Creative Britain : the role of culture in the re-mediation of social relations in Britain, 1994-2001
The dissertation is a critique of social relations and the mode of thinking through which they have come to be interpreted. Its thesis is that culture now plays the central role in the mediation of social relations in Britain, a role previously occupied by the labour bureaucracy and its managerial equivalent; moreover, that between 1994 and 2001 the transition to cultural mediation was expressed in the re-branding of the United Kingdom as Creative Britain (alongside its facetious counterpart, Cool Britannia). Therefore Creative Britain cannot be dismissed as mere spin any more than it should be accepted as the transformation of commodity production; rather the episode was indicative of, and therefore a derivation from, an historically specific shift to a new mode of mediation - the re-mediation of social relations in Britain. The newly expanded role of culture in the substantive mediation of social relations has had its counterpart in the proliferation of thinking about culture, thinking of social reality in cultural terms, and thinking itself as culture. In the second part of the dissertation, this combination of epistemological trends is identified as cultural thinking, of which the essential characteristic is the inability to mediate between abstract and concrete, which in turn is to obscure both. Thus if culture has recently acquired an unprecedented presence in the substantive mediation of social relations, contemporaneous cultural thinking has been characterised by the absence of mediation between abstract and concrete; rather it is a flattened, circuitous epistemology which begins and ends with the cultural. Not that the absence of such mediation in cultural thinking has prevented it from contributing to the role of culture in the substantive mediation of social relations. In Britain during the second half of the 1990s, the coalescence of cultural thinking with other forms of cultural mediation culminated in the emergence of culturalism, which is to say that in British institutions, ideology and everyday life, the dynamic of cultural mediation became a social force. Just as the absence of mediation between abstract and concrete is a necessary aspect of culturalism, so its restoration is essential to the critique of the latter. The dissertation is intended as a contribution to the task of restoration.