For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Autonomy Guaranteed? Cultural Work and the “Art–Commerce Relation”"

by Banks, Mark (2010)


The aim of this article is to examine synthetically the concept of ?autonomy? in cultural and creative industries work. Following a brief discussion regarding the definition(s) of autonomy, and its historical linkages to discourses of art, the author then rehearses three prominent social science critiques which suggest that the possibilities for autonomy in cultural work have been seriously diminished or compromised. Against these readings, utilising Bill Ryan?s work on the ?art?commerce relation?, the author then discusses how autonomous cultural work is, in fact, impossible to destroy since ensuring its survival is a prerequisite for the production of value in cultural and creative industry production. Finally, the author considers how this provision of freedom may then serve to underwrite autonomous cultural work of a more radical and, crucially, negotiated character than that conventionally conceived of in the orthodox critiques.

Key Passage

A contrasting approach emphasises how autonomy has less been denied by corporations and the machinations of managers, but actively promoted as the regulative principle through which workers might be more subtly encouraged to accept the necessity of capitalist forms of cultural production. To offer a simple distinction, we might say that while “culture industry” critiques suggest that cultural workers are forced to accept capitalist relations of production as a consequence of their powerlessness in the face of corporate management, then “governmentality” or neo-Foucauldian approaches argue that workers are trained to accept and reproduce for themselves the precise conditions of their subordination. (p.256)


Foucault, Autonomy, False Freedom, Creative Industry, Creative Work, Art, Cultural Work, Freedom, Self Determination


On Foucault, Foucault

Links to Reference



How to contribute.