Culture and class queries

November 14, 1997

SARA SELWOOD's article (THES, November 7) contains misapprehensions. The statistics she provides about employment in the cultural sector and its economic significance are only superficially surprising; they simply confirm what commentators - David Harvey (1989), Fredric Jameson (1991) - have long since observed: the profitability of marketing short-term, infinitely renewable services and products. Her presentation of a cultural industry bringing "inevitable" changes to the cultural landscape is mystifying. If, in particular, the left recognises and promotes culture as a commodity, that confirms the rightwing shift in the public mind.

The real issue is about how people actually think: is culture really just a designer accessory to a colour-supplement lifestyle, or should it attempt to inflict serious damage on the institutionalised mendacities which endorse vastly unequal distributions of social wealth, justice, and opportunity? Is culture a symbolic expressive resource, particularly for marginal forms of social existence, or the de facto means by which the more highly educated and highly paid ensure that those already socially disenfranchised remain invisible?

Martin L. Davies

School of modern languages University of Leicester

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