Navarro

Universidad Pablo de Olavide Seville


Paper Prepared for European Sociological Assn conference, Glasgow, September 2007



This paper elaborates a critical, specific aspect of the New Political Culture: the rise of issue politics, consumption generally, and the arts and related cultural activities (in the sense of theatre, music, etc.) in particular. The importance of culture and the arts both as part of and possibly as driving broader socio/economic change is detailed in some of our recent work. Achterberg (200 ) has recently shown that class politics in much of Europe and the US is being transformed by the rise of cultural issues. Clark et al are analyzing new consumption dynamics via scenes and related phenomena (Clark, Silver and Rothfield 2007). This paper extends these concerns.

Dramatic changes in the economy, social arrangements and politics are changing the world  in recent decades: globalization, the knowledge economy, post-industrial society, flexibilization and other labels have been widely used.

Less theorized but also seriously changing is the rise of the arts and culture. Is this related to changes in the economy and other social patterns like the family? Yes, is our argument below. For now note simply first that artists, musicians, actors and their associated industries are extreme examples of “flexible” labor and “creative” work. Second as consumption rises in salience, arts and culture (from Shakespeare to rap) take on more importance—as a percent of time spent by average citizens, in the campaign statements of political leaders, in the number of jobs created, and money spent. But third, note the theoretical void: few social scientists have paid attention to this critical shift. This should change in the future. We offer some propositions to interpret what is happening and specific findings from several major studies, including the World Values Survey, International Social Survey Program, various census sources, and more.


[1] Contact:

Terry Nichols Clark

Peter Achterberg

Clemente Navarro