In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cultural Economy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Edited Volumes
  • Journals
  • Ethnographies and Qualitative Studies
  • Cultural Policy
  • Cultural Markets
  • Cultural Production and Consumption
  • Creative Class
  • Tensions in the Cultural Economy
  • Cultural Development Projects
  • Cultural Actors and Organizations
  • Cultural Economies in Transition

Sociology Cultural Economy
Jennifer Garfield-Abrams, Jonathan Wynn
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0268


The cultural economy has become an increasingly important slice of local and regional economies as actors and organizations at a variety of levels turn to culture hoping to solve some of society’s most pressing social problems. Municipalities, states, and federal governments see culture—the goods, ideas, traditions, activities, and practices that we produce and consume—as revitalizing communities, attracting human capital and consumers, providing jobs, and boosting quality of life. While artists, support personnel, manufacturers, and patrons continue to anchor the field, because of culture’s entrée into the economic arena there has been an influx of diverse actors and institutions with various stakes and logics. These new actors with a vested interest in the field include local elected officials, small-business owners, and the creative class, as well as national nonprofits, state agencies, and commercial institutions. With the emergence of creativity as an economic growth strategy, there has been a great deal of analysis on the cultural economy in a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to sociology, economics, public policy, city and regional planning, and urban studies. Scholarship has had a wide range in terms of the methodologies used and the scale of analysis. Scholars and policymakers debate over culture as an economic and policy lever, particularly around whom local cultural economies aim to serve and how the benefits of the cultural economy should be distributed.

General Overviews

Overviews of the cultural economy provide context for the increasing reliance on culture and creativity as a viable economic resource. Flew 2009 examines the scholarly and practical use of the concept “cultural economy.” Clark, et al. 2002 discusses the context in which local and regional economies transition to reliance on cultural resources—like amenities. Scott 2010 maps out the cultural field through the concept of the “creative city,” outlining its major characteristics. Markusen 2014, on the other hand, synthesizes what we know about creative cities—their actors, strategies, and logics.

  • Clark, Terry N., Richard Lloyd, Kenneth K. Wong, and Pushpam Jain. 2002. Amenities drive urban growth. Journal of Urban Affairs 24.5: 493–515.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9906.00134

    In the context of globalization, urban economic decline, and a new culture of governance, the authors discuss the role of amenities as a new economic order driving growth. The article summarizes the kinds of social and economic forces making culture a viable strategy for growth and explores the conditions making cultural amenities central to the local economy.

  • Flew, Terry. 2009. The cultural economy moment? Cultural Science Journal 2.1.

    DOI: 10.5334/csci.20

    The paper tracks the development of “cultural economy” as a concept used in scholarship and in practice. After shedding light on concepts and language that preceded the cultural economy, Flew explores contemporary theories of cultural economy, as well as pointing to neoliberalism as a barrier to the field of economics’ inclusion in scholarly conversations about the cultural economy. Flew concludes with an examination of opportunities for more interdisciplinary work on the subject.

  • Markusen, Ann. 2014. Creative cities: A 10-year research agenda. Journal of Urban Affairs 36.2: 567–589.

    DOI: 10.1111/juaf.12146

    A literature review outlining what we know about the goals of creative cities and strategies for making such cities fairer and more diverse, as well as examining how artists, arts organizations, and audiences decide where to locate. In this interdisciplinary and international perspective, Markusen concludes with directions for future research.

  • Scott, Allen. 2010. Cultural economy and the creative field of the city. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 92.2: 115–130.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0467.2010.00337.x

    An excellent overview that provides a map of the cultural field. Scott outlines the cultural economy in US cities, covers some of the theoretical approaches used to study the cultural economy, and discusses the major elements of the creative city. Concludes with a discussion of potential future research on the global creative economy.

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