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Field theory in the Neoliberal Cultural Industries

Brittain, D (2015) Field theory in the Neoliberal Cultural Industries. In: 6th Annual International Conference on Visual and Performing Arts,.

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Abstract

Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory has been a useful tool for scholars of both culture and journalism. There have always been significant interactions between the fields. Today, however, we are witnessing unprecedented areas of convergence between journalism and cultural production that are driven by the internet and neoliberal economics, among other things. How can Bourdieu help us understand this new situation? The paper takes as its study the simultaneous publication, in 2000, of an edition of the Austrian news magazine Profil and a close facsimile produced by the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. Feldmann’s publication was identical to the original edition except that it lacked its journalistic texts and advertising. The catalyst for this usual alliance of journalists and an artist was resurgent fascism within Austria. Bourdieu considers the fields of journalism and culture as bifurcated into poles of ‘large scale’ (economically rich) and ‘small scale production’ (rich in symbolic capital). In journalism these are, respectively, the mass media and the ‘alternative’ press, with the equivalent positions in cultural production being commercial art and the avant-garde. Traditionally, the crossovers between journalism and art that are most fertile in symbolic capital have occurred through the alignment of small publications and the avant-garde. But in this case the collaboration unites large scale production and small scale avant-garde production. It is by no means unique within the liberal press in Europe. Several titles, including the UK Guardian and the magazine of Suddeutsche Zeitung, have worked with artists in the production of culture. Yet, as Bourdieu recognizes, such activities holds risks for both journalists and artists. What are these? More importantly, what are the incentives to overcome these risks?

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